April 28 This day during the American Indian War

April 28, 1886 – Bear Valley Raid was an armed conflict that occurred in 1886 during Geronimo’s War. In late April, a band of Chiricahua Apaches attacked settlements in Santa Cruz County, Arizona over the course of two days. The Apaches raided four cattle ranches in or around Bear Valley, leaving four settlers dead, including a woman and her baby. They also captured a young girl, who was found dead several days after the event, and stole or destroyed a large amount of private property. When the United States Army learned of the attack, an expedition was launched to pursue the hostiles. In May, two small skirmishes were fought just across the international border in Sonora, Mexico but both times the Apaches were able to escape capture. The raid occurred during the final campaign of the war, in which thousands of soldiers and militia searched the frontier for a small band of Chiricahuas from San Carlos. Most of the natives followed the warrior Geronimo, though there were other leaders who led their own groups. The Apaches, after escaping the reservations, would usually retreat to their strongholds in the Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. From there they would raid against the Mexicans or cross the international border to raid in the United States, as was the situation in Bear Valley. The valley is a large region located in southern Arizona, just north of the border with Sonora, and west of Nogales, making it the ideal target for Apache raiders in northern Mexico. Geronimo, sometime after his surrender, said he did not lead the attack which meant if it wasn’t him it was likely perpetrated by the warrior Naiche, the eldest son of the famous Chief Cochise. However, Geronimo was said to have been raiding in the area at the time. When the Apaches entered Bear Valley, they first attacked two men who were traveling through the desert near Oro Blanco. The men were A. L. Peck and his assistant, Charles Owen. They were ambushed about two miles from Peck’s ranch in Agua Fria Canyon. Owen was shot and killed immediately but Peck was taken prisoner. The hostiles tied Peck to a tree and kept him under guard for about an hour before setting him free without his shoes. Peck then ran bareboot back to his home where he found that the house was destroyed and that his wife and eleven month old baby had been murdered. Peck also found that his twelve-year-old niece had been captured. The girl’s body was found two weeks later, near the ranch, by some cowboys. Apparently the Apaches killed her by crushing her head with rocks. After the attack on Peck’s ranch the Apaches continued on towards Sycamore Canyon and the nearby homesteads, some twenty miles south of Arivaca. One of the homesteads was the cattle ranch of John “Yank” Bartlett and his partner Henry “Hank” Hewitt, located at the head of the canyon. On April 28, the day after the attack at Peck’s ranch, a local man named Phil Shanahan was visiting the Bartlett ranch where his ten-year-old son, Little Phil Shanahan, was staying with Johnny Bartlett, the son of Yank Bartlett. Eventually Shanahan decided to ride back to his ranch, a few miles away, leaving his son, Little Phil, at the Bartlett ranch. Shortly after that the boys heard gunfire in the distance and then Shanahan stumbled back into view of the ranch house saying he had been shot. Yank could tell by the wound that Shanahan needed a doctor so he told his son Johnny to ride to Oro Blanco to get help and alarm the townspeople. Yank also told Little Phil to go back to his home and warn his mother and his sisters. Phil made it to his house without incident and he took his family into the mountains where they hid until the following day. But, while the Shanahans were in hiding, the raiders attacked their house, stealing food, clothing and killing some cattle. Not long after Johnny left, he discovered three men “dressed in black and acting as if they were drunk.” Afraid, Johnny turned around and went back, only to find that the Apaches had arrived and were firing into the house. Johnny rode through the firing to the door of the house, he was not hurt but his horse was wounded and died in the doorway. Yank returned the Apache’s fire, while at the same time trying to tend to Shanahan’s wound, and received a bullet to one of his shoulders, but he remained conscious and continued to fight. When it was dark, Yank sent Johnny out to ride to Oro Blanco again. For the first two miles Johnny walked barefoot, so as to avoid making too much noise, until he reached the ranch of E.W. Smith. Johnny found that the ranch house had been broken into and that black clothing, a gun, and a bottle of brandy had been taken. Smith was found just after, he had apparently hidden, or was elsewhere, when the Apaches attacked. Smith joined Johnny and together the rode to Oro Blanco, arriving at 2:00 am the next morning. Meanwhile, Yank was able to fend off the attackers so when Johnny returned with help the hostiles were already gone.

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