Category Archives: Profiles & Biographies

Walkah

Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a Pioneer in the Path of Empire, 1822-1903

Walkara

Walkara and his brother Arapeen

The water of Little Salt Lake is as briny, we were told, as that of Great Salt Lake, and we noticed that its shores were covered with saline incrustations for a mile or more from the water’s edge; but the Mormons stated that the salt was of little value, being impregnated with saleratus and other alkaline matter, which rendered it unfit for use. They obtain their supplies of this article from mines of rock-salt in the mountains. The excitement occasioned by the threats of Walkah, the Utah chief, continued to increase during the day we spent at Parawan. Families flocked in from Paragoona, and other small settlements and farms, bringing with them their movables, and their flocks and herds. Parties of mounted men, well armed, patrolled the country; expresses came in from different quarters, bringing accounts of attacks by the Indians, on small parties and unprotected farms and houses. During our stay, Walkah sent in a polite message to Colonel G. A. Smith, who had military command of the district, and governed it by martial law, telling him that, “The Mormons were d—d fools for abandoning their houses and towns, for he did not intend to molest them there, as it was his intention to confine his depredations to their cattle, and that he advised them to return and mind their crops, for, if they neglected them, they would starve, and be obliged to leave the country, which was not what he desired, for then there would be no cattle for him to take.” He ended by declaring war for four years. This message did not tend to allay the fears of the Mormons, who, in this district, were mostly foreigners, and stood in great awe of Indians.

The Utah chieftain who occasioned all this panic and excitement is a man of great subtlety and indomitable energy. He is not a Utah by birth, but has acquired such an extraordinary ascendency over that tribe by his daring exploits, that all the restless spirits and ambitious young warriors in it have joined his standard. Having an unlimited supply of fine horses, and being inured to every fatigue and privation, he keeps the territories of New Mexico and Utah, the provinces of Chihuahua and Sonora, and the southern portion of California in constant alarm. His movements are so rapid, and his plans so skillfully and so secretly laid, that he has never once failed in any enterprise and has scarcely disappeared from one district before he is heard of in another. He frequently divides his men into two or more bands, which making their appearance at different points at the same time, each headed, it is given out, by the dreaded Walkah in person, has given him, with the ignorant Mexicans, the attribute of ubiquity. The principal object of his forays is to drive off horses and cattle, but more particularly the first; and among the Utahs we noticed horses with brands familiar to us in New Mexico and California.

Walker Pass

This chief had a brother as valiant and crafty as himself to whom he was greatly attached. Both speaking Spanish and broken English they were enabled to maintain intercourse with the whites without the aid of an interpreter. This brother the Mormons thought they had killed, for, having repelled a night attack on a mill, which was led by him, on the next morning they found a rifle and a hatchet which they recognized as his, and also traces of blood and tracks of men apparently carrying a heavy body. Although rejoicing at the death of one of their most implacable enemies, the Mormons dreaded the wrath of the great chieftain, which they felt would not be appeased until he had avenged his brother’s blood in their own. The Mormons were surprised at our having passed in safety through Walkah’s territory, and they did not know to what they were to attribute their escape from destruction. They told us that the cattle tracks which we had seen a few days previous were those of a portion of a large drove lifted by Walkah, and that the mounted men we had noticed in the mountains in the evening of August 1st were scouts sent out by him to watch our movements. They endeavored to dissuade us from prosecuting our journey, for they stated that it was unsafe to travel even between their towns without an escort of from twenty-five to thirty men.

He has adopted the name of Walker (corrupted to Walkah) on account of the close intimacy and friendship which in former days united him to Joe Walker, an old mountaineer, and the same who discovered Walker’s Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

The Mormons had published a reward of fifteen thousand dollars for Walkah’s head, but it was a serious question among them who should “bell the cat.”

The Arrest of Wyatt Earp — The Potash Wars

S. Wallace Austin – January 26, 1929

S. Wallace Austin & wife, Mary Hunter Austin

The recent death of Wyatt Earp ( January 13, 1929) recalls to mind the part he played in the claim jumping expedition to Searles Lake in October 1910.  At the time I was Acting Receiver for the California Trona Company and was in charge of a group of placer mining claims covering some 40,000 acres.  The party had been organized at Los Angeles by Henry E. Lee, an Oakland attorney and probably was the best equipped gang of claim jumpers ever assembled in the west.  It consisted of three complete crews of surveyors, the necessary helpers and laborers and about 20 armed guards or gunmen under the command of Wyatt Berry Stapp.

