from: Little Water – Many Indians Disaster at the Colorado — by Charles W. Baley, 2002
. . . After dinner, while making preparations to get underway, it was discovered that six oxen were missing. Several men were sent back to look for them. After tracking the missing animals for some distance, the searchers came upon four carcasses. Two of the carcasses had all the meat cut away while the other two were partially butchered. A short distance farther, the other two oxen were found. They were freshly killed and still warm, the Indians apparently scared off by their pursuers before they could strip the meat from the animals. Due to approaching darkness and the possibility of an ambush, the pursuit was called off.
During this phase of the journey, the wagon train was doing much of its traveling at night, owing to the great daytime heat of the desert and the long distances between water holes. At regular intervals, during the night they would stop for a short rest. At one of these rest stops, eleven-year-old Ellen Baley, a daughter of Gillum and Permelia Baley, fell asleep and failed to awaken when the wagon train moved on. Somehow, she was not missed until the train traveled some distance. The poor girl awoke to find herself alone in the middle of a vast hostile desert. Filled with fright, she began running to catch up with the wagon train, but in her confusion, she took off in the opposite direction. When she was discovered missing, her father and older brother, George immediately rode back to where they had stopped. To their horror, she was not there! Captured by the Indians must have been their conclusion! Nevertheless, they continued their search by calling out the little girl’s name at the top of their voices as they rode back. Their efforts were soon rewarded when, far off in the distance, came a faint cry, “Papa, Papa.” Her father immediately answered and kept calling her name until he caught up with her. When reunited with her family and the other members of the wagon train, Ellen had a tale that would be told and retold by family members until the present day.
“IN the spring of 1854, the project of some exciting hostile expedition against a distant tribe was agitated among the Mohaves. It was sometime before any but the ‘Council’ knew of the definite purpose of the expedition. But when their plans had been laid, and all their intentions circulated among the tribe, it proved to be one of war upon the Cochopas, a large tribe seven hundred miles away. The Cochopas were a tribe with whom the Mohaves had never been at peace. According to tradition, this hostility had been kept actively flaming through all past generations. And the Mohaves were relying on equal certainty upon the truth of the traditional prophecy that they were ultimately to subject the Cochopas to their sway or obliterate them. The Mohaves had as yet been successful in every engagement. They were confident of success, and this was all the glory their ambition was capable of grasping. As for any intrinsic merit in the matter of the contest, none was known to exist. About sixty warriors made preparations for a long time to undertake the expedition.
“Bows and arrows and war clubs were prepared in abundance, also stone knives. The war club was made of a very solid wood that grew upon the mountain. It was of a tree that they called Cooachee,’ very hard and heavy, and lost but very little of its weight in the seasoning process:
” Great preparations were also made by the squaws, though with much reluctance, as most of them were opposed to the expedition, as they had been also in the past to kindred ones. Those of them who had husbands and brothers enlisted in the expedition, tried every expedient in their power to dissuade them from it. They accused them of folly and a mere lust of war and prayed them not thus to expose their own lives and the lives of their dependent ones. It was reported that since the last attack upon them, the Cochopees had strengthened themselves with numerous and powerful allies, by uniting several surrounding tribes with themselves for purposes of war. This was pleaded by these interested women against the present purpose, as they feared that this distant tribe would be now able to avenge the past injury, besides beating the Mohaves in this projected engagement. But go they would, and on the day of their departure there was a convocation of nearly the whole tribe, and it was a time of wild, savage excitement and deep mourning.
