The following is reprinted with permission from Harold Reed per email dated August 29, 2008
“I give you [Tri States Genealogical Society] permission to use anything out of the history book "North West Arizona Coast. It is my desire to spread the interesting and exciting history of the Mohave Valley. Nearly all the adults living here have not studyed our history. I give a fair number of lectures trying to spread our history. I am revising that history book because it was printed early in the opening of the museum to get the history out. I am expanding the book and putting more pictures. I have learned a lot through research since the first printing.”
An excerpt from: NORTH WEST ARIZONA COAST by Harold Reed
The First Anglo Americans in the Mohave Valley
It was not until 1826, late in American history, that Jedidiah Smith and a party of trappers, the first Anglo Americans, visited the Mohave Valley. The group made a trapping expedition down the Colorado River from his rendezvous in Utah. Smith struck the Colorado River at the mouth of the Virgin River in present day Nevada. Traveling was rough. By the time they reached the Mojave Indian village, on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, near the present day Avi Casino, they were out of supplies and he and his men were exhausted and their horses broken down. They lived peacefully with the Mojave Indians for 15 days. The Americans recovered and traded articles, that they brought with them for trade with Indians, for food and fresh horses. The Mojaves had horses at that time. If they couldn’t find them on the desert, they would go over to the missions in California and steal them. The Mojaves never became the the riders that we associate with the plains Indians. There was no big game here in the valley to hunt. The Mojaves would sooner eat a horse than ride one.
Smith and his party then went to the West Coast. On the West Coast Smith was thrown into prison by the Mexican Authorities for trespassing on Mexican soil. At the time the Mexican Government sent word back to the Mojaves to not let any Americans cross the Colorado River. It is not known how much weight the Mexican Government had with the Mojaves at the time and whether that had anything to do with later massacres. With the help of American ship captains that were plying the west coast, Smith was able to obtain his release. He was supposed to return the way that he came in, however, he decided to return by the way of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When they tried to cross the Sierras, the snow was to deep and they had to return to the foothills. Eventually, after numerous times of thawing and freezing, a crust was formed that was strong enough to carry a horse and rider. Jedidiah took two of his men, leaving the others behind, and started for his rendezvous in Utah. They crossed the Sierras in eight days. However, they ended up on the desert south of the Great Salt Lake. They had to go for days without food or water. One of his men actually gave up because of weakness and thirst. Jedidiah found water three miles further along the trail. After collection four or five quarts of water in a kettle, he returned to his comrade. His partner drank all the water without stopping and complained that Jedidiah did not bring enough. Skirting the south side of the Great Salt Lake, the three men finally got into an area with game and water. They returned to their rendezvous safely.
While Jedidiah was in Utah, a party of trappers, including Ohio Patty, who did a lot of writing after the fact but exaggerated so much that no one believed him, and Leroux, one of the greatest trappers that ever lived, came up the Colorado River from the mouth of the Gila River near present day Yuma. They were shooting Indians as they traveled and were stealing their crops for food. They got close to this area and made camp. A Mojave Chief rode into their camp and demanded a horse for trapping beavers. Ohio Patty refused. The Chief left only to return a short time later, again demanding a horse. Again, Ohio Patty refused. The Chief wheeled his horse at a gallop and thrust a lance though one of the trappers horses. The ever alert trappers shot and killed the Chief. There were other Indians hiding in the bushes and they attacked. Sixteen Indians lost their lives in the ensuing battle. Before they left, the trappers hung six bodies of the dead Indians in the trees as a message, “DON’T MESS WITH ME.” Some trappers were wounded but they all survived. Part of that party went on upstream and the others were back down to the Gila River.
