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Old 11-06-2010, 09:12 AM   #1
el tortuga OP
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New Mexico historical stuff


A few months ago I picked up a book on the story of this historical marker and was inspired enough by the tragic deaths of these poor souls to pay homage to them and give a shot at a ride report following the route of their ill-fated journey and take a few pictures along way. I’m no historian and the information I’m throwing out was taken from the excellent book on the incident “Massacre on the Lordsburg Road , Marc Simmons “ Actually, this is probably more of a story with some pictures sprinkled in but to me, the story IS the ride report. Hope you enjoy it.

The afternoon of March 28th 1883, Silver City resident, Judge H.C McComas, his wife Juanita and his youngest child, a boy named Charley, climbed aboard their rented wagon for a trip to ###. At this point in time in U.S. history the Native Americans were, for the most part, on their path to resettlement on reservations but there were still some groups of Apache’s that resisted, choosing instead to continue raiding as their main source of gathering supplies. Typically, their mode of operation was to use the border between the US and Mexico to their advantage – moving back and forth to avoid the two countries armies. On this particular year the remaining “free” Apaches were wintering in the Sierra Mardre’s in Mexico. Their planned Spring festivities consisted of having two groups raid the area of the New Mexico Territory around, what is now, the common border of NM and AZ (the bootheel) near Mexico.

No revisionist history here. These raids consisted of killing anyone they encountered and stealing their horses, ammunition and anything else of value. These were brutal times, without a doubt. Most settlers wasted no time figuring out the intentions of Apaches and would rather shoot first and ask questions later. And the Apaches where no saints either - they were hard core warriors.

Anyway, the McCommas family, headed southwest towards the Burro mountains. They would spend the night at an inn called the Mountain Home. This building has since burned down but here’s a shot of the Burro Mtns.. I’m not really sure of the initial section of trail that the family would’ve taken so I took some pics of the general area leading to the main trail to set the mood.

The Burro Mtns.

No doubt, the topic of discussion during dinner would have included the marauding Apaches and the danger they presented to travelers but it seems the most logical reason the family continued on their journey the next day was the assumed distance between themselves and the Apaches. This was their fatal assumption. As it turned out, the Apaches where on their own version of a Blitzkrieg. They were moving fast and light. Riding horses until they dropped and then mounting a fresh horse and riding on.

In the morning the McComases left the Inn and were on their way to Lordsburg. Another guest at the inn, John Moore, left a short while later following the family to Lordsburg. He would be the first person to find the bodies of the Judge and his wife.



This is another canyon in the area (Balckhawk I believe) that may have been the initial path taken. Both lead to the main road into the canyon and without knowing the actual location of the Inn, it’s hard to say which of the two routes the family took.


An old mine (I forget the name) along the route. Significance? Beats me, but it looked cool.

Another mine.


Travelling along the west side of the Burro mtns, the wagon headed west towards the east end of Thompson Canyon. This is one spot where their route is pretty obvious. The terrain is rugged and there just isn’t any optional roads to travel so the present day road is probably the same one used a hundred plus years ago. Of in the distance are the playas near Lordsburg and the Chiricahua Mtns in AZ.


This pic is looking west into Thompson Canyon. This picture doesn’t show the route as well as I had hoped. The trail enters the canyon about a ½ mile in the background. This spot should have given the Judge some concern because the canyon becomes narrow and provides a natural ambush point. But, because the encounter the northbound stage coming out of the canyon towards them, they probably relax a little too much. The stage passes the family and continues on towards Silver City.
I would’ve liked to continue down this canyon but this section becomes private land so I can’t give you a decent picture of the canyon. Instead, I rode around to the opposite end.


Here’s a pic from the opposite end of the canyon. Thompson Canyon can be seen in the background.


Finally, T- Canyon!

This is the spot where the canyon opens up quite a bit and the family decides to take a break and have lunch under a walnut tree. [The recovered watch from the Judge’s body had stopped shortly after noon].

Chato and his warriors had been making good time on their raid. They had come up from Mexico a few days earlier, made a loop through the area and were now heading back towards Mexico with a 100 or so stolen horses and other booty.
From evidence at the massacre site, it appears that the family had been setting up for a lunch break when the Apaches came up the canyon. Evidence suggests that the Judge was shot while in the wagon but he jumped off and attempted to draw fire while his wife and child made a break for it. During the shootout, Juanita turned the wagon around and made an attempted escape back into Thompson Canyon. She didn’t get very far before one horse was shot and killed. She jumped, or was dragged, from the wagon and was bludgeoned to death.
John Moore, the other guest at the Inn, came across the bodies of the Judge and his wife a short while later. They had been stripped of their clothes and their valuables taken. The Judges papers were scattered on his body but no sign of the boy.

So hear I stand, in the middle of nowhere, at a spot very close to the walnut tree where the shit hit the fan. A few hundred yards beyond this fence is the spot where the Judge and his wife died. It is on private land and I chose the stop at the fence even though my curiosity was telling me to just sneak over the fence. They say that the tree had been protected by the owner of the ranch and seeing how it was a walnut tree, I suspect that it might still is there but who knows? I took a few more pics of area on the way out that fluff up the report…

A map of the route taken by the family.




Some pics on the way out.

