Charles D. Poston, Arizona Pioneer

Charles Debrille Poston (1825-1902) worked tirelessly to gain territorial status for Arizona and was one of its first explorers. In 1854 he came to the area as a private citizen. The following narrative is Poston's account of his exciting journey which included a shipwreck in the Gulf of California and a leisurely passage through Sonora to Tubac. He traveled in search of a possible U.S. seaport on the Gulf of California, silver mines, and other opportunities for development in the territory recently acquired by the United States through the Gadsden Purchase.

Charles D. Poston, portrait by J. Ross BrowneSome nine years later, at the time of their joint travels through Arizona in 1863-4, J. Ross Browne described Poston: "At all events it chanced in my peregrinations about San Francisco that I fell in with my old friend, Charles D. Poston, the Arizona Pioneer, who had just arrived from the East by the overland route through Salt Lake. He was now Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the new Territory; held various commissions as director of mining companies; was full of the romance and fascinations of Arizona. The best years of his life had been spent there. He knew every foot of the country; talked Spanish like a native; believed in the people; believed in the climate; had full faith in the silver; implicitly relied upon the gold; never doubted that Arizona was the grand diamond in the rough of all our Territories."

Poston's Journal, 1854

The ratification of a treaty with Mexico, in the year 1853, by which the United States acquired a part of Sonora, and settled the vexed questions of a former boundary and the liability of the United States for Indian depredations in Mexican territory under the eleventh article of the "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo," cost the Government the sum of ten millions of dollars in gold. It was not supposed at the time that this large sum had been expended for nothing. Politicians said the Territory had been acquired because it contained the only practicable pass for a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific; miners contended that the northern part of Sonora was the richest mineral country reached by the Spaniards; and all agreed that the new purchase enjoyed the finest climate on the continent, furnished perennial grazing, and abounded in wild game. The spirit of enterprise had been stimulated by the successful occupation of California, and the purchase of a new El Dorado by the Government of the United States enlisted a lively interest on the Pacific Coast. The French had recently made an effort to get a lodgment in the new Territory under the leadership of a brave and adventurous young French Count -- Raousset de Boulbon -- who was afterward shot by the Mexicans at Guyamas.

On the 20th of February, 1854, the British bark Zoraida sailed from the port of San Francisco for the port of Guyamas, in Sonora, with a party on board destined for the newly acquired Territory. Among them were two men whose names afterward became identified with its history -- they were Charles D. Poston and Herman Ehrenberg, the one a native of Kentucky and the other a German.

Herman Ehrenberg was no ordinary man. He had migrated from his native Germany at a tender age, and landing in the metropolis of the western world had worked his way to New Orleans, where he was located when the Texas war of independence summoned the youth of America to that field of honor. He enlisted in the "New Orleans Grays" and was present at the battle of Goliad and Fanning's defeat, and was one of the few who survived the barbarous massacre of prisoners who surrendered to the Mexican authorities. At the close of the Texan struggle he returned to Germany and wrote an account in his native language of that interesting period, giving much information of the new country, which has induced a large emigration of Germans to Texas. He afterward returned to the United States, and in 1840, at St. Louis, joined a party which crossed the continent to Oregon. Thence he went to the Sandwich Islands, and after wandering in Polynesia for a few years returned to California in time to join Colonel Fremont in the effort to free California from Mexican rule. He remained in California until the new purchase from Mexico attracted his restless nature, and after a long and arduous service in Arizona, fell a victim to the treachery of the aboriginal race at Palm Springs, in the southern part of California, where he is buried.

The Zoraida was ill prepared for sea, and had a slow passage. On the thirty-second day, in trying to enter the port of Navachista in the Gulf of California, she stranded. The consternation of the passengers was great, and as the keen-scented sharks gathered around the doomed ship by hundreds, the passengers looked over the sides with some forebodings that they would soon be food for the monsters of the deep. The difficulty increased until the mainmast was sprung and the ship began to leak. So considering that even rats, which are not supposed to be endowed with reason, leave a sinking ship, it was deemed advisable to find a firmer footing than the few planks which divided us from hungry sharks. A few boats were manned, and with some personal baggage, arms, and a small supply of ship-biscuits, the passengers started for the sandy beach some few miles distant. The boats were run upon the comb of the tide and landed high and dry upon the beach, so that the passengers had time to get beyond the reflux wave of the tide in time to same their lives. It was nearly sundown when we found ourselves upon a lonely, barren island, and the roaring of the waves and the breaking up of the ship did not add anything to the cheerfulness of our landing.