Jedidiah Smith returned to the Mohave Valley in 1827 with 17 trappers and two Indian women, wives of two Canadian trappers. This time he came down the Muddy River in Utah. By the time he reached the Colorado River, he, his men and horses were in better condition than he was the year before. Jedidiah reported that he went through one Indian Village, the one at Inscription Rock just below the present Davis Dam, and headed for the other where he stayed the year before. He expected to find friendly Indians just as he did the first time. The Indians were friendly but a little aloof. The Indians stopped him before he reached the second village. The area is probably down over the bank where Fort Mojave was built at a later time. Jedidiah said that he didn’t care as he had excellent pasture for his horses. That is probably the same area that the Rose Massacre occurred because Rose said that his animals were literally rolling in clover and that massacre occurred within 200 yards of the pace where Fort Mohave was built in 1859. Since the party was in better condition than the year before, they stayed only three days before deciding to move on. Jedidiah took eight of his men to transport supplies across the river leaving the other nine and the two women on shore to protect those supplies left behind. As soon as Jedidiah and his party got out into the river, the Indians attacked all the men on shore and killed them while taking the two women captive. One of the men in the river was severely wounded by a Mojave war club, a club similar to a ten pin used in bowling. The ones in the river were able to get across to the other shore. Jedidiah gave his men the opportunity to take whatever they wanted in their packs, throwing into the river everything that would sink. The remainder they scattered on the beach so that maybe the Indians would fight over it and delay their pursuit. Taking their packs that included 15 pounds of jerky, they headed for California. They got only one-half mile when the Indians closed in on them. The trappers retreated back to the river bank where it was easier to defend themselves. They built defenses of brush and logs, hoping to sell their lives as dearly as possible. They tied their knives on small poles to make a tolerable lance and waited for their unmerciful enemy. Jedidiah wrote later, “On one side the river prevented them from approaching us, but in every other direction the Indians were closing in upon us and the time seemed fast approaching in which we were to come to that contest which must, in spite of courage conduct and all that man could do terminate in our destruction. It was a fearful time nine men with but five guns were waiting behind a defense made of brush the charge of four or five hundred Indians whose hands were yet stained with the blood of their companions. Some of the men asked me if I thought that we would be able to defend ourselves. I told them that I thought we would. But that was not my opinion. I directed that not more than three guns be should fired at a time and those only when the shot would be certain of killing. Gradually the enemy was drawing near but kept themselves covered from our fire. Seeing a few Indians who ventured out from their covering within long shot I directed two good marksmen to fire. They did so and two Indians fell and another was wounded. Upon this the Indians ran off like frightened sheep and we were released from the apprehension of immediate death.”
Courage and conduct could sometimes be enough. Fortunately, the Mojaves did not press them again, and just before dark the nine men struck out into the desert. The men put on their back what ever they could carry. Imagine walking from the river to the California Coast in the middle of summer, no canteens to carry water and only 15 pounds of jerky to eat. At first, Jedidiah could not find his old trail and springs were elusive. Two of the members decided that they couldn’t make it and they crawled under a bush to die. The others in the party found a spring and with the help of an open kettle, they returned with some water to revive the two men. Finally, on the old trail from the year before, the men were able to find water and reach the Mojave River, finding it even drier than the year before. Eight miles up the Mojave, Jedidiah found two horses and later two Paiute lodges. With some cloth, knives and beads that they brought from the Colorado River, the men purchased the horses, some sorghum candy, and a few demijohns for carrying water. Later, near the head of the Mojave River, they were able to purchase two more horses from some Shoshonean Indians. Thus, the party struck out directly for the Cajon Pass.
On emerging into the San Bernardino Valley, they found some cattle which they decided to kill and dry enough meat to sustain them to the coast. After they killed the cattle Jedidiah sent word to San Bernardino Rancho of what he had done. The overseer came out, Jedidiah says, “bringing with him such little Luxuries as he had, and as he appeared anxious that I should go in and stay with him a night at the farm I did so and was very well treated”. With the things that they brought on their backs from the Colorado River they traded for horses, enough to enable all his party to ride. Since the men had plenty of supplies, they decided to go north to pick up the men left in the foothills of the Sierras instead of going to the coast.
The men were glad to see Jedidiah but they were anxious about him because their supplies were almost exhausted. However, they were all alive and well. Jedidiah wrote, “They had passed what hunters call a pleasant Summer not in the least interrupted by Indians. The game consisted of some deer and elk and antelopes in abundance. They spoke in high terms of the climate”. After staying with his men for three days and getting everything in order, Jedidiah took three men and set out for Mission San Jose, seventy miles to the southwest, to get permission to pass through their territory to the Governor’s residence in Monterey. The trappers did not want to take the same route back to their rendezvous that Jedidiah took the previous winter, through the desert area south of the Great Salt Lake. They wanted to go up the coast to skirt around the north end of the lake and they needed to get permission from the Mexican Government. However, when they got to the Mission San Jose, Jedidiah was again thrown in prison. Again through the help of a couple of Americans residing in the area, Jedidiah was released, to continue his journey to Monterey.
