Tales from the Morgue: Star files help widow of massacre victim

2013-12-05T09:00:00Z 2013-12-26T20:09:34Z Tales from the Morgue: Star files help widow of massacre victimJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 05, 2013 9:00 am  • 

While searching for the fates of the Golden State Limited's accused bandits, the Morgue Lady came across this story. The Mexican consul was attempted to help a widow whose husband was a victim of the Samaniego massacre in 1881. It appeared articles from the Arizona Daily Star night help.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Wednesday, July 15, 1922 (Note: There are discrepancies between name spellings from one paragraph to the next. The text here is as it ran in 1922):

FILES OF STAR FURNISH DATA OF MASSACRE
_____

Details Sought in Connection With Pension Plea
_____

Considerable progress was made yesterday by Sr. Gustavo Couret, the Mexican counsel at Tucson, in his efforts to obtain governmental relief for Lola Rios de Gomez, 75 years of age, a destitute widow whose husband was killed in the Samaniego massacre of 1881 with his discovery of a complete account of the affair in the files of The Star for that date.

The husband of Sra. Gomes was employed as a teamster with the Samaniego train, and suffered death at the hands of the Apaches together with all the other members of the train except the one man who gave the story to The Star a few days after the affair.

The extract from The Arizona Daily Star of October 27, 1881, follows:

"The wagon train had arrived at a little rise of ground over which all wagons proceeded with the exception of the last one in which was Mr. B. T. Samaniego. At that moment Indians were observed about a mile distant on the plains and Mr. Samaniego said 'I wonder of they are hostile?' The one who was with him said, 'No, they cannot be, or they would not have allowed the woman in the wagon to pass them.' A woman with her family had just gone along, passing the Indians in safety."

The account then tells how a chain on the rear wagon broke, delaying it and the other wagons which stopped to offer assistance, while the first wagon went on. As they got under way again, it was noticed that the Indians had begun battle.

"Boys, I see they have opened fire on the first wagon," said Mr. Samaniego. "Leave your teams and let us go and assist them." They then advanced on the run and succeeded in getting safely to the front and took a position beneath the wagon, the Indians firing at them meanwhile. They found one man already killed. Another man was wounded. As the herder was then at a distant point only three able men were with Mr. Samaniego.

After returning the fire for an hour and a half, Mr. Samaniego suggested that they fight the Indians out in the open.

"We will get killed anyway," he said. "Let us go out and fight  like men." The teamsters then said they would follow him. When Mr. Samaniego took the lead they charged out toward the high ground. As they advanced, one was killed after another, Mr. Samaniego falling first, the others in a row as they rushed along ahead of where he lay. One man who is now at Willcox, was shot in the leg and feigned that he was killed.

The account then tells in detail of the destruction of the train, the Indians being in too much of a hurry to scalp the men according to custom. They only person to escape the massacre was the wounded man who feigned death and thus eluded the victors.

Many gruesome details are (unreadable word; perhaps "deleted").

Much interest has been developed in Sr. Couret's efforts to secure some compensation for the widow of the murdered teamster, and Sr. Couret believes that with the discovery of the articles in The Star files, he will be able to secure a speedy reward.

The Morgue Lady's curiosity got the better of her and she had to check those old files as well. In the microfilm of the Arizona Weekly Star for Thursday, Oct. 27, 1881, she found the original article. The layout of the Star in 1881 was significantly different from that of today: there were fewer paragraphs and, when it got too long, text was broken by separating a few words and capitalizing them. They made for difficult, but not impossible, reading.

From the Weekly Star, Oct. 27, 1881:

PARTICULARS OF THE SAMANIEGO MASSACRE
_____

Graphic Account of the Fight by a Participant—How the Men Met their Fate While Charging the Hostiles.
_____ 

A Star reporter yesterday called upon Mr. M. G. Samaniego, who has just returned from the front, and inquired of him concerning the particulars of the massacre of his brother and train men at Cedar Springs, as only a general account of the affair has heretofore been given to the public. The information, which we elicited was obtained by him from the herder who escaped the massacre, and from the wounded teamster, who came into Willcox from Camp Grant on Thursday last. The account is as follows:

The wagon train had arrived at a little rise of ground, over which all the wagons proceeded except the last one, with which was Mr. B. T. Samaniego. At that moment the

INDIANS WERE OBSERVED

about one mile distant, on the plains, and Mr. S. remarked, "I wonder if those Indians are hostile." The one man who was with him said, "No, they cannot be, as they would not have allowed the woman in the wagon to pass them." A woman with her family had just gone along, passing the Indians in safety. She stated that they motioned to her to take another route and not pass by the train.