” I soon learned, though by mere accident, that so far as life was concerned, I had an interest in this expedition equal to that of the most exposed among the warriors. It had been an unvarying custom among them that if any of their numbers should be slain in battle, the lives of prisoners or captives must be sacrificed, therefore, up to the number of the slain, (if that number should be among them,) and that in the most torturing manner. This was not done to appease their gods, for they had none, but was a gift to the spirits of the other spheres. Their only theory about a Supreme Being is that there is a chief of all the Indians who reigns in splendor and pomp and that his reign is one of wisdom and equity, and would last forever. They believed that at the gate of their Elysium a porter was in constant attendance, who received all good, brave Indians, and welcomed them to immense hunting grounds and all manner of sensual pleasures; that if one sought admittance there without a bow and hunting implements, he was to subsist as best he could, for no provision was to be made for him after leaving his tribe. Many were the questions they asked me after they had ascertained what I believed concerning the nature of the heaven of which I spoke, and the employments there. But generally, they would wind up the conversation with ridicule and mockings. When they saw me weep or in trouble, they would sometimes say: ‘Why don’t you look up and call your great God out of the sky, and have him take you up there.’ But under all this, I could plainly see that their questions were not wholly insincere. They frequently marveled, and occasionally one would say: ‘You whites are a singular people; I should like to know what you will be when a great many moons have gone by?’ Sometimes they would say as did the Apaches, that we must be fools for believing that heaven was above the sky; that if it were so the people would drop down. One of the squaws said tauntingly to me: ‘ When you go to your heaven you had better take a strong piece of bark and tie yourself up, or you will be coming down among us again.’ After the soldiers had departed they told me plainly that my life must pay for the first one that might be slain during this contest.
“I had but a little before learned that we were not much further from the white settlements than when among the Apaches, and had been fondly hoping that as parties of the tribe occasionally made excursions to the settlements, I might yet make my situation known and obtain relief. But now I was shut up to the alternatives of either making an immediate effort to escape, which would be sure to cost my life if detected or to wait in dreadful suspense the bare probability of none of these soldiers being slain, as the only chance for myself if I remained.
” The report of the strengthening of the Cochopas since their last expedition gave me a reason to fear the worst. Thus for a long time, and just after having reached a bright place (if there can be in such a situation) in my captivity, I was thrown into the gloomiest apprehensions for my life. I could not calculate upon life; I did not.
” For five months not a night did I close my eyes for a troubled sleep, or wake in the morning but last and first were the thoughts of the slender thread upon which my life was hung. The faint prospect in which I had been indulging, that their plans of increasing traffic with the Mexicans and whites might open the doors for my return, was now nearly blasted.
“I had been out one fine day in August several miles gathering roots for the chief’s family, and returning a little before sunset, as I came in sight of the village I saw an Indian at some distance beyond the town descending a hill to the river from the other side. ‘ He was so far away that it was impossible for me to tell whether he was a Yuma or a Mohave. These two tribes were on friendly terms, and frequent * criers or news carriers passed between them. I thought at once of the absent warriors, and of my vital interest in the success or failure of their causeless, barbarous crusade. I soon saw that he was a Mohave, and tremblingly believed that I could mark him as one of the army.
“With trembling and fear I watch his hastened though evidently wearied pace.- He went down into the river and as he rose again upon the bank I recognized him. ‘ He is wearied,’ I said, ‘ and jogs heavily along as though he had become nearly exhausted from long travel. “Why can he be coming in alone?’ Questions of this character played across my mind and were asked aloud by me ere I was aware, each like a pointed javelin lashing and tormenting my fears. ‘Have the rest all perished?’ again I exclaimed; at any rate, the decisive hour has come with me.’
” I stopped; my approach to the village had not been observed. I resolved to wait and seek to cover one desperate effort to escape under the first shades of night. I threw myself flat upon the ground; I looked in every direction; mountain chains were strung around me on every side like bulwarks of adamant, and if trails led through them I knew them not. I partly raised myself up. I saw that Indian turn into a hut on the outskirts of the town. In a few moments, the ‘criers’ were out and bound to the river and to the foothills. Each on his way started others, and soon the news was flying as on telegraphic wires. ^But what news I could but exclaim. I started up and resolved to hasten to our hut and wait in silence for the full returns.
