The Wickenburg Massacre Site

Congress, AZ

For a long time we have been followers of The Bayfield Bunch blog.  Al and Kelly are from Bayfield, Ontario along the shores of Lake Huron but  during the winter they spend much of their time at a home they have in Congress.  One of their blogs described a visit to the site of an 1871 attack on a stagecoach about nine miles west of Wickenburg.  When we inquired about directions to the site, Al graciously volunteered to guide us to the spot, now located in empty desert north of Rte. 60.

Al and his trusty canine companion, Pheebe, met us one morning in the front parking area at North Ranch (Kelly was feeling a bit under the weather) and we followed them south toward Wickenburg.  About ten miles west of town on Rte. 60 we turned north on a dirt road and headed into the desert.

Al and Pheebs lead the way

After meandering through the desert for five or six miles we came to the ruins of an old abandoned ranch.

Al and John examine the remains of the ranch house

A two holer!

We then followed Al down the road another couple of miles to the site of the massacre.  It is not well marked so you could easily drive right by if you didn’t know what to look for.

The Wickenburg Massacre occurred on November 5, 1871.  It was the mass murder of six stagecoach passengers en route from Wickenburg westbound for California.  Around mid-morning, about six miles from Wickenburg, the stagecoach was attacked by Yavapai warriors from the Date Creek Reservation.  Six men, including the driver, were shot and killed. Among them was Frederick Wadsworth Loring, a young writer from Boston who had been sent as a correspondent for a New York literary magazine.  One male passenger and the only female passenger, though wounded, managed to escape.

Rocks mark the locations where the dead were found

Small markers placed near the ground explain the event.

John stands on the hillside where the killers waited for the stagecoach

The massacre was a key event in turning public sentiment in the east against the Indians. Seven months prior to the Wickenburg incident, 144 Apaches were killed in the Camp Grant Massacre near Tucson and Eastern sentiment was with the victims.  However, the death in Wickenburg of Fredrick Loring, one of Boston’s most promising young writers, turned the tide against the Yavapai.  His untimely death created a great sensation in the East and at once the press of New York and New England turned against the Indians and concluded that ‘the Apache must be treated with less Bible, and more sword.’

Al, Pam, and Pheebs at the site of the massacre

On the return to Wickenburg we drove six miles down a sandy wash.  The sand was very soft most of the way and the four-wheel drive was working overtime to keep us moving!

Pam asked Al for directions to another local attraction, Indian Rock, near Congress.  Again, he volunteered to guide to the location, which is only a couple miles from their house in Congress.  So back up the highway we went for the 15 mile drive from Wickenburg to Congress.  Then we drove another couple miles on a dirt road through the desert to our destination, a huge boulder sitting at the base of a rock strewn hillside.

The rock was definitely used by ancient people as there is art work on one side and numerous morteros used to grind grain.

Art work on Indian Rock

Grinding holes

Can you spot the observer in red?

The driver waits patiently for her passenger

Following our tours we stopped at Al and Kelly’s home.  After meeting Kelly she took us for a tour of their house, then Al showed us around all the cacti he has planted around the yard.  By the way, the home is for sale if you’re looking for a great place to spend the winter!

Thank you Al (and Pheebs) for a great day.  We really appreciated your hospitality!

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22 Responses to The Wickenburg Massacre Site

  1. Nancy says:

    We have never been! We must go! Soooooo cool!

    • placestheygo says:

      It was very interesting, Nancy. I liked the fact that there were so many signs describing everything. It’s nice that it isn’t easy to find so the site hasn’t been vandalized.

  2. explorvistas says:

    We are so glad you were able to meet up with Al, Kelly and Pheebs. Very nice blog post! 🙂

  3. The pleasure was all mine folks:))

  4. pmbweaver says:

    Well how nice to have your own desert tour guide. Thanks for the history lesson. We knew nothing about the massacre.
    The huge boulders are awesome. Also, I couldn’t find the observer in the red shirt. Now if he would have had tan on I think I would have spotted him.

  5. Ingrid says:

    Can’t go wrong with your own tour guide. The more we travel, the more interesting history we seem to discover.

  6. Al and Kelly, and Pheebs, of course, are so very nice. Glad you got to meet them and that Al showed you around. That’s an area we haven’t been to yet.

  7. geogypsy2u says:

    Al and Pheebs are great tour guides. Glad you got to meet the Bayfield Bunch.

  8. Sherry says:

    Wow two great spots and a fabulous tour guide to show you the way. You guys know how to plan a terrific day that’s for sure. Love the art on that enormous rock and that cute little driver Al has.

  9. Jodee Gravel says:

    I always wonder when I see a two holer…..the seats are so close together! I wondered if there were signs to the massacre site – it’s a spot we want to visit when we’re in the area. Sad that all the tribes ended up paying for the violence of just a few of them. Things haven’t changed much I’m afraid 😦 Al is such a great guy, I know if was a fun day in the desert with he and Pheebs. Glad you got to meet Kelly too. Jealous you got the tour of their wonderful little place!!

    • placestheygo says:

      There aren’t any signs, Jodee, which is why Al offered to be our guide. There are so many dirt roads, finding your way alone would be interesting. Maybe Al will still be around when you get to visit the area:) It was a nice trip.

  10. Laurel says:

    It’s always great to have a personal tour guide — and how fun that you got to meet up with The Bayfield Bunch. 😉 The story of the massacre is certainly a sad one, all the way around.

  11. Jane says:

    It sounds like both sides were in the wrong at different times and it’s always the innocent who get hurt or killed

  12. Gay says:

    What an awesome day with the Bayfield Bunch! I love the kinds of history lessons…

  13. Debbie L says:

    Another wonderful post. Love these history lessons along the way of life! It’s so important to honor those whose lives are lost.

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