The annual Frontierado holiday arrives Friday, August 6th this year, so here is another seasonal post. As always, Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
THE APACHE KID – Born as Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl in the early 1860s this Apache legend and future outlaw leader was captured and enslaved by the Yuma Indians as a child. Freed by the U.S. Army the little boy became a street orphan/ camp mascot in army camps. Since his name was such a handful he was nicknamed the Apache Kid early on.
In 1881 former Union General Al Sieber was recruited by General George Crook to become his Head of Scouts. The Apache Kid enlisted that same year as one of the United States Army Indian Scouts whose tracking expertise was needed against their fellow Apaches who were actively fighting the army. Sieber grew to consider the Kid his finest Native American scout and by most accounts “practically adopted” the Apache Kid.
(Another figure who served as a scout under Al Sieber was Tom Horn, the future gunslinger and hired killer.)
The Apache Kid, who became a Sergeant by July of 1882, served under Sieber and General Crook during the Apache Wars, participating in the Battle of Cibecue Creek (August 1881), the Geronimo Campaigns/ War (1882-1886) and the Crawford Affair of 1886 which nearly started a second war between the U.S. and Mexico. American and Mexican troops inflicted a few fatalities on each other while hunting for Geronimo.
The American Army had been pursuing Geronimo and his men into Mexico off and on, as would later happen with Pancho Villa in 1916 and 1917. In 1885 the Apache Kid was involved in one of the drunken clashes between U.S. soldiers and Mexicans in Huasabas and Al Sieber quickly sent him back to Arizona temporarily to avoid punishment since he didn’t want to lose his best scout to disciplinary action.
Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl was with General Nelson Miles (Crook’s replacement) on September 4th, 1886 when Geronimo and his men surrendered at Skeleton Canyon, AZ. The Kid and his unit then returned to San Carlos, AZ, still serving under Al Sieber.
In May of 1887 Sieber and San Carlos Captain Fran Pierce left on an official trip, leaving the Apache Kid in charge of his fellow U.S. Army Apaches. They brewed some tizwin, an alcoholic beverage, and partied. In the drunken disorder which followed, an Apache named Gon-Zizzie killed Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl’s father and was killed in turn by friends of the Kid. Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl, since he had not personally participated in Gon-Zizzie’s slaying, killed the man’s brother Rip.
On June 1st the returned Captain Pierce and Al Sieber ordered the Apache Kid and his 4 suspected accomplices to surrender. As they were in the process of complying, shots were fired from the surrounding crowd at San Carlos and in the confusion that followed, Sieber was shot in the leg and crippled for life while the Kid and his allies escaped.
Troops of the 4th Cavalry scoured the San Carlos Riverbanks and the Rincon Mountains for the escapees throughout the month, but Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl skillfully foiled their efforts, aided by sympathetic Apaches. The Apache Kid relayed word to the military that he and his followers would come in and surrender if the pursuing cavalrymen were all pulled from the field. They were and the Kid and his men turned themselves in on June 25th.
The 5 Apaches were court-martialed and found guilty of mutiny and desertion and were ordered executed. On August 3rd of 1887 that sentence was commuted to life in prison but when General Miles spoke up for the Apaches the sentence was reduced to just 10 years, to be served at Alcatraz.
More than a year later, on October 13th, 1888 the convictions were overturned by President Grover Cleveland on the basis of prejudice among the officers of the court-martial proceedings and the 5 were released and returned to San Carlos as free men. Following resentment among people in the military, politics and even a few Apache friends of Gon-Zizzie who felt that the Apache Kid and his fellows had escaped proper punishment, a new warrant was served, this time on the charge of attempted murder because Al Sieber had been wounded during the June 1st 1887 chaos. (Sieber had nothing to do with the new warrant.)
The new trial concluded on October 25th, 1889 and the 5 Apaches were found guilty and sentenced to 7 years at Yuma Territorial Prison. Enroute to that prison the Kid and his allies overpowered their guards and escaped, leaving two guards dead and one wounded. The wounded man, Eugene Middleton, insisted he, too, would have been killed if not for the intervention of the Apache Kid.
A snowstorm thwarted immediate efforts to trail Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and his friends. From that point on, the Apache Kid went full outlaw, with his fellow former scouts forming the nucleus of a gang of unknown numbers. Some Apaches cheered him on, while others despised him and his colleagues for their role in fighting their own people during their U.S. Army service.
Renegade Native Americans on both sides of the border joined the Kid’s gang as they ran rampant through New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico, using hideouts from the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico to the San Mateo Mountains in western New Mexico. The gang preyed upon freight trains & stage coaches, raided ranches, robbed prospectors, rustled cattle and fled or killed their pursuers.