“I could imagine that I saw my doom written in the countenance of every Mohave I met. But each one maintained a surly reserve or turned upon me a sarcastic smile. A crowd was gathering fast, but not one word was let fall for my ear. In total, awful silence I looked, I watched, I guessed, but dared not speak. It seemed that everyone was reading and playing with my agitation. Soon the assemblage was convened, a fire was lit, and ‘Ohitia’ rose up to speak; I listened, and my heart seemed to leap to my mouth as he proceeded to state, in substance, thus: ‘Mohaves have triumphed; five prisoners were taken; all on their way; none of our men killed; they will be in to-morrow !’
” Again one of the blackest clouds that darkened the sky of my Mohave captivity broke, and the sunshine of gladness and gratitude was upon my heart. Tears of gratitude ran freely down my face. I buried my face in my hands and silently thanked God. I sought a place alone, where I might give full vent to my feelings of thanksgiving to my heavenly Father. I saw his goodness, in whose hands are the reins of the wildest battle storm, and thanked him that this expedition, so freighted with anxiety, had issued so mercifully to me.
“The next day four more came in with the captives, and in a few days, all were returned, without even a scar to tell of the danger they had passed. The next day after the coming of the last party, a meeting of the whole tribe was called, and one of the most enthusiastic rejoicing seasons I ever witnessed among them it was. It lasted, indeed, for several days. They danced, sang, shouted; and played their corn-stalk flutes until for very weariness they were compelled to refrain. It was their custom never to eat salted meat for the next moon after the coming of a captive among them. Hence our salt fish were for several days left to an undisturbed repose.
“Among the captives they had stolen from the unoffending Cochopas and brought in with them, was a handsome, fair-complexioned young woman, of about twenty-five years of age. She was as beautiful an Indian woman as I have ever seen; tall, graceful, and ladylike in her appearance. She had fairer, lighter skin than the Mohaves or the other Cochopa captives. But I saw upon her countenance and in her eyes the traces of awful grief. The rest of the captives appeared well and indifferent about themselves.
“This woman called herself ‘Nowereha.’ Her language was as foreign to the Mohaves as the Americans, except to the few soldiers that had been among them. The other captives were girls from twelve to sixteen years old; and while they seemed to wear a ‘ don’t care appearance, this Nowereha was perfectly bowed down with grief. I observed she tasted but little food. She kept up a constant moaning and wailing, except when checked by the threats of her boastful captors. I became very much interested in her and sought to learn the circumstances under which she had been torn from her home. Of her grief, I thought I knew something. She tried to converse with me.
” “With much difficulty, I learned of her what had happened since the going of the Mohave warriors among her tribe, and this fully explained her extreme melancholy. Their town was attacked in the night by the Mohave warriors, and after a short engagement the Cochopas were put to flight; the Mohaves hotly pursued them. Nowereha had a child about two months old; but after running a short distance her husband came up with her, grasped the child, and run on before. This was an act showing humaneness that a Mohave warrior did not possess, for he would have compelled his wife to carry the child, kicking her along before him. She was overtaken and captured.
” For one week Nowereha wandered about the village by day, a perfect image of desperation and despair. At times she seemed insane: she slept but little at night. The thieving, cruel Mohaves who had taken her, and were making merry over her griefs, knew full well the cause of it all. They knew that without provocation they had robbed her of her child, and her child of its mother. They knew the attraction drawing her back to her tribe, and they watched her closely. But no interest or concern did they manifest save to mock and torment her.
“Early one morning it was noised through the village that Nowereha was missing. I had observed her the day before, when the chief’s daughter gave her some corn, to take part in the same, after grinding the rest, to make a cake and hide it in her dress. “When these captives were brought in, they were assigned different places through the valley at which to stop. Search was made to see if she had not sought the abiding place of some of her fellow captives. This caused some delay, which I was glad to see, though I dared not express my true feelings.
” “When it was ascertained that she had probably undertaken to return, every path and every space dividing the immediate trails was searched, to find if possible some trace to guide a band of pursuers. A large number were stationed in different parts of the valley, and the most vigilant watch was kept during the night, while others started in quest of her upon the way they supposed she had taken to go back. When I saw a day and night pass in these fruitless attempts, I began to hope for the safety of the fugitive. I had seen enough of her to know that she was resolved and of unconquerable determination. Some conjectured that she had been betrayed away; others that she had drowned herself, and others that she had taken to the river and swam away. They finally concluded that she had killed herself, and gave up the search, vowing that if she had fled they would yet have her and be avenged.