The Wreck of the ship Zoraida

The wreck of the Zoraida

An old Spaniard, named Don Manuel Rubio, immediately set about prospecting the island for signs of the means of existence. He had not gone far before he fell on his knees, and holding his hands up to Heaven in thankfulness, fervently kissing the dry excrement of some wild cattle, rendered thanks to God that we had not been cast away upon an uninhabited island. Following up the tracks so auspiciously found, we soon came upon a herd of wild cattle, and before midnight had the choice part of one of them roasting before a blazing campfire.

This proved to be the island of Navachista, near the eastern shore of the Gulf of California, about seven miles long by two miles and a half wide, and a distance of five or six miles from the mainland. We remained on this island about a week, preparing the means of transporting ourselves and our portable property to the mainland, and in the meantime lived on our sea-bread, roast beef, and the honey and wild fruits of the island. The island contained springs of sweet water, and we saw fine bolls of cotton growing wild in this uninhabited region. In passing up the estuary which led to the mainland we noticed that the oysters, which are abundant and very good here, had attached themselves to the shrubbery which composed a jungle, so that it was only necessary to go alongside with a boat and a long knife, or machete, and at low tide cut these shrubs loose from the root and haul into the boat a tree full of delicious oysters. This is the only place where oysters are known to grow on trees.

At the landing place we found a rancho occupied by a Mexican whose father had come there from the Philippine Islands in old Spanish times, and who was called a Manilla man. They were not surprised at our appearance, as they had evidently been accustomed to entertaining large parties of persons more suspicious than we appeared to be.

After resting here a few days, we put the whole country under contribution for animals to transport our party and their baggage to the nearest Mexican town, the city of Alamos. On the way to Alamos we stopped at "Mesquite," the estate of General La Vega in Sinaloa, and were treated with hospitality and kindness. The Fuerta River, which we crossed here, is a clear beautiful stream with a bottom of pebbles, a rare thing to see in Mexico. We next came to the Mayo River, inhabited by the Mayo Indians, a stalwart manly race who have often proved their prowess in a contest with the Mexicans. They inhabit a prolific and very delightful country, teeming with luxuriant vegetation, and enjoy one of the finest climates in the world.

In about a week from the time of leaving the seacoast we reached the old city of Alamos, famous in Spanish times for its wealth and commercial enterprise. The Cathedral is very fine, and yet bears the Royal Arms of Spain over the grand entrance. The merchants of Alamos used to import directly from China, and had a large trade with the smaller towns of Sinaloa and Sonora, but its principal source of wealth was the rich silver mines in the spurs of the Sierra Madre, which were worked with great profit when cheap labor could be obtained from the native Indians under the system of peonage adopted and enforced by the Spanish Government.

We arrived in Alamos on Sunday, and caused some excitement in this quiet old town, as so large a party of Americans had never ventured so far interior before. It presented the appearance of a primitive Mexican city, with all the customs and costumes of a people who have little or no intercourse with the outside world. We obtained comfortable quarters, and soon enjoyed the indescribable luxury of a bath. The baths are tanks in the gardens supplied with water by the acequias, or canals, which are used for irrigation; and to add to the luxury, and give them an Oriental appearance, they are generally shaded by orange trees, which at this season drooped with the luscious fruit into our very mouths as we enjoyed the luxury of the cool water and the balmy air.

