Desert Messenger

March 20, 2013

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March 20, 2013 Voices from The Past in Quartzsite, AZ Excerpts from "In the Shadow of Saguaros" by Rosalee Oldham Wheeler Quartzsite - smack dab in the middle of history In 1930, when I came with my parents from Illinois to Arizona, my father said we were moving to a "new land". My historical view of the West was just that, new. The history Miss Craigmiles taught at Pleasant Hill School was mostly about early American History east of the Mississippi that flowed just west of our schoolhouse. On one of the pages in my history book was a map that showed the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The land on that map began on the other side of the Mississippi River, all the way out to the Rocky Mountains. If Miss Craigmiles taught how the United States acquired the lands west of the Rockies, I didn't remember, but according to my mother we were moving to "Arizona Territory", for some reason she ignored the fact that Arizona had become a state 15 years earlier. In 1937, I married Charles Oldham and two years later we bought Judge Mott's homestead and bee business in Quartzsite, another new place I figured hadn't been around long enough to record history like what had occurred east of the Mississippi such as the Black Hawk War of 1832. Miss Craigmiles, who was my mother's cousin, reminded us that several of our ancestors had been militiamen in that war, which had started not too far from our schoolhouse. Now that was history! Soon after arriving in Quartzsite, several wonderful old-timers took up where Miss Craigmiles had left off, teaching me about the history of the West, particularly Quartzsite. Judge Mott was the first to enlighten me about my new hometown and when he realized I was truly interested, he introduced me to Fred and Elsie Kuehn. Fred told me of his friendship with Hadji Ali, the Syrian camel-driver who in 1857 had come through the area with Lt. Edward Beale leading an experimental camel supply train as a possible mode of transportation across 17 the desert. The experiment failed but "Hi Jolly", as he had come to be known stayed on with a few camels hauling supplies to local mines. The pyramidshaped natural rock monument is the centerpiece of the cemetery named in his honor. I traded honey for vegetables with Angela Gonzales "Grandma" Scott from her bountiful garden while she shared her family's history around Quartzsite since 1863. After laboring in her garden, Grandma Scott rested on a long wooden bench in front of "Scott's Store". She shared that bench with several other old-timers who enjoyed swapping stories about "one of the most important towns in the Territory, Tyson's Well, which became known as Quartzsite in 1896 when young Angela came up with the new name to satisfy a Postmaster General who discouraged two-word names. Bill Keiser another great storyteller who knew a lot about the history of the area, especially the history of the gold that lured Europeans to the Southwest. Bill had a great respect for those he referred to as the ancient ones of the Patayan Culture who were farmers along the Colorado River floodplain. The Indian cultures that evolved from the Patayan left their own history in the form of petroglyphs (inscriptions on rocks) and intaglios (incised images on the desert floor). From a book in Bill's library, I learned that in 1539 Marcos de Niza led the first expedition of Europeans into the Southwest. The following year Francisco Coronado came in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. His conquistadors returned home without the gold but they did bring news of native peoples living along the Colorado River speaking as many as six different languages. When writing about each tribe, Coronado's scribes phonetically spelled the names as Cocopah, Yuma (Quechan), Halchidoma, Mohave, Walapai (Hualapai), and Moqui (Hopi). From 1687 to 1704, Father Francisco Kino came and built Jesuit missions to work with and teach the Indians. Then in 1760, the Russian Empire added intrigue by seeking to expand their boundary along the Pacific Coast from Alaska. The Spanish blocked the scheme by securing an important crossing point on the Colorado River near Yuma where they built a mission and then built a second mission, San Pablo de Bicuñer further upstream. In 1825, trapper Sylvester Patti, with his son James and ten others made the first recorded entrance of Anglo-Americans into Arizona as they trapped along the banks of the Colorado River. In 1829, Ewing Young and a party of forty men, including Kit Carson came through here on their way to California. Then in 1832, Tennessean Paulino Weaver came to trap for beaver. With modest success, the Spanish had tried to encourage farmers, ranchers, and miners to settle this part of Alta California and after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexicans continued that effort. Even so, when the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, only a few Mexicans and even fewer Anglos had settled here. With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States paid Mexico fifteen million dollars for the ceded land of Alta California. The Treaty guaranteed that vessels flying the U.S. flag could navigate the Gulf of California without interference and not be subject to Mexican import duties. At Port Isabel, ocean-going ships transferred cargo onto river steamboats with names such as Uncle Sam, Cocopah, and the General Jesup that kept supplies flowing on the Colorado River to be unloaded onto horsedrawn wagons for central Arizona. Disembarking adventurers could buy provisions at Goldwater's Store in La Paz before striking out for the Arizona Gold Rush of 1858. The King of Arizona (KofA) was one of the most successful gold mines in the area but gold wasn't the only min SEE HISTORY PAGE 22 Quartzsite Town Park Town of Quartzsite Recreation Dept. 928-927-4333.

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