Guns and Gold
History of the Galiuro Wilderness

Early History

One thousand years ago, large villages built by prehistoric farmers were scattered along the San Pedro and Aravaipa Valleys. Most of these had been abandoned by 1540 when Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado crossed what is now southern Arizona, probably passing just east of the Galiuros. His army may have followed the San Pedro River Valley northward from Mexico, then continued along the Sulphur Spring and Aravaipa Valleys with the Galiuro Mountains on their left.

Somewhere near the Galiuros, Coronado's chroniclers noted a large abandoned structure they called "Chichilticale," or Red House. No one knows exactly where this structure was. One of the chroniclers wrote that the natives of the region lived by hunting and in rancherias, without permanent settlements.

In the three centuries after Coronado, the Galiuros were virtually ignored by European explorers and colonizers. One visitor was the pioneering Jesuit, Father Eusebio Kino, who made a trip down the San Pedro Valley and stayed the night of November 14, 1697, at a Sobaipuri Indian village called Aribabia. This little town lay west of the Galiuros in the vicinity of modern-day Mammoth, Arizona. Aribabia and the other Sobaipuri farming communities along the San Pedro were frontier settlements, a buffer against their enemies, the Apaches, and another hostile Indian group called the Jocomes, both of whom lived farther to the east. The Jocomes, a little-known group possibly related to the Apaches, were probably the aboriginal inhabitants of the Galiuro Mountains. Spanish and Mexican soldiers penetrated this country in pursuit of Apaches, but their campaign journals reveal little.

The Galiuros became part of the United States with acquisition of the Gadsden Purchase in 1856. Government exploring expeditions soon criss-crossed southern Arizona to determine the boundary with Mexico and lay out railroad and wagon road routes. While some of these parties skirted the Galiuros to the west and east, none report entering the mountains themselves. The nearby Aravaipa Apache band may have used the mountains at this time, but there are no reports that indicate they lived there permanently. Later during the Apache wars, Army patrols did have a couple of skirmishes with hostile Indians here.

Ruins of Saloon, Gold Mountain.

When prospectors arrived in the Galiuros, they discovered minerals around Sombrero Butte, a few miles west of the wilderness. Supposedly some mining took place as early as 1863, but it was another 20 years before this area was organized as the Copper Creek mining district. Over $4 million worth of lead, silver, copper, and molybdenum, were produced from this district between 1905 and 1959, when mining ended. At Table Mountain, some five miles to the north, an energetic development of copper ores began in 1898 and the newspapers reported that "a lively camp" had sprung up. The short-lived "boom" here ground to a halt within a year.

Perhaps it was prospectors from Copper Creek or Table Mountain who first explored the higher reaches of the Galiuros. The beginnings of mineral exploration there are lost to history. The first claims, in 1902, were made on some low-grade gold prospects along upper Rattlesnake Canyon. A tiny community sprang to life. Besides the tents and cabins of the miners, Gold Mountain sported a saloon and a red-light house. Soon, however, the mining company pulled out and the original miners left. A visitor long afterwards found "...a few dilapidated log cabins still standing, the ruins of flimsy tent-houses, wagon wheels, tin cans and other rubble" strung along Rattlesnake Creek.

Mine adit, Galiuro Mountains.

The first gold discoveries nearly coincided with President Theodore Roosevelt's July 22, 1902 declaration of the higher part of the Galiuros as a Forest Reserve. Six years later the Forest Reserves in Graham County became part of Crook National Forest. The protection here was not for the timber, of which the Galiuros had very little, but for the watershed, which in desert lands is an even greater consideration. The ranger station for the district that included the Galiuro Mountains lay along Aravaipa Creek near the tiny settlement at Klondyke. It was not until 1953 that the Crook National Forest was incorporated into the Coronado National Forest.

Early-day Forest Rangers had enforcement duties, which meant that they customarily went around armed. Occasionally one of them wound up in a gunfight. One such incident involved F. Lee Kirby, an early ranger on the Aravaipa District. At a dance in Klondyke a miner with a quarrelsome reputation, Perry Tucker, insulted a woman with whom Kirby was dancing. Tucker warned Kirby not to come to the mine that Tucker and his partner Al Bauman were then working, to which Kirby responded that he would come if his business required it. This mine lay in the headwaters of Kielberg Canyon in the Galiuros, on Forest Service lands. At that time it was known simply as the Abandoned Claims. Within a few years it would become notorious as the Power Mine.

The mine was on a main trail and several weeks later—January 3, 1912—Ranger Kirby rode by. He stopped and called out at the mouth of the mine tunnel. The partners came outside and the three men talked, with Tucker doing some threatening, until Kirby started on his way with Tucker close behind. Bauman reentered the tunnel but a few minutes later he heard Kirby calling him and so stepped back outside. Once again he heard his partner tell the ranger not to pass through or stop there any more, and Kirby answered that he would pass by and stop if he had any business. Tucker, whom Bauman thought had already determined on trouble, then threw out the taunt that "If you want gun play you've got it!" Both men went for their weapons, but Kirby fired first and emptied his gun into Tucker, who managed to get off at least one shot. Tucker gradually sank down until he was sitting in the trail, then leaned over on his elbow and laid his head down, dying on the spot The ranger was unhurt and rode into Klondyke, accompanied by Bauman. A coroner's jury returned to the site the next day and held their inquest, with Bauman as the only witness. They ruled that Kirby had acted in self-defense.

Ranching got its start in the Galiuros at almost the same time as mining. In the 1890's and through the first decade of the 20th Century, the principal type of livestock was probably Angora goats rather than cattle. Goat ranching paid well and the slopes of the Galiuros and neighboring hills were ideal range for these browsing animals. One of the goat ranchers was Pete Spence, who had a one-room log cabin well up in the mountains at a place called Rattlesnake Springs. The location is now known as Power's Garden.

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Last Updated: 28-Jan-2008