A little after nightfall, as we were sitting in front of our quarters congratulating ourselves upon our escapes by sea and land, the ominous tread of a file of soldiers was heard marching in our direction, and they soon grounded arms in front of our door, when the commanding officer stepped forward and politely summoned us to appear forthwith before the Alcalde [mayor] and give an account of our sudden and unceremonious appearance in this peaceful and loyal part of the Mexican Republic. Fortunately for us the Alcalde was a gentleman of wealth, intelligence, and liberality -- old Jose Almada, the owner of the rich silver mines of Alamos. We had American passports, and my friend Rubio, who had offered his devotions over the first sign of life on the island of Navachista, had given me a letter saying that we were not filibusters, but emigrants to the new Territory who had been stranded with him on the island, and asking for us the hospitality and protection of the officers of the Mexican Government. We were treated with great courtesy and furnished with letters of security to protect us from future interruption.

After resting a few days in Alamos we started for Guyamas by the road leading through the Yaqui country, or lands of the Yaqui Indians, a large tribe of semi-civilized Indians inhabiting the most fertile lands of Sonora and living in comfort and abundance. They are patriarchal in habits and yet preserve the hospitality of a primitive people. They cultivate the soil, raise sugar-cane, make sugar, raise cotton, and weave a strong common cotton cloth; wheat, corn, and vegetables grow with very little cultivation. They have large flocks of sheep, and weave the wool into serapes or rude blankets; have horses, mares, mules, cattle, hogs, goats, and poultry in abundance, and seem as happy as Diogenes in his tub. The relic of a religion introduced by the Jesuits remains among them, and churches in every village attest the zeal and industry of these pioneers of Christianity. The Yaquis have never been subdued by either the Spanish or Mexican governments, and yet preserve a quasi-independence. The wars with the Yaquis have been some of the fiercest which the Mexicans of Sonora and Sinaloa have been engaged in, and some of the most valiant acts have been performed by these unknown aborigines of this remote region of the western world.

In about ten days after leaving Alamos we arrived at the city of Guyamas, a miserable Mexican seaport town, containing at that time about 3500 inhabitants. Guyamas is shut in from the Gulf, as well as from the winds, by high rugged hills of black trap-rock, entirely destitute of vegetation, and reflecting the intense rays of the sun until the place seems like a huge bake-oven. The usual sea-breeze comes in from the Gulf in the evening, but unless this is from the quarter directly up the channel, and avoids the hills, it is suffocating, and raises clouds of dust, which drive the inhabitants to the interior of the houses at the very time of the evening when they wish exercise and fresh air. The harbor of Guyamas is good and entirely safe; very much the shape of the harbor of Acapulco and about one-third its size. The soundings around the mole are two to three fathoms, and increase in the middle of the bay to five, six, and seven; but the area of deep water is very small and distant from the shore. The country around Guyamas for a semi-circle of one hundred miles is a blasted, barren desert, entirely destitute of wood, water, or grass, producing only cacti and a stunted growth of mesquit. The water at Guyamas is procured from wells, and has a brackish, unpleasant taste, and generally causes temporary disease with those unaccustomed to its use. From Guyamas we passed over this hard barren country to Hermosillo, the principal town of Sonora and one of the most beautiful cities in the northern part of Mexico, if not on the whole continent of America. The distance is a fraction over one hundred miles, through a plain bounded by wild, desolate, and rugged mountains, destitute of wood, grass, or running water.

The city of Hermosillo is situated on the Sonora River, in the valley of Horcasitas, about sixty miles from the Gulf of California. This valley is about four miles wide at this place and continues a southwestern course to the Gulf. The soil is very productive, and near the city is highly cultivated. The principal crop is wheat, of which the valley produces about eighty thousand bushels per annum. There is a great abundance of fruits -- grapes, melons, oranges, figs, limes, lemons, citrons, peaches, pomegranates, bananas, and dates. The vineyards are extensive and beautiful, producing about twenty-five hundred barrels of brandy, and a corresponding quantity of wine. Cotton and sugar have also been cultivated here to a considerable extent. The fertility of the bottom-land is extraordinary; in fact, in this salubrious climate and rich soil any kind of produce can be raised with very little labor, the fine flowing river affording always abundant water for irrigation. The city of Hermosillo contains many large and costly houses, built of stone, brick, or adobes, and finished and furnished in the interior in the best European style. It has a large trade with the northern portion of the state, and is the principal distributing point as well as depot for the mineral and agricultural products of the country. The forwarding and shipping business is done from Guyamas. The population in 1845 was estimated by the Secretary of State at nearly 18,000, but has decreased since that time by emigration to California and other deteriorating causes. The climate is dry and warm, the thermometer ranging from 80 to 100 degrees, but the place is considered very healthy and free from all epidemics. There is always an evening breeze from the Gulf, which, coming over the valley covered with verdure, is refreshing and delightful. There is a dam across the river above the city for the purpose of turning off the water into numerous acequias (canals) for the purpose of irrigating, cleansing, and cooling the city. These are trained through the streets, gardens and yards of the city, affording an abundant supply of water for all the purposes of life, and adding very much to the beauty, cleanliness, and health of the city. There is a beautiful Alameda at the northern end of the city, and a large Plaza surrounded with shade trees and amply provided with rows of stuccoed stone settees.