” Just before night, several days after this, a Yuma Indian came suddenly into camp, driving this Cochopa captive. She was the most distressed-looking being imaginable when she returned. Her hair disheveled, her -a few old clothes torn, (they were woolen clothes,) her eyes swollen, and every feature of her noble countenance distorted.
“‘Criers’ were kept constantly on the way between the Mohaves and Yumas, bearing news from tribe to tribe. These messengers were their news- carriers and sentinels. Frequently two criers were employed, (sometimes more,) one from each tribe. These would have their meeting stations. At these stations, these criers would meet with promptness, and by word of mouth each would deposit his store of news with his fellow expressman, and then each would return, to his own tribe with the news. When the news was important, or was of a warning character, as in the time of war, they would not wait- for the fleet foot of the ‘runner,’ but had their signal fires well understood, which would telegraph the news hundreds of miles in a few hours. One of these Yuma criers, about four days after the disappearance of Nowereha, was coming to his station on the road connecting these two tribes when he spied a woman under a shelf of the rock on the opposite side of the river. He immediately plunged into the stream and went to her. He knew the tribe to which she belonged, and that the Mohaves had been making war upon them. He immediately started back with her to the Mohave village. It was a law to which they punctually lived, to return all fleeing fugitives or captives of a friendly tribe.
” It seemed that she had concealed that portion of the corn meal she did not bake, with a view of undertaking to escape.
” When she went out that night she plunged immediately into the river to prevent them from tracking her. She swam several miles that night, and then hid in a willow wood; thinking that they would be in close pursuit, she resolved to remain there until they should give up hunting for her. Here she remained for nearly two days, and her pursuers were very near her several times. She then started and swam where the river was not too rapid and shallow when she would out and bound over the rocks. In this way, traveling only at night, she had gone near one hundred and thirty miles. She was, as she supposed, safely hidden in a cave, waiting for the return of night, when the Yuma found her.
” On her return, another noisy meeting was called, and they spent the night in one of their victory dances. They would dance around her, shout in her ears, spit in her face, and show their threats of a murderous design, assuring her that they would soon have her where she would give them no more trouble by running away.
” The next morning a post was firmly placed in the ground, and about eight feet from the ground a cross-beam was attached. They then drove large, rough wooden spikes through the palms of poor Nowereha’s hands, and by these they lifted her to the cross and drove the spikes into the soft wood of the beam, extending her hands as far as they could. They then, with pieces of bark stuck with thorns, tied her head firmly back to the upright post, drove spikes through her ankles, and for a time left her in this condition.
“They soon returned and placed me with their Cochopa captives near the sufferer, bid us keep our eyes upon her until she died. This they did, as they afterward said, to exhibit to me what I might expect if they should catch me attempting to escape. They then commenced running around Nowereha in regular circles, hallooing, stamping, and taunting like so many demons, in the wildest and most frenzied manner. After a little while several of them supplied themselves with bows and arrows, and at every circlet would hurl one of these poisoned instruments of death into her quivering flesh. Occasionally she would cry aloud and in the most pitiful manner. This awakened from that mocking, heartless crowd the most deafening yells.
” She hung in this dreadful condition for over two hours ere I was certain she was dead, all the while bleeding and sighing, her body mangled in the most shocking manner. When she would cry aloud they would stuff rags in her mouth, and thus silence her. “When they were quite sure she was dead, and that they could no longer inflict pain upon her, they took her body to a funeral pile and burned it.
“I had before this thought, since I had come to know of the vicinity of the whites, that I would get borne knowledge of the way to their abodes by means of the occasional visits the Mohaves made to them, and make my escape. But this scene discouraged me, however, and each day I found myself, not without hope it is true, but settling down into such contentment as I could with my lot. For the next eighteen months during which I was witness to their conduct, these Mohaves took more care and exercised more forethought in the matter of their food. They did not suffer and seemed to determine not to suffer the return of a season like 1852.
