San Carlos Agency

Report of Special Agent Stephen Whited on the Indians of the White Mountain Apache reservation, Fort Apache sub agency, and the Apache, Mohave, and Papago Indians of the San Carlos agency, Arizona, from August to November, 1890.

Names of Indian tribes or parts of tribes occupying reservations: (a) Aravapai, Chilion, Chirikahwa, Koiotero, Mienbre, Mogollon, Mohavi, Pinal, San Carlos, Santo, Tonto, and Yuma-Apache.

The unallotted area of the White Mountain reservation is 2,528,000 acres, or 3,950 square miles. The out boundaries have been surveyed. It was established, altered, or changed by executive orders November 9, 1871, December 14, 1872, August 5, 1873, July 21, 1874, April 27, 1876, and January 26 and March 31, 1877.

Indian population June 1, 1890:

  • White Mountain Apaches, 2,121;
  • White Mountain reservation, Fort Apache sub agency, 1,920;
  • total Apaches, 4,041;
  • Mohave reservation, 551;
  • Yuma reservation, Mohaves, 240;
  • total at agency, 4,832.

The San Carlos agency is situated on a mesa immediately below the junction of the San Carlos with the Gila River. The altitude is about 2,900 feet above sea level. The records of the United States signal service show that the highest temperature for the summer of 1890 reached, July 6, 1090, the lowest for the winter of 1889-1890 was January 20, being 200, The earliest frost in the fall of 1889 was November 2, and the latest frost in the spring of 1890 was March 16.

The agent reports to the Indian Office that many government buildings at San Carlos are in bad order. They consist of: No. 1, an adobe building 1 story high, 30 by 60 feet, one-half used as agent’s dwelling, one-half for store house for grain, $1,000; No. 2, a 1-story adobe, built around a court, whole length about 300 feet, used for agent’s offices, telegraph office, several rooms for dwelling, storerooms, shops, etc., whole in bad order, needs new roof. $3,000; No. 3, several small adobe buildings in rear of No. 2, used for shops, storerooms, etc., $200; No. 4, an adobe building, 1 story high, 32 by 52 feet, used as a meal shop, $800; No. 5, an adobe building, used for doctor’s office and hospital; in bad order, $500; No. 6, a new stone building, 1 story high, 30 by 120 feet, with 4 cross partitions, built for storage, $5,000; No. 7, a stone building, same size as No. 6, now building, for shops; No. 8, a frame steam gristmill, $6,000; No. 9, a frame water gristmill (at Fort Apache), $6,000.

The monthly rainfall for the year,1889 and for the first 8 months of 1800 was as follows, in inches:


The year 1889 was an unusually dry one, the Gila River having sunk into the sand on several occasions during the summer. During the months of August and September 1890, the Gila was so high on a number of days that teams could not ford it, an unusual occurrence at that season of the year.

White Mountain Reservation

Tonto Apache, White Mountain Reservation, Arizona 1891
Tonto Apache, White Mountain Reservation, Arizona 1891

This reservation is situated in the eastern part of the territory of Arizona, all but a small portion lying north of the thirty-third parallel of north latitude. Its extreme length from north to south is about 95 miles, and its extreme width from east to west about 70 miles. The area is 3,950 square miles, or 2,528,000 acres. The northern portion is drained by the Salt River and its affluents, Canyon Creek, Cibicu Creek, Cedar Creek, Mountain Creek, and the east and north branches of the White River, while from the south the Black River is the only branch. The Gila River, with its only affluent, the San Carlos, drains the southern portion. This reservation is inhabited by all the Apache tribe, some Yumas, and a number of Mohaves. The Apaches comprise a number of distinct sub tribes, but they will all be considered as 1 tribe in this report.

Of the 2,528,000 acres in the White Mountain reservation it is not probable that more than 12,000 acres can be cultivated. A scattered pine forest extends over portions of the eastern and northeastern part, and it is believed that a part of that plateau can be cultivated without irrigation. The arable portions lie in the valleys of the Gila and San. Carlos in the southern portion, and in the valleys of the tributaries of the Salt River in the northeastern part, but none can be successfully cultivated without irrigation. The, greater part of the land not included in the more mountainous portions will afford some pasturage when the rainfall is sufficient, but during the dry season the water supply can not be depended upon for stock. Between San Carlos and Fort Apache, also north of the latter place, lie extensive tracts called malapai (volcanic) plains, well covered with small rocks, intermixed with a. sticky clay, which, when wet by the rains, is yielding and cohesive, making the roads almost impassible. Many miles of these plains grow little else than cactus, and some are grassy.