After observing the Indians for a few minutes, Mr. S. said to his men, "Go on boys, I will help the hind team across the rise." As the wagon was started up a chain broke, which delayed it, and the wagons then became separated, the leading one gaining distance ahead. The drivers of the nearest teams remained to assist the hind wagon. After getting over the difficulty, Mr. S. got on the wagon and sat down with his gun on his lap. Presently the Indians were seen to take positions nearly

SURROUNDING THE WHOLE TRAIN,

when Mr. S. again said to the man with his team, "I wonder of those Indians are hostile?" and just then seeing them open fire on the forward wagon, he said, "Boys, I see they are firing on the front team. Leave your teams and let us go to assist them."

They then advanced on the run, and succeeded in getting safely to the front, and took a position beneath the wagon, the Indians firing at them meanwhile. They found one man already killed. Another was soon wounded, and as the herder was at a distant point, but three able men were then with Mr. S. The man who was wounded was at the time attempting to fire, when a shell stuck in the gun barrel and it missed fire. Mr. S. then got into the wagon and procured two handfulls of ammunitions and threw it to those underneath. The four then got into a little rut, almost beneath the wagon and successfully returned the fire if the Indians for

AN HOUR AND A HALF,

when Mr. S. finally said, "Boys, there is no use in lying here. We will be killed, anyway. Let us go out and fight them in the open prairie," intending to force the hostile line at a little rise of ground not far distant.

The teamsters replied, "Boss, if we do that we shall surely get killed."

Mr. S. replied, "We will get killed anyway; let us go out and fight them like men."

The teamsters then said they would follow him, when Mr. S. took the lead and they charged out toward the high ground mentioned.

As they advanced, one was killed after the other, Mr. S. falling first, they others in a row as they rushed along ahead of where he lay, except one man, the one who is now at Willcox, and who was shot in the leg and fell, feigning that he was killed. No one flinched in making the charge, and the heroic conduct of Mr. S. was marked and greatly encouraged the others.

The Indians by this time perceived the soldiers, who were advancing, and hastened to destroy the contents of the train, only stopping with the fallen men long enough to take their belts, and having no time to scalp them.

As they were around the wounded man who feigned death, an Indian took his belt, turning him over to do so, and struck hom a 

HEAVY BLOW IN THE BACK

with the butt of his gun, and then rolled him over again to his first position.

They then turned their attention to the wagons, and destroyed 7,000 pounds of merchandise belonging to Rube Wood, of San Carlos. They killed the animals and cut the harness into many pieces. Portions of the cut harness were afterwards found scattered by them over the country for ten miles, and out of 80 sets, Mr. M. G. Samaniego has not been able to make one complete set.

Had the doomed party remained under the wagon for half an hour longer, they would probably have saved themselves, as the troops,

ALL UNKNOWN TO THEM,

were rapidly advancing to that point. Or had the herder, who was sent out in advance that morning to hunt for deer, and who came in contact with the hostiles, taken measures to advise them of their danger, they could have made a barricade of flour sacks and thus being prepared, saved their own.

The herder had been instructed to hunt along as far as Brewster's, and there await the train. He saw the Indians about two miles off to the east side of the station at Cedar Springs, but did not know they were hostiles, and proceeded on and was soon fired upon by them. He then put spurs to his horse and made for the station where

HE HASTILY DISMOUNTED

and ran around the house in which were a woman, man and boy, leaving his horse at the door. A shot followed him into the building, but hit no one. The Indians charged to the door and drove off his horse and killed it nearby, the herder concealing himself in rear of the house and escaping. It is supposed that the Indians did not know of the other parties being in the house, as they did not show themselves, and so they did not come to harm.

Thinking of the 1922 article, the Morgue Lady wonders how this account helps the widow. The only man named in the article who was at the massacre was Mr. Samaniego. The others are not named. Perhaps there was other paperwork giving the names of Samaniego's teamsters.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Tales from the Morgue is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library - also known as News and Research Services - for 18 years before becoming an online content producer for StarNet. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@azstarnet.com.

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