“I saw but little reason to expect anything else than the spending of my years among them, and I had no anxiety that they should be many. I saw around me none but savages, and (dreadful as was the thought) among whom I must spend my days. There were some with whom I had become intimately acquainted, and from whom I had received humane and friendly treatment, exhibiting real kindness. I thought it best now to conciliate the best wishes of all, and by every possible means to avoid all occasions of awakening their displeasure, or enkindling their unrepentant, uncontrollable temper and passions.
” There were some few for whom I began to feel a degree of attachment. Every spot in that valley that had any attraction, or offered a retreat to the sorrowing soul, had become familiar, and upon much of its adjacent scenery, I delighted to gaze. Every day had its monotony of toil, and thus I plodded on. . . .
There are numerous names of features within the story of the Cajon Canyon complex; Mormon Rocks, Lost Lake, Lone Pine Canyon, and more. There is one canyon, however, the most popular variation of the Old Spanish Trail as it entered southern California was known as Coyote Canyon.
In the early 1840s, Englishman Michael White and William Workman were partners in a store in New Mexico. White sold his part of the business and came west to live on one hundred acres his wife purchased from the Catholic Church. On this property near Mission San Gabriel, Michael White established a home. Indian raids were discouraging, but Mr. White worked on and ultimately succeeded in raising cattle. His herd grew and he looked for range land. Mr. White and two other men made an agreement to help each other raise cattle in the valley northwest of San Bernardino.
The Story of Coyote Canyon
It was near the mouth of the Cajon Canyon where he built his camp. However, the ‘partners’ failed to show up leaving Miguel to his own defense if there were an attack.
One morning Mr. White woke up to find his cattle missing–the culprits most likely were ‘Chaguanosos.’ The Chaguanosos were a band of Indians exiled and cast away from all, the worst of the worst, cast from their own tribes, notorious and deadly in their own right. These men would steal anything and everything and kill anyone that attempted to stop them. These renegades committed many of the raids on the animals of the ranchos. There was Chief Coyote who was known in the area to be cunning, and violent and leading a band of these heartless men.
During the dark of night, the Chief and his thieves drove away over 400 head of Mr. White’s herd. Michael White was alone save for a seventeen-year-old Indian boy. Together, they rode off to attempt to halt the theft. They needed to keep the band of thieves from leaving the Cajon Canyon and entering the Mojave Desert–they had to head them off at the pass.
Mr. White and the Indian boy rode up the canyon, circled around, and came in between the outlaws and the top of the pass. The thieves were unaware as they were greedily feasting on a horse they had killed.
Mr. White thought to stampede the herd back down through the narrows trapping the Chaguanosos from escape.
Michael drew the attention of Chief Coyote. The renegade charged him. Michael aimed and fired. The shot knocked the Chief off of his horse. He fell into the brush. Dead. The gunshot startled the cattle and they stampeded over the camp and back down the canyon surprising those in the camp. There was a gunfight. White would fire his gun and one by one the Chaguanosos fell dead in the canyon. The boy reloaded the extra gun and kept Michael White fighting. Several of the renegades escaped in the dust and confusion.
The stolen animals were rounded up and returned to the glen at the mouth of the Cajon canyon.
Calling the canyon ‘Coyote Canyon’ wasn’t in honor of a great chief. It was simply a ravine where a bad guy was killed. That is how the canyon became known as Coyote Canyon.
However, the story doesn’t end there- The Governor of California heard of this heroic episode and found that Mr. White had no land but desired to. So, Michael White became naturalized as Miguel Blanco, a citizen of Mexico, and received a grant for 32,000 acres (50 square miles) of land northwest of the Lugo Rancho San Bernardino. With this land situated on a high point of the bajada that runs the southwestern base of the San Bernardino mountains, he was to guard and defend the southern California ranchos from further raids from horsethieves.
Of course, the story doesn’t really end there, either- This is the beginning of the story of Miguel Blanco and the Rancho Muscupiabe.