Chapter XXXVII.


We Visit the Governor of Arizona--An Indian Country--My

Talk with the Natives--The Custom Officer--He Favors our Entry into Mexico

ON LEAVING the Gila our route led to Tucson. We crossed the eighty-five mile desert where the Battalion suffered so much for water. When we crossed there were two wells furnishing good, pure water. One, two hundred feet deep, where there was a small stock ranch and station. For support, the owner sold water to travelers.

At Tucson we received a letter from Brigham Young, from which I will give a short extract, dated, Salt Lake City, November, 8th, 1875.

"Since your departure from Salt Lake City on your way southward, more than one hundred and fifty have been called to aid in the building up of the Kingdom of God, in various parts of the earth. Among these, a party have started in charge of Elder James S. Brown, who intends to winter somewhere in the neighborhood of the Moencoppy (without a more suitable place is found) and from there spread out as opportunity offers."

At Tucson, we found quite a number of white residents. This old town has been so well described by many writers, that I will simply say, it never was, is not now, and never will be much. Its only merit is in its being so very old; some two hundred and seventy-one years. Our intention had been to go from Tucson to Sonora. But at the time there was a hot revolution under way, and everything was in confusion. There was no safety whatever for anyone entering the country.

We had a letter of introduction from C. T. Hayden of Tempe to Gov. Safford who resided in Tucson. We had a pleasant visit with his excellency. Mr. Safford is much respected by the inhabitants of Arizona, he having been the framer of the Arizona public school system, which is acknowledged to be excellent. From the Governor we received a letter to Mr. Jeffries, the Indian agent at Apache Pass. We were invited to preach in the court house at Tucson, and had a good attendance and attention.

The Police Gazette had me pictured out as being rotten-egged by a lot of women, while preaching in a town in Arizona. Tucson was the only town we preached in, in Arizona while on this mission. So much for sensational reports.

Owing to the unsettled state of affairs in Sonora, we concluded to go farther east and visit El Paso and then go into the state of Chihuahua. Our mixed outfit, both wagon and pack animals were inconvenient; and as the roads were good, we concluded to get another wagon. Having sold some of our animals we had money to spare, so we bought an excellent wagon from the quartermaster, at the post near Tucson.

We now had a good outfit. Our wagons took the place of the pack animals, but we retained our saddle horses.

The next place of importance, to which we looked forward with some anxiety, was Fort Bowie. On arriving there, we presented our letters to Jeffries, who was in charge of the reservation at Bowie. But the Indians seemed to be in charge of both Jeffries and several companies of soldiers stationed there, for the Indians did about as they pleased.

It was considered somewhat risky to pass through the Apache Pass. According to an agreement made at Beaver with D. H. Wells to be careful, we camped a day's travel this side of the Indians, and with one of the brethren went in to see how things looked. I felt a little uneasy. The Indians were under no control whatever, save that of self-interest. The government gave them everything they wanted, and more. They had provisions of every kind so abundantly, that a great deal was wasted. They had all the guns and ammunition they wanted, and were allowed to raid at will into Sonora and Chihuahua. It was generally believed that they were encouraged by some of the whites in their raiding. When I talked with the agent, he said we were safe enough if we did not happen to run across any drunken Indians on the road; but as the weather was cold and disagreeable, he did not think any of them would be out. Advised us to stop at the mail station near the fort and not turn out any animals.

We went back to camp and reported. All felt like we would be safe. We all had faith in being protected for we were on a mission, not of our own choosing. We got in next day all right. Our animals needed shoeing so we concluded to lay over a day. I had a great desire to talk to these Indians, believing that they would listen a little. I made some inquiry of the trader who had been with them for some years, about their traditions. He said they had none, only to murder and steal. This I found afterwards to be a great mistake.

I asked Mr. Jeffries, permission to talk to the Indians. He rather jeeringly replied, "I don't think you can get them to listen to you, I am the only man they will talk to."

I answered, "All I ask is your permission and if they won't listen to me, all right."

He said, "Go ahead, I guess you can't make them much worse than they are anyway."