Timber Supply

There is a fair growth of pine timber in the eastern and northeastern portions of the reservation. The tablelands are also covered with a scattered growth of scrubby timber, mostly mountain oak, jack oak, and juniper.. There is a sawmill in the eastern portion, run by steam, sawing lumber and shingles, which are drawn over a rough road to San Carlos. There is also a steam sawmill on the military reservation at Fort Apache. A little cottonwood timber grows in the valleys of the San Carlos and Gila Rivers, but in the southern section mesquite is the only timber growing, and that is being rapidly exhausted.. On Ash creek, near the center of the reservation, ash, walnut, sycamore, and cottonwood grow in limited quantities.

Large quantities of the acorns produced by the mountain oak are gathered yearly by the Indians, and they furnish a palatable, healthy, and nutritious food, which forms an important factor in their supplies for winter.

Mineral Resources

It is said that extensive coal beds exist in the southern part near the Final mountains, but no thorough examination has been made. Extensive ledges of the finest limestone are worked near the Triplet Mountains about 15 miles northeast of San Carlos agency. A limekiln in the canyon is burning a good quality of lime, to be used in erecting the new agency buildings. A fair quality of building stone is found within 5 miles of the agency, of which 2 new buildings have already been constructed.

The White Mountain and Cayotero Apache Indians are practically the same, the limner name having first been applied to them by the whites. They have always lived on the lands embraced in their reservation limits, but the larger portion of them were north of Black River on mountain slopes and in the canyons of the White Mountains. The majority of them now reside along White Mountain Creek or river or in valleys or affluents of Salt River. They are arbitrarily and for convenience of control divided into 17 bands, each band being designated by a letter of the alphabet, from. A to Q. Formerly warlike and the terror of the plains, they were in part reduced to subjection by the military in 1870-1871, and since that time they have gradually become peaceable and quiet. They claim that as far back as their traditions go, 4 or 5 generations, they have lived in the region where they now are. At present they are making fair progress toward civilization.

The San Carlos Apaches formerly lived in and about Arivaypa canyon and in the Final Mountains. They are indigenous to the territory of Arizona. They have been very warlike, and particularly hostile to the whites. They were formerly called Final and Arivaypa Indians, and have been on reservations since 1872, having been moved here from old Camp Grant reservation on the San Pedro River, Arizona. They are arbitrarily divided into 12 bands, each band being known by a letter of the alphabet, from A to L. They have been restless on their reservation until quite recently. At present they are quiet and fairly orderly and industrious, principally engaged in herding and agriculture upon a small scale.

A part of the Tonto Apaches have been on the reservation since 1872. They were brought here from old Camp Grant reservation with the Indians now bearing the name of San Carlos Apaches; a part, however, were brought here from Fort Verde, Arizona. The Tontos are in 7 bands, designated alphabetically from A to G. They formerly, prior to the incoming of the whites, lived in and about the country now called the Tonto basin, in the central part of Arizona. The Tontos were subjugated by military force in 1872, and have since that time and until recently been engaged in repeated outbreaks and have committed numerous depredations. They are now quiet and fairly industrious, mostly engaged in cultivating small farms.

The Mohave Indians while in a wild state lived in the western and northwestern portion of the present territory of Arizona, along the banks of the Colorado River, ranging in an easterly direction. They were brought under partial subjugation in 1872, and entirely subjugated in 1873; they were placed on the Rio Verde Indian reservation (near Camp Verde), Arizona, and from thence moved to this locality in 1875. They are divided into bands, each with a letter of the alphabet, from A to F. While they are natives of the westerly portion of Arizona, their raids and hunting trips, from their own traditions, extended over the entire territory. They are now quiet and orderly, but only moderately industrious.

The Yuma Indians formerly lived in what is now the southwestern corner of Arizona, along the banks of the Colorado. The Yuma Indians on the Yuma reservation number only a few, not exceeding 250. They shared the adventures of the Mohaves in the hostilities toward the government, and, like them, were reduced to subjection in 1872-1873 and placed on the reservation near Fort Verde, Arizona, and thence brought to this point in 1875. They are divided into 2 bands, A and B. They are now quiet and fairly orderly and industrious.-Lewis Thompson, captain Twenty-fourth United States infantry.

Fort Apache Sub agency

Fort Apache is a sub agency situated nearly 100 miles north of San Carlos, near the northern boundary of the reservation. . The altitude of Fort Apache is 5,050 feet. The highest temperature for 1889 was 101°, on July 2, the lowest was 69, January 19; the highest for 1890 was 970, July 8, the lowest was 500, January 10. Latest frost, spring of 1890, May12 (34,50°).