At one point in 1890 the Apache Kid’s gang clashed with Mexico’s Sonoran Rurales forces and in the aftermath a watch that had belonged to a guard slain during the Kid’s escape enroute to Yuma was recovered. In August 1890 the Apache Kid and company robbed and killed four men (Spring, Riggs, Williams and Elmer) near Hachita, NM. Posses pursued but came up empty as usual.
The U.S. Cavalry was called upon and Captain Alex Keyes set out from Lordsburg, NM leading 15 Cavalrymen and 5 Indian Scouts. They picked up the Kid’s trail and followed him and his band across the border into Mexico where they lost him.
Through September and October of 1890 Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and his gang raided in the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua, twice clashing with and routing Mexican Army regulars. On a 3rd occasion regulars engaged in a lengthy exchange of gunfire with the Apache Kid and 9 of his men in the rocky hills. The battle lasted until nightfall, when the Mexican Army regulars withdrew rather than face Apaches in the dark.
November saw the Kid and company attack a fairly elaborate Mexican cattle ranch owned by a Gachupin family, wealthy Spaniards now living in Mexico. Their hired vaqueros held such transplanted aristos in contempt and rode off at news of the Apache Kid’s approach. The Gachupin, his wife, son and two daughters wielded rifles against the Kid and his gang and against all odds managed to keep them from invading the mansion proper.
Our hero contented himself with stealing the best horses on the property, then he and his men slaughtered some cattle and held a massive barbecue before riding off. The next day Mexican Cavalry arrived at the ranch and after a half-hearted pursuit, gave up and turned back.
Before the month was out the Apache Kid’s band robbed six prospectors near Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora.
In December of 1890 Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and his followers reentered Arizona and hid out in the Dragoon Mountains. At one point they killed a roaming heifer and removed the meat to take with them. Three cowboys employed by the heifer’s owner, Jack Bridger, Gus Hickey and a man named Robinson rode onto the scene and a rifle-distance firefight broke out.
Hours later Robinson and Bridger were dead and Hickey fled for his life and managed to outdistance his Apache pursuers and reach his Hall Ranch employers to warn them about the events of the day. The Apache Kid and company robbed the dead men and left the area.
Al Sieber had long since abandoned his previous fond feelings for Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and cooperated with efforts to bring in or kill him and his band. It was known that the Apache Kid and his men often smuggled food and other supplies to Apaches on the San Carlos Reservation and the outlaw even paid conjugal visits to his wife now and then.
Two of Sieber’s Indian Scouts, nicknamed Josh and Nosey, got in trouble for a tizwin-influenced killing. He offered the pair a pardon in exchange for infiltrating the Apache Kid’s gang and helping to take them down.
The two successfully hooked up with the Kid’s roving band but after a brief period they either grew too wary or too impatient and simply opened fire on their sleeping colleagues late one night. They killed 6 gang members and seriously wounded the Apache Kid’s lieutenant Say-Ez, who fled but was captured two days later in Globe, AZ where he died in custody from his wounds.
Josh and Nosey decapitated Pash-law-ta, one of the gang members they had killed in their treacherous attack, and took the head to Al Sieber, trying to pass it off as Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl’s. Sieber wasn’t fooled, but the duo provided enough information to convince the old veteran that they had indeed killed several of the Apache Kid’s gang, so they were reinstated as U.S. Army Indian Scouts with the charges against them dropped.
As it turned out, the Kid had not been a victim of the traitors’ attack because he was on the San Carlos Reservation that week, luxuriating with his wife and his father in law. Sieber didn’t get word that Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl had been there until weeks later and threatened the wife and father in law about what would happen to them if the Apache Kid ever again visited them and they didn’t turn him in.
Soon, Captain John Bullis went further and sent out troops to round up any San Carlos Apaches suspected of links to the Apache Kid – including his wife and father in law. The 5 dozen or so were sent to the tighter reservation at Fort Union in New Mexico. Several Apaches left the San Carlos Reservation to join the Kid’s gang out of fear that they, too, might be rounded up and sent to the tougher reservation.
Sympathetic Apaches would send their daughters to the Apache Kid and his gang, for companionship and to cook, rather than let them grow up in the confines of the reservation. Some also sent their able-bodied young sons when they reached manhood.
Stage coach lines began to take extra steps to protect against the Kid. Near Florence, AZ a squad of 7 armed security men drove off the Apache Kid and a few of his men when they attempted to rob the stage coach they were guarding. On another occasion, south of Tombstone, AZ Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl was nearly captured by U.S. Cavalrymen as he made his way south of the border.
