The Desert Leaf January 2018 : Page 31

A The Kidnapping of Felix Tellez by Stuart D. Scott long the stretch of Arizona’s State Route 82 between Patagonia and Nogales, half-hidden by roadside vegetation, is a pullout with a bullet-scarred sign marking the nearby site of a historic adobe ruin. Perched on a bluff overlooking Sonoita Creek, the structure was damaged by a highway-widening project in the late 1950s. Arizona is dotted with hundreds of such adobe remnants from its Territorial past, and this one would likely have been ignored and forgotten except for one intriguing question. Church historians asked, Could the ruin be the last remaining legacy of San Ignacio de Sonoitac, a settlement of Sobaipuri Indians associated with the Jesuit mission at Guevavi, near Tubac, and known to have been visited by Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino? The answer to the question was pursued in November 1960 by excavators from the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society, who began a three-month investigation. Within the eroded outer walls of the ruin, the remains of interior adobe partitions indicated that there were once three interior rooms. Within the hard-packed dirt fl oor was evidence that the building had burned but been reoccupied. The excavations produced nothing to indicate a Spanish or Indian occupation. Instead, the inventory of cartridges, cut nails, buttons, glass, horseshoes, and ironstone crockery was typical of a Western frontier homestead of the late 19th century. And document sources proved it to be the home of John Ward, an early Sonoita Valley settler. The ruin had a notorious early history. On January 27, 1861, Apaches had attacked the ranch and kidnapped Ward’s 13-year-old Mexican stepson, Felix Tellez. The kidnappers were mistakenly thought to be members of the Chiricahua band of Apache led by Cochise, as they had been wintering nearby. Lt. George Nicholas Bascom and soldiers from Fort Buchanan, then located three miles southwest of present-day Sonoita, Arizona, were ordered to pursue Cochise and recover Tellez. The eff ort started what historians have called “The Bascom Aff air.” Although details of the “aff air” and accounts of related subsequent events have been debated over the years, the following account is based primarily on the books Mickey Free: Apache Captive, Interpreter, and Indian Scout, by Allan Radbourne, and Cochise and From Cochise to Geronimo , by Edwin Sweeney. Near Apache Pass, on February 3, 1861, Bascom’s troops pitched a large tent about a mile from a Butterfi eld Overland stage station. Having been asked to come in for a parley, Cochise arrived in a friendly spirit with family members, including his wife and two children. The chief, his brother, and two other warriors went into the tent. Cochise denied kidnapping Tellez but off ered to get the boy back from John Ward’s stepson, infl uenced by a mixed Anglo-Mexican and Indian heritage, began a 21-year association with the US Army. The Ward Ranch, circa 1915 Left: Mickey Free was known to be a tough and resilient Indian Scout. January 2018 l DesertLeaf 31 Courtesy: Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, #5551