The party of 44 in number, arrived at Searles Lake in seven touring cars and established a camp at the abandoned town of “Slate Range City” about eight miles southeast of the company’s headquarters.  On the morning following their arrival we saw some of the surveyors across the lake and our foreman road over and ordered them off the property but they paid no attention to his protest an proceeded to do a very thorough job or surveying and staking.

Searles Lake
Searles Lake – Trona, Ca.

As I considered it necessary to make some show of force in protecting our claims, I visited the enemy’s camp at sunrise the next day with our whole force of five men who were armed with all the weapons they could collect.  It was a very critical moment when we jumped from our wagon and walked up in front of the mess house where the raiders were assembled for breakfast.  I stood in the center with my boys on either side of me.  There was a shout and men came running from all directions and fearing there might be trouble.  

I started right off to explain to the surveyors present that I had only come over to give notice that I was officially and legally in possession of the claims and that they were trespassers.

Before I got very far a tall man with iron grey hair and a mustache pushed his way to the front and in a loud voice demanded why I had come into their camp with armed men.  At the same time he grabbed hold of my shotgun held by the boy on my left and attempted to take it away from him.  At this attack upon us I drew an automatic and ordered him to let go.  He did so and then ran to a building nearby saying “I’ll fix you.”  Before he could secure a rifle, however, the cooler headed members of the party surrounded him and calmed him down.  Also, you may be sure every effort was made to prevent a fight, as, in spite of our bold being, we were pretty badly scared.

Wyatt Earp

Just as things seemed to have quieted down,  one of the excited jumpers accidentally discharged a gun.  No one was hurt but, it was a very tense moment for all of us.  Having failed to dislodge the enemy the following day I called for a US Marshall and when he arrive the claim jumpers were all arrested and sent home including “Wyatt Berry Stapp”, none other than the famous Marshall Wyatt Stapp Earp.

Luncheon at the Ladies Club

“I was down in San Berdo the other day, and a man got me into one of them women’s afternoon fandangos;  you know, one of them afternoon affairs where they all talk and don’t say nothing.  And a “fly-up-the-creek” woman came up, all “a side-winding,” and said: ‘Now Mr. Scott, I’m sure in your desert travels you must  have lots of opportunities to do kind  deeds. What you tell the ladies the kindest deeds you ever did?”

Death Valley Scotty

“Well, lady,”  I says, ” let me think a minute. One time several years ago I been traveling all day on a horse, and I came in on a dry camp way up in one of the canyons. There was an old road leading up to it; hadn’t been used for years; but I noticed fresh tracks on it. When I got to the camp, there sat an old man and an old woman.  They must have been 70 years old  apiece. When they saw me they both began to cry, and I said: ‘ my goodness, how in the hell did you two ever get up here?’ Well,  they said, they were driving through the valley, and it was so hot they thought they were going to die, and they come up to this road and they thought it led to a higher place where it would be so hot, so they took it and got up there, and it was night, so they camped there all night in the morning they found their horse had wandered off. They had looked for him but he was gone, and they’d been there most a week and had no food. Well, I open my packet built a fire and made them a cup of coffee and fried some bacon and stirred up some saddle blankets (hot cakes)  for them, and say, you ought to see them two old folks eat! It cheered them up considerable. 

We sat around the fire all the evening and powwowed, and they was a nice old couple. We all slept that night on the ground. They was pretty cold, so I gave them a blanket I had. The next morning I made them some more coffee and gave them some breakfast. I had to be going, so I packed up and got astride my horse. I sort of hated to leave the old couple; they seemed kind enough sort of people; but there was nothing else to do; so I said goodbye, and they both was crying; said  they’d sure die; no way for them to get out. They couldn’t walk. It was 100 miles from help, and there was no automobiles in those days. But I got on my horse and started off, and then I looked around and saw them two old people a-standing there crying, and, you know, I just couldn’t stand it to leave them old people there alone to die, so I’d just took out my rifle and shot them both. Lady, that was the kindest deed I ever did.”

wagon

“Oh, Scotty,”  I said, “Why did you tell those women such a tale as that?”

“Well, you know all them bandits you meet when you go out; you got to tell them something,  ain’t you?”

“I suppose so, but it seems to me you might think up something better than that to tell at a ladies club meeting.”

“Well, that’s what I told that bunch, anyway. You’ve got to send up some kind of a howl if you’re going to be heard. There are so many free schools and so much ignorance.”

And Scotty lighted another fifteen cent cigar (he always smoked the best), …

from Death Valley Scotty by MabelBessie M. Johnson
– Death Valley Natural History Association

Death Valley Scotty