Caballero and Senorita, drawing by J. Ross Browne

A beautiful view of the city of Hermosillo and the surrounding country may be obtained from a large granite mountain on its northern side, or the domes of its magnificent churches which rise high above the spacious mansions of the inhabitants. The city lies spread at your feet, with its vineyards and orange gardens, surrounded by wheat fields and orchards, while the beautiful valley stretches off to the west, covered with verdure, ornamented with villas, and blooming in beauty with its delicate productions. The river flows through this valley, lending its refreshing waters for the irrigation of the surrounding country; in fact, its body and force are so diminished by this absorption, that in summertime the remainder never finds its way to the Gulf, but forms a lake or cienega, about halfway between the city and the Gulf; but in the rainy season the river forms a bold strong body of water, scarcely fordable at Hermosillo, and emptying into the Gulf of California opposite the Island of Tiburon. This island forms the western protection of the Bay of San Juan Bautista.

Old map of Northwest Mexico

Map of Northwest Mexico

The entrance to this harbor is formed by the northern end of the Island of Tiburon and a point of the mainland, called Sergeante Point, making out south, heaving a channel of one mile or a mile and a half wide. The bay then makes around this point northwardly about one mile and a half, being skirted by a ridge from the aforesaid point of land, protecting it from the ocean. There is also a growth of mesquit along the western side of the ridge, or spur, which afford an agreeable shade. The bay meanders around eastwardly, when a smaller bay, or estuary, makes in to the northeast, of sufficient size for small boats, called Cockle Harbor. The bay is here about four miles wide, has the appearance of being deep water, and is well protected and sheltered on all sides. It continues southwest the whole length of the Island of Tiburon, forming a kind of sound, and meets the Gulf again at the lower end of the island, being there only about two miles wide and quite shallow.

It would be practicable to connect the island with the mainland at this place by a pier or breakwater, which would tend to increase the depth of water in the bay, and add to its security in storms, but would not, in my opinion, result in any benefit except as a means of defense, as the island seems placed there by nature to protect and defend the mainland from the winds and waves, and may be as well prepared for artificial defense against elements of the same character. Its usefulness or adaptability to commercial purposes does not occur to me, but its necessity as a natural or artificial fortification for the protection of the mainland is striking and apparent.

The Bay of San Juan Bautista remains in precisely the same condition which it occupied before the discovery of the continent or the conquest of the country by the Spaniards. The country adjacent was occupied by the most fierce, warlike, and sanguinary tribe of Indians ever known. These are called Ceris, and are supposed to be of Asiatic origin; the Mexicans believe they are descendants of Tartars, and their idiom is said to resemble that language. They have always used poisoned arrows, which are said to produce death. This tribe has now, however, by continual warfare and the many expeditions made against them by the Mexicans, been reduced to the number of fifty or sixty warriors. These with their families reside in a village on the mainland opposite the southern end of the island, and live principally by fishing and hunting; but in case of difficulty with the Mexicans, they take to the islands adjacent in the Gulf. They are deadly in their hostility against Mexicans, but disposed to be friendly with the Americans. In a late expedition the Mexicans captured the chief's wife and sent her to Mazatlan, at whose loss they seemed very much grieved, and offered any service or reward for her recovery. They are very miserable, and offer fish, oysters, etc., for shirts and whisky. They do not understand the use of firearms, but their poison-dipped arrows are sufficiently destructive. These arrows are made of cane, tipped with feathers, and pointed with bone. The point is reversed in the cane, for protection, until ready for use. The points are poisoned by dipping them in the liver of some animal which has been saturated with the venom of rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas, which abound on the island.