I inquired if any of the Indians talked Spanish. Their interpreter, a drunken little Mexican, offered to interpret, if I would pay him, saying that this was his business, and that no one had a right to talk to the Indians except through him. I told him that the agent had given me the privilege of talking to them; that I was not working for money, and that I did not intend to pay for any interpreting. He then pointed out an Indian that spoke tolerable fair Spanish.

I approached the Indian and spoke to him. He answered quite short and asked what I wanted. I told him that what I wanted to say to him was for his people's good; that if he would listen to me a few minutes, he could then judge.

He looked me in the eye for a moment and then said, "All right, say what you please."

I asked him if the Apaches had any knowledge of their fathers, counting back many counts. He answered that they had lost that, and did not know anything about them.

I showed him one of our books, and informed him that it told about their old fathers. At this he got up and called to a lot of other Indians that were loafing around. Some thirty or forty soon gathered around me. I commenced and explained considerable to them. They were growing quite interested when the agent was seen approaching.

They seem to understand that my words were not for the agent's ears, and manifested as much by their remarks, so I changed the subject and said that the Mormons had also sent us to look for country to settle, that we were growing and wished new country; that we would perhaps settle near them; that we were friends to the red man and hoped the Apaches would be friendly with us.

The agent had approached near enough to hear this talk. He stayed around, giving me no further chance to explain the Book of Mormon to them. He made some remarks to call their attention away from me. I could see plainly that he wished me to stop talking, so I told the Indians we would meet again sometime. I felt that I had made a little impression for good upon them.

Sometime after this I had a good long talk with the Apaches, which I will give an account of in the proper place. We had a vague idea of the western portion of Chihuahua, where the Mormons are now settling, but could get no definite directions, as we met no one who seemed to know much about the country. So we concluded to continue on the main road to El Paso. Nothing of interest occurred on the way. All went well with us.

We drove into Franklin, a small town on the American side of the line, opposite El Paso. The main question now was, how will we be able to pass the custom house and get our books and outfit over the line into Mexico. Many persons had told us that we would never be allowed to pass, as Catholicism ruled in that country and they would never permit us to enter with Mormon publications. Our hopes were in the overruling Power to help us. None of us pretended to have wisdom for the occasion.

We were standing in the street about noon. I was talking to a gentleman, telling him that we wished to pass over the line at once with our outfit. Our mission was to Mexico, and we felt like going ahead and getting in. We intended to remain there until spring. It was now January.

While talking with the stranger he said, pointing toward three men passing: "There go the custom officer and post master; the other man is a good interpreter. The post master is an American, but is a great friend of the custom officer. They are going into the post office now. They have just been to dinner and will be in a good humor. You had better go at once and see them."

I went to the office and inquired if I could see the custom officer. I was invited into a back room where the three sat smoking. Politeness is the rule in that country. I was asked to take a seat and offered a cigar. The custom officer inquired through the interpreter how he could serve me. I told him I was traveling with some others, seven in all, and we wished to cross over into Mexico at once, as we desired to winter there. He asked about our outfit, then our loading. I told him it consisted of the necessary utensils, provisions, clothing, etc., for travelers. Then a lot of books we intended to distribute gratis through the country.

He wanted to know what class of books they were: if religious. I told him they were. He said he would rather have some good novels; that he did not care much for religion, but asked what denomination we represented.

I told him, "Mormons."

At this all three burst into loud laughter, the post master and interpreter making many jesting remarks to the officer, and saying to me, "Yes, he will let you in. You are all right. You will get in."

I was a little puzzled, not knowing whether this was favorable or otherwise.

Soon the custom officer turned (as yet I had not spoken a word of Spanish) and said directly to me, "Well, I guess I will have to let you in. I have just been telling these gentleman that I am a Mormon in principle, and that I wished some of them would come along. That I thought your religion the most sensible of any. You will do good in Mexico, and you shall cross over. I will fix it so you will not have to pay a cent."

I now thanked him in his own language and said we would try and act so as to retain the good opinion he had of us and our people.

We shook hands as friends. He kept his word entirely, and we crossed over at once, rented quarters and got ready for the winter's campaign. We were the first Mormon missionaries that entered Mexico. This was in January, 1876.

No comments:

Post a Comment