The Kidnapping Of Felix Tellez

Stuart D.Scott

Along the stretch of Arizona’s State Route 82 between Patagonia and Nogales, half-hidden by roadside vegetation, is a pullout with a bullet-scarred sign marking the nearby site of a historic adobe ruin. Perched on a bluff overlooking Sonoita Creek, the structure was damaged by a highwaywidening project in the late 1950s.<br /> <br /> Arizona is dotted with hundreds of such adobe remnants from its Territorial past, and this one would likely have been ignored and forgotten except for one intriguing question. Church historians asked, Could the ruin be the last remaining legacy of San Ignacio de Sonoitac, a settlement of Sobaipuri Indians associated with the Jesuit mission at Guevavi, near Tubac, and known to have been visited by Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino?<br /> <br /> The answer to the question was pursued in November 1960 by excavators from the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society, who began a three-month investigation. Within the eroded outer walls of the ruin, the remains of interior adobe partitions indicated that there were once three interior rooms. Within the hard-packed dirt floor was evidence that the building had burned but been reoccupied. The excavations produced nothing to indicate a Spanish or Indian occupation. Instead, the inventory of cartridges, cut nails, buttons, glass, horseshoes, and ironstone crockery was typical of a Western frontier homestead of the late 19th century. And document sources proved it to be the home of John Ward, an early Sonoita Valley settler.<br /> <br /> The ruin had a notorious early history. On January 27, 1861, Apaches had attacked the ranch and kidnapped Ward’s 13-year-old Mexican stepson, Felix Tellez. The kidnappers were mistakenly thought to be members of the Chiricahua band of Apache led by Cochise, as they had been wintering nearby.<br /> <br /> Lt. George Nicholas Bascom and soldiers from Fort Buchanan, then located three miles southwest of present-day Sonoita, Arizona, were ordered to pursue Cochise and recover Tellez. The effort started what historians have called “The Bascom Affair.” Although details of the “affair” and accounts of related subsequent events have been debated over the years, the following account is based primarily on the books Mickey Free: Apache Captive, Interpreter, and Indian Scout, by Allan Radbourne, and Cochise and From Cochise to Geronimo, by Edwin Sweeney.<br /> <br /> Near Apache Pass, on February 3, 1861, Bascom’s troops pitched a large tent about a mile from a Butterfield Overland stage station. Having been asked to come in for a parley, Cochise arrived in a friendly spirit with family members, including his wife and two children. The chief, his brother, and two other warriors went into the tent.<br /> <br /> Cochise denied kidnapping Tellez but offered to get the boy back from the kidnappers. Bascom, who didn’t know that the chief was usually an honest broker for his people, demanded hostages until the boy was returned. Cochise then reached for his knife, cut the tent, and escaped through a barrage of soldiers’ bullets. At some point thereafter, Bascom released Cochise’s wife and two children but retained his brother and the two warriors.<br /> <br /> In the ensuing days of failed negotiations and brutal fights, Cochise seized hostages of his own. With no resolution in sight, he had them tortured and killed. The ravaged bodies were discovered on February 18. The next day, the Army hanged its three Apache hostages.<br /> <br /> By that time, Cochise and his followers had already crossed into Mexico, where Apaches had been active for nearly 200 years. For the next 20 years, treacherous revenge warfare between the Apaches and the US Army was waged in what is now Arizona and New Mexico, where previously the tribe had been relatively friendly to the white settlers.<br /> <br /> Where was Tellez and what happened to him during the decades of war? Which Apache band actually kidnapped the boy remains a debated point, but it is generally accepted that it was not Cochise or his band. One account indicates that shortly after his kidnapping, Tellez was traded to the White Mountain Apaches living in the area of Cedar Creek and the Salt River. However Tellez came to live among them, he was raised by the tribe.<br /> <br /> As a teenager, Tellez learned the Apache dialect of his captors. While the Apache Wars waged on through the 1860s, Tellez adapted to a hunting, gathering, and small-scale farming way of life and became close to his Apache family. In the late 1860s and early 1870s the US government created reservations where the Indians were required to live, near military outposts.<br /> <br /> At Camp Apache, established in 1870 near his adopted homeland, Tellez was first employed in routine camp labor. General George Crook was assigned to the Department of Arizona in June 1871, and Apache scouts were recruited to help quell the violence. On December 2, 1872, Tellez was chosen for the first Indian Scout Company, and on official records his name was listed as Mickey Free. Thus John Ward’s stepson, influenced by a mixed Anglo-Mexican and Indian heritage, began a 21-year association with the US Army.<br /> <br /> Free accompanied troops tracking and capturing Indians who had bolted from reservations or were causing trouble for settlers. At first, he was involved with fighting the Tonto Apaches and Yavapais, out of Camp Verde. Later, he was involved with the Chiricahua Apaches and was assigned to what evolved into the White Mountain and San Carlos reservations. As each enlistment ended, Free reenlisted as an Indian scout or Indian interpreter, or worked with the Quartermaster Department. He became well known, but both Indians and whites at times suspected he favored the other.<br /> <br /> Mickey Free was with Army troops during many campaigns against Apaches until just before Geronimo’s 1886 surrender. At that time he was assigned as an interpreter to accompany a delegation of Apaches to Washington, DC, to express their concerns to President Grover Cleveland and other government officials. Instead of returning home, the Apache delegation was sent as prisoners of war to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. Within days, however, Mickey was freed to return to Arizona, where he continuously reenlisted as an Indian scout until July 1893. His last years were spent with his Apache family members, along the White River. He died in his late 60s where his heart was—with the Apaches.<br /> <br /> Free’s childhood home in the Sonoita Valley had numerous owners and occupants over the years but was often recorded as the Johnny Ward Ranch, even though his family had left it shortly following the abduction. The home was abandoned about 1903. Now truly a ruin and largely forgotten,the Ward Ranch is still significant as the scene of a kidnapping that sparked Mickey Free’s odyssey—one of the many engaging narratives of Southwestern frontier history. The publication of Johnny Ward’s Ranch excavation report in 1962 in KIVA: Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History, stands as an early example of historic archaeology, a subdiscipline of archaeology, formalized in 1967 with the founding of the Society for Historic Archaeology.<br /> <br /> Stuart D. Scott is a retired anthropology professor and local freelance writer. Comments for publication should be addressed to letters@desertleaf.com.<br /> <br /> There’s More to the Story<br /> <br /> For those with an interest in this remarkable period of Arizona’s history, the well- researched details of Felix Tellez’s/Mickey Free’s life can be found in Allan Radbourne’s Mickey Free: Apache Captive, Interpreter, and Indian Scout; Edwin Sweeney’s Cochise and From Cochise to Geronimo, which vividly portray details of the Apache Wars. See also The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke, Volume 1 (University of North Texas) for ethnological information about Mickey Free imparted to Lt. John Bourke during his years as aide-decamp to General Crook during the Apache campaigns and in dealings with Cochise. The excavation report of the Johnny Ward Ranch is in the October–December 1962 issue of KIVA (Stuart Scott, editor).<br />

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/The+Kidnapping+Of+Felix+Tellez/2970945/464144/article.html.

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