A more lengthy and accurate description of the island will be found in the Report of Senor Don Tomas Spence, now a Captain in the Mexican Navy, which is entitled to full credit, as he is a very intelligent gentleman.

The Bay of San Juan Bautista has never been surveyed by the Spanish or Mexican governments, consequently no accurate information can be given of its capacity or surroundings. It was discovered by a Spanish navigator named Bruja, and sometimes bears his name. Lieutenant Hardy, of the British Navy, visited this harbor during a cruise in the Gulf of California in 1825. Captain Stanley, of the American sloop of war St. Mary's, anchored in this harbor during the war with Mexico in 1847, and found abundant anchorage for his vessel, and plenty of fresh water on shore for replenishing his casks. He made an able report to the Secretary of the Navy at that time upon the advantages of the harbor and island, accompanied by maps, which information was favorably acknowledged by the Department, and instructions issued that they should be taken possession of, which, however, was prevented by the Treaty of Peace.

I am informed by merchants of Sonora that this harbor has been always used for landing contraband goods, and that large vessels from England had landed whole cargoes of goods there, which were then packed or hauled into Hermosillo, and to other towns in the northern part of Sonora, as there is no port of entry north of Guyamas, and that many cargoes of goods from Europe, as well as from China and South America, had been landed there and hauled through the country, and that a great deal of silver had been exported from the country through the same channel to save the export duty. The harbor abounds in oysters, fish, and game, and the mainland is a rich, sandy loam, well sprinkled with the evergreen mesquit.

It is protected to the southwest by the island, as heretofore mentioned, and to the northwest by the termination of a chain of mountains of which the spur runs down  to a point on the water opposite the northern end of the island, protecting the harbor entirely from northwesters and southwesters, the only destructive winds which prevail in this latitude.

There is sufficient timber, stone, and water in the immediate vicinity, and if necessary the Sonora river could be brought in a canal to any given point on the bay. The back country is the rich and prolific valley bounding the Sonora river to its headwaters, along which the principal estates of the country are located, and a large majority of the towns and villages, including Hermosillo and the capital of the state (Ures). The population along this river from its head to its mouth exceeds fifty thousand souls.

After returning to Hermosillo I remained at the hacienda of Senor Artiasarana two weeks. I then made an excursion, occupying a month, through the silver mines in the northwestern portion of the state. Many of them are undoubtedly very rich, and will some day be worked with good machinery and yield a handsome permanent income on investments. Interests of one-half were frequently offered, in consideration of furnishing machinery and means, from twenty-five hundred to five thousand dollars. Many excellent arrangements of this kind could be made now. These mines are intrinsically of immense value, and much more permanent and regular in the yield than the mines of California. I returned to Hermosillo the 1st of June, having now been in the country three months without having any definite news of the progress of the treaty then under consideration, and nothing further could be done to facilitate my views at that time.

I learned at this time that Colonel Gray, the surveyor of the "Texas Railroad Company," had come down as low as Altar in Sonora, and was exploring for a port on the Gulf of California. I immediately made up a company of Mexicans and Americans for the purpose of exploring the Gulf of California above the line of 31 degrees of latitude, where it was then proposed our purchase should strike the Gulf of California. I started from Hermosillo with a company of fifteen men and twenty-two animals, well armed and provisioned for the journey. On arriving at Altar (latitude 30 degrees, 45 minutes) we learned that Gray had been there and made observations. There is a port on the Gulf, about sixty miles southwest of Altar, called the Ensenada de Lobas, in latitude 30 degrees, 15 minutes and 25 seconds -- longitude 112 degrees, 30 minutes. This is little better than an open roadstead, protected slightly on the northwest by a sandspit making out into the Gulf. It is approached over a desert sand-beach, and can never become a place of any importance. A reconnaissance of the place for its capacities as a port has been made by Captain Tomas Spence, and an accurate report made to the government in 1853, a copy of which Governor Gandara kindly furnished me before setting out. Colonel Gray had gone on to Sonoita, about one hundred and fifty miles above Altar, to which place we continued, where we learned he had made an exploration of the coast and gone on to California.