The monthly rainfall at Fort Apache for the year 1889 and for the first 8 months of 1890 was as follows, in inches:


The Indians of the Fort Apache sub agency are very much scattered through the valleys of the streams emptying into the White River, some of them being fully 75 miles from the sub agency. The subagent estimates the number in each valley approximately as follows:

Total1,920Cibicu Creek valley300
Canyon Creek valley100
Cedar Creek valley210Forest Creek valley300
Carrizo Creek valley610White River (north and south)400

Though there exists no rigid system of allotting in severalty, most of the Indians claim their lands and have clearly defined limits, and are jealous of any encroachments.

The Indians in the vicinity of Fort Apache are self-supporting. They have received a number of wagons and sets of harness from the government, as well as some plows. They earn a portion of their subsistence by teaming from the railroad, hauling goods for the military and Indian departments. They are considered reliable and trustworthy.


There is no school at the Fort Apache sub agency. The annual report of the government Apache Indian boarding school located at San Carlos Indian agency for the year ended June 30, 1890, is as follows:

Apache Boarding School at San Carlos Agency

Number of teachers, male9
Number of teachers, female3
Number of other school employees, male5
Number of other school employees, female3

Only 50 pupils can be healthfully accommodated, but 95, 64 boys and 31 girls, have attended the school 1 month or more during the year. Two boys and 5 girls have attended who were less than 6 years of age; all others were between 6 and 18 years. The average age of pupils was 8.75 years. School was maintained 10 months in the year. The average attendance during that time was 73.3. The largest average attendance was in June 1890, being 85.4.

Total Cost of Maintaining the School

Total $59, 286.87
Salaries of teachers 5, 700.00
All other expenses 3, 586.87

Housework, sewing, care of stock, and farming are taught in the school. Nine cows and 30 fowls are owned by the school.

Of the salaries paid, the principal received. $900; teachers, $600 each; 1 teacher, $720; the industrial teacher, $840; matrons, $600; cooks and other help, $1,440; making a total of $5,700. The Mohave and Yuma, children attend this school.

The tribes on this reservation seem obstinately averse to sending their girls to school. While the enumeration was being made they would often conceal their girls and refuse to tell where they were until they were informed that they could draw no rations and receive no annuities unless the girls were produced. The cause of such refusal was probably the fact that the practice of selling girls for wives, even when quite young, prevails here. A person who wishes a wife for himself or his son will often buy a young girl and take her into his on family and rear her until she attains the marriageable age. Should the parent send the girl to school, the probabilities are that she would not consent to a sale; hence the parent would lose her merchantable value.

Irrigation and Crops

At the beginning of the spring of 1890 there were in the Gila and San Carlos valleys, for agricultural purposes, 19 dams across the streams within the limits of the reservation and about 60 miles of irrigating ditches. Good crops of wheat and barley were grown, but unusually heavy rains fell in the latter half of July and first part of August, causing a freshet in the Gila and San Carlos rivers, which destroyed all the dams but one and injured the ditches to a great extent. From the mountains come down many arroyos or sand washes, with a channel sunken from 3 to 8 feet below the general level on the river bottom. The water for irrigation must be conveyed across these in flumes made of lumber. Nearly every one of these flumes was destroyed by the floods. Many fields of corn were making a fair growth, however, owing to the unusual rainfall in August. Wheat and barley crops are sown in the late fall and harvested in June, and corn crops are planted on the same ground after the harvest. The winter corn in the San Carlos valley was nearly ripe on the 1st day of September 1890. Corn usually yields 18 to 20 bushels per acre. An accurate account of the wheat ground at the sub agency mill for the year 1889 shows 18,000 bushels, all of which was grown on the reservation. The corn crop for 1890 was estimated at 700,000 pounds, or more than 12,000 bushels.

The agent is making great efforts to encourage fruit growing among the Indians. As a result grapes were plucked from the vines and peaches were on the trees on the 2d day of September 1890. Indians can not await the slow process of growth, but want immediate returns. Fruit trees grow too slowly for them.

About 1 man in 7 is a polygamist; 87 of the men have 2 wives each, and 9 have 3 each. In the neighborhood of San Carlos this practice is supposed to be a source of endless strife and bickering, but it is not so looked upon at Apache. Prostitution is fearfully on the increase among them, and, as a consequence, loathsome diseases are making great inroads. According to the testimony of the agency physician, about 1 death in 10 is caused by this dreadful scourge.

A road leads across this reservation from the towns of Wilcox and Bowie to the milting town of Globe, to the northwest. This road is frequented by a great number of unscrupulous persons, who do not hesitate to furnish the Indians with whisky and arms and ammunition. The United States government, in order to be prepared for any emergency, has 5 companies of troops stationed at San Carlos, and has also caused about 60 Indian scouts to be enlisted in the service. Four companies of cavalry and infantry are stationed at Fort Apache and 2 companies at Fort Thomas, on the east side of the reservation.

