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A. F. BANTA'S STORY — SELECTION OF SITÉ
OF FORT WHIPPLE-FRED HUGHES' STORY. By the foregoing correspondence of General Carleton, it will be seen that the news of the discovery of placers in Apacheria created great excitement in New Mexico. Captain Pishon, with Bob Groom as pilot, following the old Beale Wagon Trail along the 35th parallel, made his way into the Valley, where he established a temporary camp. From there he discovered the Walker Party on Lynx Creek and other creeks around Prescott, and from the report which he gave to General Carleton, the great expectations which had been built up in Carleton's mind, seemed to be on the point of realization. It will be remembered that this was only about fifteen years after the discovery of the rich gold placers of California, and, at this date, 1863, mining was the business in California, Nevada and Utah. The rich discoveries of gold and silver in the two latter territories were published throughout the world. The Government, at that time, needed the precious metals to finance its military operations. The bonds of the Government, while the principal was payable in currency, bore interest which was payable in gold. This interest ranged from six to seven and a half per cent per annum, and at this time, which was just before the battle of Gettysburg, gold
reached its high-water mark in New York, selling at about 280 premium, so everyone can sympathize with General Carleton when, from reports, he supposed that the gold fields of Arizona would equal, if not surpass, the placers of California.
Upon their return, Captain Pishon and General Clark, the Surveyor-General, after spending two weeks in the mines, reported them of extraordinary value. Men, they said, were making from ten to a hundred dollars a day with a rocker. In and around Weaver, fortunes had been picked up in large nuggets, and it was supposed that the placer fields had been only touched and were a great deal more extensive than they afterwards proved to be. In the meantime expeditions had been organized by private citizens to go to the new El Dorado. The first is that mentioned by Col. Banta:
“Much has been written about the 'Captain Joe Walker' party; its aims and objects, etc. One 'authentic' account says it was a prospecting expedition headed for the canyon of the Little Colorado river, where Walker had found gold in the early forties; all these stories are erroneous and far from the truth.
“Captain Joseph Walker was an honorable man, and a natural commander of man. Captain Sibley, of the Southern Confederacy, had undertaken the conquest of New Mexico, and the capture of Fort Union, the great depot of supplies of the ,U. S. Government. However, the defeat of the Sibley expedition at Apache Canyon, changed the aspect of affairs.
Captain Joe Walker, with a few followers, started eastward from California, gathering new members en route, until he reached Colorado. He had no intention of going to Arizona when he left California; otherwise he would have gone south from California and entered Arizona either at La Paz or Yuma, and certainly would not have gone eastward through several states and territories if Arizona had been his objective point of destination. Captain Walker and all his followers—with one exception—were Southern sympathizers. The defeat of General Sibley at Apache Canyon was an unexpected event, which Walker had not thought possible, and Sibley's complete evacuation of New Mexico left that Territory in the hands of the Union troops. This changed the aspect of affairs, and the Walker party metamorphosed into a “prospecting party. At this time New Mexico was under martial law, and naturally all armed parties were viewed with suspicion, hence the prospecting party.' There was one man with the Walker party of Union sympathies, named A. C. Benedict, who informed General James H. Carleton, the Union Commander in Santa Fe, of the purpose of the Walker Expedition. Captain Walker, feeling that his movements were under military surveillance, decided to make a strategic movement and hoped by the ruse to deceive the U. S. military. Instead of going down the Rio Grande, he struck westward from Albuquerque over the old immigrant trail leading from that place to Los Angeles. Having reached Antelope Springs at the base of the San Francisco mountains, and the present site of Flagstaff, Walker knew he must be north of the Gila river, and a southward course would lead to that stream. From any point on the Gila his course would be eastward to Texas. But, reaching the Black Forest mountains, and discovering gold, which was merely an accidental incident, the Walker party were loath to leave the “real thing' to go gallivanting after such an unsubstantial product as "empty glory.' Before the party had pulled out of Albuquerque, Benedict had apprised Carleton of the westward movement.
“In the meantime the late Col. Bob Groom, following in the wake of the Walker party, was arrested and put in the guardhouse. Bob had a friend in Congress, Senator McDougal of California, to whom he wrote to get him out of 'hock.' The Senator called upon Secretary Stanton, who informed him that his friend Groom must take the oath of allegiance to the U. S. Government, or remain under guard until the close of the war. There was no alternative, Bob took the oath. After his release from the guardhouse General Carleton sent for Bob, and asked him if he desired to join the Walker party in Arizona; that he was about to send out a scouting party to look
up the party, and if he so desired he (Bob) could go along as guide to Capt. Pishon, who would command the scouting party. Bob accepted the proposition and joined the Pishon expedition in search of the Walker party. Pishon's orders were to follow the trail of Walker, and if the party were permanently located, as rumor had it, to select a site for a military post as near the Walker party as practicable. The trail was followed to Chino Valley, but here it had become obliterated. However, Pishon came up to what is now known as Granite Creek, where he made camp about four o'clock in the afternoon beneath some large pine trees; about where the courthouse at Prescott now stands. Shortly after making camp, a shot was heard up the creek and Bob went up to investigate, hoping to find the Walker party. About a mile above Bob met old Pauline Weaver, and, to inquiries, was told by Weaver: 'I was up the side of this mountain yesterday, and saw a smoke over there' pointing southeastward, and it was not an Apache smoke; perhaps your people are over there, I don't know.' Bob returned to camp and the next day they went over there' and found the Walker party. Pishon selected a site for a military post near the mouth of Walker's Gulch, about where Col. King S. Woolsey built the first house, now known as 'Bower's ranch.' This done, Capt. Pishon returned to Santa Fe, and Groom remained with the Walker Party.
“It may be of general interest to know how I became aware of these “inside facts.' I was at Albuquerque at the time; the country was under martial law; Lieut. Johnson was Provost Marshal; H. S. Johnson published the Rio Abajo Press; he was on the inside' in matters military and I worked in the office, so I, too, was on the 'inside.' Nuff sed.
“In the summer of 1864, Captain Joe Walker, still having the Southern cause in mind, a plot was hatched in Prescott and Walker's Gulch to capture Fort Whipple and the Capitol, and then organize the Territory as a dependency of the Southern Confederacy. In the event of success, General Coulter—one of the Walker Party—was to be made provisional Governor, and Captain Walker, Adjutant-General. Of course, Benedict was on, and gave it away to the commanding