A mountain trail, by J. Ross BrowneWe followed Gray's trail down to the coast, a distance of about fifty miles over the Pinacate mountains, and then through about fifteen or twenty miles of sandhills to the beach. There is neither fresh water, wood, grass, nor vegetation of any kind here -- nothing but a desert of sandhills as far as the eye can reach up and down the Gulf. The desert extends at least two hundred and fifty miles along the coast by about twenty-five to thirty miles wide. There is no vestige of a port. The channel of the Gulf is on the Lower California side. We traveled along this miserable shore, over these interminable sandhills -- having no grass for our animals, and nothing but the brackish salty water obtained by digging wells in the sand along the seashore -- for a week, when we reached the mouth of the Colorado river. We now abandoned all hope of finding a port in the Gulf or even a location for a town at the mouth of the river. The mouth of the river is worse than the shore of the Gulf, if such a thing could be possible, as the land is subject to overflow for many miles around, and is all cut up with sloughs and backwater. This character of country prevails until within four or five miles of the junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers, frequently overflowed and consequently sandy and barren. We now turned out to the California road and returned to Sonoita for the purpose of recruiting, as both men and animals had suffered severely during this horrible expedition, especially from using brackish water.

After recruiting at Sonoita for a week, we traveled through the country of the Papago Indians. This tribe is a branch of the Pima family which formerly inhabited the northern part of Sonora and the country along the Gila river, but having accepted the doctrine of Christianity from the Jesuit missionaries, and received the rite of baptism, they are now called Papagoes -- from Bapconia, which in the Pima language means baptized. They cut their hair short and adopt the customs, manners, and costume of civilization. They live in villages, have fine fat cattle, horses, mules, and poultry, and are docile, honest and industrious; more so in fact than their neighbors and former teachers, the Mexicans. Their country is barren and unproductive, but so salubrious that they could not be persuaded to leave it for any other part of the world.

Mexican Arastra, by J. Ross Browne

Drawing by J. Ross Browne of a Mexican arastra.
[The mule-driven arastra was a primitive ore crusher used by the Spaniards. In Arizona it was soon replaced by stamp mills driven at first by water and later by steam.]

Arriving in the Valley of the Santa Cruz, we found the old town of Tubac abandoned by its Mexican garrison and the population which had been dependent upon them for protection against the Apache Indians, the most fierce and barbarous tribe of which we have any account. As the houses of Tubac were in a tolerably good state of preservation, we occupied them for headquarters during the ensuing winter, and passed the time in exploring the surrounding country for silver mines. The winter season here proved very mild, and our animals were subsisted upon the nutritious grasses which abounded on the hillsides.

The valley of the Santa Cruz is a very rich body of land, and with irrigation produces two crops annually -- corn in the spring and wheat in the autumn. Wild game in abundance could be procured in the immediate area, and by Christmas we had such a store of bear meat, deer, antelope, and fat wild turkeys that no apprehension of short rations disturbed our enjoyment. We even essayed to give an entertainment to our neighbors from Sopori, Tucson, and Magdalena, places distant from twelve to eighty miles, these being the nearest settlements. Old Colonel Douglass came over from Sopori, booted and spurred in Mexican style, bringing a motley retinue, among them a harper and "fiddlers three." The festivities were continued during Christmas week; and, in order to relieve our guests of any anxiety about the abundant resources of the larder, a dozen fat turkeys were dressed and hung up on the joist over the table in the spacious dining-hall. The best liquid we could place before our guests was a native production from the juice of the maguey, called mescal. It made punches nearly equal to Scotch whisky, and solaced many a winter's evening in this remote lap of the mountains.