Many of the whites are distrustful of the Apaches.

Population and Statistics of Apaches

At White Mountain (males, 1,017; females, 1,104)2,121
At Fort Apache (males, 8.21; females, 1,0519)1,930
Interpreter and issue clerk, 1 each2
Children under. 1 year of age (males, 97; females, 98)195
Polygamists (87 having 2 wives and 9 having :3 wives)96
Number of Indians who wear citizens dress wholly11
Number of Indians who wear citizens dress in part1,775
Number of Indians over 20 who can read5
Number of Indians under 20 who can read26
Number of Indians under 20 who can write English21
Number of Indians who can use English enough for ordinary conversation51
Number of Indian children of school age903
Number of dwelling houses used by Indians6

Superstitions And Morals

Some of the Apaches have received religious impressions from the whites. They believe in evil spirits that can be persuaded by gifts or frightened away or overcome by tricks, but the good with them is a mere negative, being only the absence of evil. They are intensely superstitious. At the death of one of their number they burn the cabin, if he should die in one, and all the goods and chattels of the deceased, and kill his animals if he has any. In case of sickness the medicine man shouts, sings, and beats the tom-tom to persuade or frighten the evil spirit away. If a husband dies, the widow cuts her hair short and keeps aloof from all others for a stated time.
As a punishment for adultery on the part of the wife the nose was formerly cut off, but this practice seems to have been abandoned in later years, for on a visit among them, and after observing about 3,000 Indians, I saw only 7 women so disfigured, and they had reached or passed the middle age.

Food Supply

The government issues rations of salt, beef, coffee, sugar, and a little flour to the Apaches at San Carlos. The agency owns a steam-flouring mill there, which is well patronized by the Indians, who bring their wheat and exchange it for flour. They commence eating their corn as soon as it is in the roasting-ear state. They raise sorghum in small quantities. They do not manufacture it, but cut the green stalks and chew them. The mesquite bush furnishes an abundance of beans, which are gathered, dried, and pounded into pulp, making a palatable and rich food. In the fall the women and children spend weeks in the mountains gathering acorns from the mountain oak. A single family will sometimes collect several hundred pounds of them. The Apaches will not eat fish.

Game is now very scarce. Occasionally a bear is found in the mountains, but it is not disturbed. The cattle that are slaughtered for their beef supply are driven to the slaughterhouse, and the dressing is superintended by a white employee. On such occasions the Indian women assemble in numbers and do not allow a scrap to go to waste, the viscera, vitals, and brains being taken and eaten as choice morsels. In their mode of cookery they have made little advance beyond the lowest savages.

Mode Of Dress

A few wear some part of civilized apparel; an exceptional few don the whole attire. A man may sometimes wear a hat, a coat, or a pair of shoes or boots, but no other article of civilized attire. The dress of the men consists usually of a pair of drawers and a piece of cloth fastened to the “gee-string” and hanging down in the rear as low as the knees. This cloth is about half a yard in width. A. similar piece hangs in front as low as the middle of the thighs. A shirt of some kind worn on the outside completes the costume. In warm weather the drawers are often omitted. Sometimes moccasins are worn and a red handkerchief is tied about the head. No toilet, male or female, is ever complete without beads. They are worn about the neck, wrists, and arms, are sewed on to the dress and moccasins, and dangle from the ears. The hair is the object of solicitude. It is usually worn long and loose, the men dividing it in the middle and combing it back, and the women and girls cutting it square in front just above the eyes, the other portion being combed back. The women smear their hair with soft clay, and then wash, comb, and dry it. The pith of the yucca cactus is pounded and macerated in water until a foam is produced similar to soapsuds. This is then used to cleanse the hair.

The raiment of the old women, who usually stay about the camps and work, is generally very poor and scanty, a skirt about the loins reaching below the knees, with a piece of cloth fastened loosely about the shoulders, being the only dress usually worn. The younger women wear a full calico skirt, reaching to the feet, and a blouse waist, with sleeves having the inevitable beads, from which is suspended a small circular mirror, protected by a disk of tin. Sometimes they indulge in the extravagance of a woolen shawl, always red, drawn tightly around the head and body.

There were 75,000 feet of lumber sawed from timber on the agency during the year ended June 30, 1890.

Criminal Statistics of Indians at the San Carlos Agency for the Year Ending June 30, 1890

Number of Indians killed by Indians 1
Number of Indians committing suicide 1
Number of Indians killed by whites 4
Number of white persons killed by Indians 5
Number of Indians punished by civil authority for crime 5
Number by hanging 7
Number sentenced to penitentiary 8
Number sentenced for whiskey selling 3
Number of Negroes who have been punished 3

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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