Jedidiah thought that he was being assigned an escort to Monterey, however he found out that it was an armed guard. Arriving in Monterey, he was again imprisoned until he was able to see the Governor, who happened to be the same person that imprisoned him the previous year. After much haggling, he was given permission to leave and was assigned a ship to San Francisco where he met his men. Aboard ship, he was able to sell the furs that his men accumulated while waiting the year for Jedidiah to return. Selling them for a lower price than he would get even in the mountains, the 1,568 pounds of beaver netted him $3920, money needed for his return trip to his settlement. The nineteen men that he had under his command were allowed, “each man carrying his own fusil or gun; a total of seventy-five pounds of powder and one hundred and twenty-five pounds of lead, five loads of clothing, and other goods, six load of provisions, two loads of merchandise for the Indians, one load of tobacco, and other loads compromising the equipment brought, a total of one hundred mules and one hundred and fifty horses”. The 250 horses and mules were intended to be sold at $50 each when they got back to the rendezvous. Those animals were in addition to the 65 horses that they had for their own use.
The trappers headed north-east, trapping beaver as they traveled, eventually following Sacramento River. However, two men deserted the party taking eleven badly needed traps. The Indians, who were hostile the year before appeared friendly. But, as they got farther north, the Indians began to show more alarm at the passage of the white men. Finally, two of Jedidiah’s men fired on two Indians, killing one and wounding the other. At this Jedidiah became worried. The Indians started following the trappers, yelling from the high ground. That evening, after encamping, Jedidiah and several men went out to let the Indians know that they wanted peace. The Indians through their gestures, indicated violence. To prove a point, the trappers fired, killing two Indians. At that the Indians ran off. Leaving the Sacramento River, the trail became rough. Driving his animals ahead, became difficult. Raging water in the streams and mountain passes started taking the toll of the animals. Eventually, they ended up on the Klamath River, twenty miles from the ocean. However, they were trapped in rough country. It took them about a month to reach land (near the Oregon border) that was decent to travel on. By that time his men and animals were exhausted and starved.
Reaching the Rogue River, the Indians were not friendly. Horses came into camp with arrows in their sides and the Indians fled at the sight of the white men. At this point Jedidiah observed that in the last three days he lost twenty-five horses because of drowning and various accidents. The trappers continued up the coast, losing horses and mules to the Indians. When they reach the Umpqua River (now known as the Smith River), they made camp. Jedidiah took with him two men and a scout to find a road but before leaving, he warned those remaining in camp to not let the Indians into their camp. However, the Indians were under the control of the Hudson Bay Company and the trappers trusted their influence on these Indians. About one hundred Indians were permitted to enter camp. While the trappers were busy arranging their arms which got wet the day before, the Indians suddenly rushed on them. Only one man escaped and he was badly wounded. He made his way up the coast towards the British post Vancouver a hundred miles away. When Jedidiah returned to camp in a canoe, he thought it was strange that none of his men were to be seen. An Indian appeared and spoke to Jedidiah’s guide. The guide turned and grabbed Jedidiah’s rifle and dived into the river. Other Indians in the bushes fired on the canoe. Jedidiah and his two partners paddled frantically to the opposite bank and ascended from which they could get a clear view of his camp. None of his party was to be seen and the sound of gunfire brought no one to investigate so he concluded that his men had been cut off. The three men then went up the coast to Fort Vancouver, arriving there about the same time as the other survivor. A rescue party was sent out from the fort to find the missing trappers. When they got there, all they found were eleven skeletons and their supplies scattered around. At that time the American trappers and the Hudson Bay Company were bitter enemies. However, it is an act of justice to say that the treatment that Jedidiah and his men received at Fort Vancouver was kind and hospitable. The rescue effort returned many of the furs that were scattered on the ground by the Indians. The British nursed the Americans back to health, gave them horses and enough supplies to get back to their rendezvous. Jedidiah was forever grateful for the treatment he received by the British.
Jedidiah went back to trapping, however, the bottom fell out of the beaver trade in the 1830’s and early 40’s and he returned to Saint Louis. While there he formed a trading company with four other men and decided to join the Santa Fe trade. On their first trip out, they decided to straighten out a large loop in the Santa Fe Trail and shorten the route considerably. Crossing uncharted territory, they soon found that there was no water along that route. After four days without water, Jedidiah decided to scout the area for water. He soon came upon a buffalo trail. Knowing that the buffalo would know where there was water, he followed their trail for thirty miles. He came upon the Cimarron River which was dry, however, by digging down into the sand he was able to get enough water for both he and his horse. While there he was surprised by about fifteen or twenty Comanche Indians who were waiting at a water hole for buffalo. So long as Jedidiah could to keep his horse facing the Indians, he was able to keep them at bay. However, one Indian spooked Jedidiah’s horse and as it turned, Jedidiah was shot in the back. He was able to take four Indians with him, one being the chief. We know what happened to Jedidiah because later, a Comanche Indian brought his rifle into a trading post and related the information of his death. Later, Jedidiah’s brother identified his rifle.