Map of Early Arizona showing location of Santa Cruz river and Tubac

In the course of a few months several hundred people had gathered around Tubac and engaged in planting; the mines developed wonderful richness; and traders from Sonora, New Mexico, and California came to supply all our wants with the productions of foreign lands in exchange for the silver bars which we made "current with the merchant."

Thus was formed the first settlement of Americans in this remote region, but it was destined to pass away in a few years, its very history falling into insignificance amid the destruction of civil war, which exposed these remote and feeble settlements to the ravages of the Apaches, the depredations of the Mexicans, and the lawlessness of our own countrymen, leaving no history but the hasty monuments erected over the new-made graves of these brave and hardy pioneers.

End of Poston's narrative.

The above narrative appeared in J. Ross Browne's 1871 book entitled Adventures in the Apache Country. Browne's description of how he happened to get the journal is as follows:

Our sojourn at Tubac was pleasant enough, though rather monotonous. Hunting, fishing, and bathing occupied most of our time. It was a lazy, vagabond sort of life, very conducive to health, but not calculated to expand the intellectual faculties. The novelty of eating three good meals a day, and sleeping twelve hours every night, had partially worn away, and I sometimes began to think there was a torpor growing over my brain. I felt an intuitive disrelish for any kind of mental labor. In this extremity, destitute of amusing books, or indeed books of any kind, I appealed to my friend Poston -- who, like Peter Schlemil, was ready at any moment to produce any thing in the range of human luxury -- to furnish me with something in the way of light reading: a narrative of a shipwreck, the murder of a ship's crew, the starvation of an exploring party -- any thing, in short, of an amusing character, except statistics of mineral products of Arizona.

A grim smile came over the expressive features of my friend at the tremendous absurdity of my request. Never at fault, however, he plunged his hand into his knapsack, and drew therefrom a curious medley of what he termed the necessaries of life: viz., a tobacco-pouch; a tooth-brush; two hair-brushes for his back hair; a roll of assorted needles and buttons; a dozen boxes of matches; two old flannel shirts, a pair of socks, and a bottle of whisky, with many other strange and incongruous articles too numerous to mention. Finally, upon reaching the bottom, he drew forth a greasy, tattered old journal, containing, as he informed me with an air of triumph, the very kind of reading I wanted. It was a complete history of his first expedition to Arizona, and might be relied upon as strictly true, inasmuch as it was written by himself. I must confess, when Poston handed me his journal, I cast a despairing look at the confused mass of manuscript of which I had thus become the innocent recipient.

"Perhaps," said my friend, consolingly, "if you try a little whisky first, it will go easier."

"No," I answered, resolutely, "you have read some of my articles -- I will be generous and make an earnest effort to worry through yours."

From J. Ross Browne, Adventures in the Apache Country, Chapter 24 [Poston's Narrative]
The content of this page is available as a Free E-book in two versions: one illustrated by J. Ross Browne (659 KB) and one without illustrations (128 KB). Click on the link below to download: Poston's 1854 Journal, illustrated or Poston's 1854 Journal, text only.

Recommended reading:

Altshuler, Constance Wynn. Chains of Command, Arizona and the Army, 1856-1875. Tucson, The Arizona Historical Society, 1981.

Browne, J[ohn] Ross. Adventures in the Apache Country. New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1871. (Coming soon as a free e-book!)

Bufkin, Don and Henry P. Walker. Historical Atlas of Arizona. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.

Editors of Time-Life Books. The Old West: The Trailblazers. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1973.

Emory, W. H. Notes of a military reconnaissance, from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, including of Part the Arkansas, del Norte and Gila Rivers. Download the free Notes of a military reconnaissance e-book now. If you do not have the Microsoft e-book reader, you may download it free on the Microsoft website.

Emory, W. H. et al. Report of the United States and Mexico Boundary Survey, Three volumes. (1856, 1859) This is a rare and collectible book. Some reprints have been made. If you are lucky enough to live near a really good university or research library, you may be able to find a copy there.

Harris, Benjamin Butler, The Gila Trail: The Texas Argonauts and the California Gold Rush. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.

Norris, L. David, James C. Milligan and Odie B. Faulk. William H. Emory: Soldier-Scientist. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ended the Mexican War

Utley, Robert M. A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997.