Anyway, you might be asking about the little boy Charley, that was riding with his mom and dad? Well, there are several stories explaining his fate. Actually, this story took several months to play out but initially it was thought that he was taken hostage and killed shortly therafter. The story says that he began causing trouble, whining and crying, so the Apaches bashed his head on a rock and threw his body off the side of the trail. The most interesting story and it seems the most accurate, based on interviews with many captured Apaches, was that he was hauled back to the Sierra Madres, where he remained for a brief while.

You see, shortly before Chato’s raid the Mexican and American government decided the best way to deal with Apaches was to agree on a “hot pursuit” rule that allowed both countries to cross the border if they were chasing marauding Indians. Well, killing off a judge and his wife and kidnapping their kid is a great way to invoke that rule. The news of the massacre spread across the country and military assigned Gen. Crook to chase Chato and his group into Mexico.
On May 1st Gen. Crook, using Apache scouts as guides, entered Mexico and headed into the Sierra Madres. They eventually followed the tracks back to the Apache encampment in Mexico where they planned their assault. The story goes that an overzealous scout jumped the gun causing the attack to become discombobulated. Most of the warriors were not in camp and the remaining women and children scattered into the hills. Most were captured but there was no sign of Charley. Later during interviews it seems that Charley was indeed at the camp but during the Army attack, someone or somehow he received a head injury. If I remember correctly, at least one interrogated squaw said that as she was fleeing she came across the boy and he was in bad shape and she left him behind (fearing blame?). The nights were chilly up in the mountains so he may have died from exposure or his injuries.
A sad ending indeed.

Thus ends my ride report. Not with a bang, but with a wimper.

I’d recommend reading the book “Massacre on the Lordsburg Road , Marc Simmons “ if you’re interested in this story.
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Old 11-06-2010, 10:35 AM   #2
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Very cool ride! Thanks for the great history lesson.
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Old 11-06-2010, 08:34 PM   #3
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Always interesting to learn a bit of history through inmate ride reports. Thanks for the detailed report and great pics.. looks like a superb ride
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Old 11-06-2010, 08:41 PM   #4
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Cool stuff ! Thanks for taking the time to share the history
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:15 PM   #5
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I really enjoyed your ride report and bit of history.

I love the idea of a quest to follow some history and at the same time to get in some bike time.

Years ago with a motor home and kids we visited the site of Custer’s Last Stand. I had read many books and stories of the incident. As I walked along and at one point stood by a small depression that overlooked a small canyon that led down to the river I recalled from the books I had read that this was were some of Reno’s men were holed up and how they snuck down to the river from here. I ended up spending hours on my walk reliving the incident where it actually happened. Course kids and wife were in the MH thinking that I was nuts!

Your post has given me the impetus to plan out several “history” rides. With the snow coming and no riding I can enjoy ride planning.
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Old 11-08-2010, 05:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by storman113
I really enjoyed your ride report and bit of history.

I love the idea of a quest to follow some history and at the same time to get in some bike time.

Years ago with a motor home and kids we visited the site of Custer’s Last Stand. I had read many books and stories of the incident. As I walked along and at one point stood by a small depression that overlooked a small canyon that led down to the river I recalled from the books I had read that this was were some of Reno’s men were holed up and how they snuck down to the river from here. I ended up spending hours on my walk reliving the incident where it actually happened. Course kids and wife were in the MH thinking that I was nuts!

Your post has given me the impetus to plan out several “history” rides. With the snow coming and no riding I can enjoy ride planning.
I visited Little Bighorn about 10 years ago, practically by accident and I must say that is one of the most impressive sites I've been to. When you see all the markers where the soldiers died, it really helps put your mind in the time. Like you, I ended up spending way more time than I anticipated.

My high school history teacher would be shocked to know this! Anymore, when I come across an historical marker, I look to see if I can research it a little more and if it has potential, make a ride report from it.


jeff
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Old 11-08-2010, 06:53 AM   #7
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Funny how I was never interested in history as a kid, really...but now I seem to crave it, and love the ride reports that include it.

It humbles me to sit at a spot and wonder what people were thinking and feeling there at a time of crisis like that.

Thanks for the story, report, and book recommendation.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:28 AM   #8
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Well thought out. Thanks for the details.

Very interesting RR.
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Old 12-11-2010, 06:36 PM   #9
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Great report. One of the reasons I got my bike is to explore some of the history of Western Ok. I have been researching the battle of Wolf Creek where the largest battle between Native American tribes of the plains took place. I beleive I have located the area where the two day battle took place and hope to put together a report sometime this spring. Thanks again for your report.
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Old 12-11-2010, 06:52 PM   #10
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Excellent read. Thanks.
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Old 12-11-2010, 10:44 PM   #11
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Really enjoy the history and pix. Thank you.
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Old 12-11-2010, 11:07 PM   #12
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Great ways to ride...

Thanks friend...
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Old 12-12-2010, 01:10 AM   #13
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Excellent history report and great pics of some beautiful land . I love being in place where history happened .
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Old 12-12-2010, 05:28 AM   #14
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another reason why i love adventure rider so much
i learn something every single time i login
thank you very much for that

great RR, pictures, and story
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Old 12-12-2010, 10:15 AM   #15
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The pics, the story and the Historical details made this a very interesting RR. Thanks for sharing.
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