By now it was late in 1891 and the Apache Kid had his first encounter with a cattleman who would become the Kid’s partial “media rep” to the outside world – Jess Burk. Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and 7 of his men were cooking and eating some meat they had cleaned off of one of Burk’s livestock when he came upon them.
Jess announced his presence rather than flee or open fire, and struck a bargain with the amused Apache Kid. Burk informed the Kid that he and his band were welcome to kill and eat a member of his herd when they needed food. He would not report them as rustlers or thieves as long as they didn’t steal more than they needed to eat on a given day and as long as they didn’t prey on his family or staff.
Our hero supposedly found this a fair bargain and, whether or not that was true, he shrewdly took to using Jess Burk to get his side of the story out to the public. During periodic visits to the rancher the Apache Kid insisted he was not involved in most of the robberies, rapes and murders he was accused of. By that point it had gotten so that newspapers – always peddling sensation, not truth – were blaming the Kid for just about any crime that got committed.
May of 1892 found Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and his men killing an elderly prospector and stealing his two horses before heading into the White Mountains of Arizona. On August 9th the Apache Kid led 7 of his men in a raid on the Frank Davenport Ranch, southwest of Deming, NM. They killed Ranch Foreman Lee Hogden and an unidentified cowboy, then ransacked the place for valuables.
A posse pursued the band toward the Mogollon Mountains but lost them. In the days that followed Cavalry detachments from Fort Bowie and Camp Grant rode out in search of the Kid but rainfall hindered their efforts and their quarry was ultimately reported having slipped back across the border into Mexico with his 7 followers.
The army took to leaning heavily on the Apaches at the San Carlos Reservation, trying to browbeat information from them about the Apache Kid and his gang. No leads developed from this until November of 1892, when 3 Apache informants tipped off the U.S. Army about the Kid’s presence in southeastern Arizona, in what is now Cochise County. The outlaw and his gang escaped their pursuers, then learned the identities of the trio of informants and killed them as a warning to others.
Before the end of the year, Bounty Hunter William Beck reported that he had been following the Apache Kid across the border into Mexico but horse problems forced him to turn back after he and the Kid exchanged a few shots at each other. Not long after, the Apache Kid and a female Native American companion were spotted stealing a few horses in Agua Prieta, Sonora Mexico.
Time passed, and in 1893 Colonel Kosterlitzky’s Rurales clashed with Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and 9 of his men in the Sierra Madres on the Mexican side of the border. After a vicious firefight the Colonel and his men settled in for a siege, hoping to starve out the outlaws, who had obviously been caught by surprise. Little did the Rurales know that they had killed 3 of the Apache Kid’s men in the battle. The Kid propped the 3 corpses up with rifles in their hands in scattered positions to make it appear he and his fellows were still hunkered down. Come morning, Colonel Kosterlitzky and his troops realized the Kid and his 6 survivors had vanished overnight.
Later, the Apache Kid and some of his men turned up near Bavispe near the Sonora – Chihuahua border. They robbed and killed a pair of traveling Americans, then, given the Kid’s increasingly embittered state, lingered in the area, carefully hidden.
Eventually a troop of Mexican Rurales rode upon the scene after the dead bodies were reported back in town. When the Rurales dismounted to examine the bodies Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl and his men opened fire on them, killing at least 15 and wounding an unknown number of others. The Kid and his men swiftly departed.
Part of the mystique that surrounds the saga of the Apache Kid is that his ultimate fate is still contested. Like a movie on DVD there are plenty of “alternate endings.” The earliest death report on the Kid came in what is now Cibola National Park in 1894 when Socorro, NM rancher Charles Anderson led a posse which killed a Native American rustler whom they claimed to be Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl but others disputed the identity. (By now there was a $5,000.00 reward on the Apache Kid’s head, which certainly would encourage people to claim they had killed him.)
In 1896 the Apache Kid and his gang were reported to be marauding again throughout Arizona. The 7th U.S. Cavalry was dispatched to hunt for them. One of their soldiers was a young Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In 1899 Colonel Emilio Kosterlitzky of the Mexican Rurales forces claimed the Kid was living in peaceful retirement among the Sierra Madre Occidental Apaches. Ben Camp later claimed that as a 17 year old in September of 1907 he had witnessed the Apache Kid being killed by a posse in the San Mateo Mountains of New Mexico. An Apache woman claiming to be the Kid’s new wife was turned over to the Mescalero Apaches along with their two children.
Other reports claimed Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl had died of tuberculosis among the Apaches in Mexico, or had been shot down in any number of places. Even less credible reports had the Apache Kid still attacking Arizona ranches into the 1920s.
Whatever his ultimate fate, Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl certainly lived up to his name’s meaning – “tall man destined to come to a mysterious end.”
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