Lost Dutchman Chapter 5917 Arizona
CLAMPERS INVADE ARIZONA
THE HISTORY OF LA PAZ
This paper is intended to provide an over-view of some of the major individuals and circumstances which resulted in happenings in a small area North of Yuma on the mighty Colorado River. Native Americans ebbed and flowed throughout the area thousands of years before the Spanish arrived and various tribes were established along the Colorado River when Hernando de Alarcon discovered its mouth on August 26th 1540.
When one thinks about Arizona history it is almost all of very recent origin. Indeed, as far as Anglo-American contributions this is basically true. The mountain men explored and trapped the river in the early 19th century and during the gold rush many crossed its waters in the area now known as Yuma.
The first of the characters I would like to introduce is Herman Ehrenberg. He is the man for whom the town of Ehrenberg, Arizona is named. He was born at Steuden, near Leipzig, Saxony [Germany], between 1816 and 1820. He came to New York in 1834 or '35 and was in New Orleans when the war for Texan Independence erupted. He enlisted in the New Orleans Grays and apparently took part in the defeat of Brigadier General Martin Perfecto de Cos and the occupation of San Antonio by Ben Milam. Subsequently he joined Fannin and was present at the battle of Goliad where is reported to have been captured. While facing a firing squad he feigned death and fell thus permitting him to temporarily escape. He was recaptured and received a saber slash which left him with a facial scar. Either because of his youth, or the intervention of a fellow German attached to the Mexican forces he was re- leased. Having enough of this life he returned to Germany to complete his education at Freyburg University where he obtained a degree as a mining and topographic engineer.
During this period he authored a book, "Der Freiheitskampf in Texas im Jahr 1836", which was published in Leipzig in 1844. Apparently, as a result of this publication a large number of German families emigrated to Texas. The book has never been translated into English but represents the impact that one individual was capable of having at this juncture of history.
When his studies were completed Ehrenberg returned to the United States. He joined a party going to the Oregon Territory and is reported to have done surveying in the Astoria region. It is reported that he then went to the Sandwich Islands and many other South Pacific islands, including Tahiti here he is reported to have gained great favor with Queen Pomare the fifth. He returned to California, by what ever route the historian you read prefers to have him return. However, he apparently was in place at an opportune time for him to join Colonel Fremont in his efforts to free California from Mexican rule.
Over the next several years he undertook a number of mining and topographic surveying activities, making significant maps of San Francisco and Sacramento. He reputedly discovered "Gold Bluff" on the Oregon coast. He joined ranks with Charles Debrille Posten in San Francisco in 1854 and they sailed to the Gulf of California on the British Brig Zoraida. Following a ship wreck on an island in the Sea of Cortez they worked their way north through Sonora towards the Arizona Territory. During this period Ehrenberg did extensive topographic mapping and mining exploration. The area near Tubec, that was later to be developed in to the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company was very carefully evaluated. As Ehrenberg and Posten were returning to California, Ehrenberg surveyed the townsite of Colorado City, later Arizona City and finally Yuma, Arizona. This was done to create an exchange medium for transportation across the river on Louis Jaeger's ferry, established in 1849.
It is of interest that Fort Yuma's location is on the same site that was occupied by Lt. Amiel W. Whipple's camp when he was doing his preliminary boundary survey in 1849. Some sources suggest that this was also the site of the old Mission of Puerta de la Concepcion, which was founded by Garces in 1780. Barnes believes that the Mission was on the Arizona side of the river, although Major Samuel P. Heintzelman, the first American officer at Fort Yuma, noted that there were rough foundations at this site when he was there in 1851.
As a result of Ehrenberg's exploration with Poston, the first accurate map of the Gadsden Purchase boundary was established. This was published by Alex Zakreski of San Francisco in 1854. Over the next several years Ehrenberg continued his mining exploration and surveying while Charles Posten traveled to the east coast to raise money for the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. Posten was successful and they met in Tucson in 1856. An active mining venture was established near Tubac and upwards of one thousand people worked for this mine. Posten became the Alcalde of Tubec and in the census of 1860 Herman Ehrenberg was listed as a resident of that city with a net worth of twenty five thousand dollars, a small fortune at that time.
The first Arizona Gold Rush materialized in September, 1858. Henry Birch, a member of a prospecting group headed by Jacob Snively, discovered a nugget in the foothills to the west of Dome, Arizona, adjacent to the Gila River. Snively was a veteran of the Texas war of independence and had been the personal secretary of General Sam Houston and as leader has been given credit for this discovery of gold. The town of Gila City quickly developed with a bunch of brush shacks, a few tent saloons and reportedly the first post-office in the Arizona Territory.
The gold ran out between 1859 and 1860 and in 1864 J. Ross Browne wrote, "There was everything in Gila City except a church and a jail, which were accounted barbarisms by the mass of the population. When the city was built, bar-rooms and billiard-saloons opened, monte tables were established and all accommodations for civilized society placed upon a firm basis; the gold placers gave out and the remains were washed away by a flood in 1864. All that remained of the metropolis of Arizona consisted of 3 chimneys and a coyote."
Some mining had been in progress as early as 1854 at La Laguna, about 20 miles north of the Yuma Crossing, and a small community of Sonoran miners were located in the region. In 1862 Pauline Weaver, the half-white half-Indian, explorer, mountain man and military guide for the Mormon Battalion of 1847, was trapping on the Colorado River in the area known as "The Pot Holes". While exploring Arroyo de la Tenaja, on January 12, 1862, he found traces of gold. He put the flakes in a goose quill and showed them to Don Jose M. Redondo at La Laguna. Redondo explored further and within a mile of Weaver's discovery found evidence of there being considerable gold. By the middle of February forty people were prospecting and it seemed that every gulch and ravine for 20 miles east and south was rich with gold.
Word spread rapidly and the Los Angeles Star publicized this new Eldorado. All those who had not enjoyed profits from the Sierra gold rush of forty nine and those who had lost out in Holcomb Valley and elsewhere, as well as those displaced by the floods in San Gabriel Canyon, scrambled to get aboard and grab the ring of fortune, hoping for a bonanza of gold.
The initial discovery had been made on January 12th, Feast Day of Our Lady of Peace, and as the central area of congregation and construction of shelter was besides a sheltered lagoon or slough projecting from the Colorado River, it was named Laguna de La Paz, which was quickly abbreviated to La Paz.
Transportation to the area was arduous, particularly by the overland route San Bernardino to Fort Yuma. William D. Bradshaw, a forty-niner for whom the Bradshaw mountains are named, developed a freight route through San Gorgonio Pass, in late May of 1862. The route went down through Agua Calinte, now Palm Springs, and then South to the region where the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation is now located. From there travel was eastward near present day Mecca and across the gap between the Orocopia and Chocolate mountains north of the Salton Sea and then across the desert to the Colorado River. The distance from San Bernardino to La Paz was 205.73 miles, with the longest stretch between watering spots being 34 miles.
During the summer of 1862 the town of La Paz, point of supply for the entire area, consisted of less than 100 primitive brush ramadas built mainly of mesquite and arrowweed. Two of these were outfitted as stores and 12 were saloons. Before the advent of winter many of the brush shanties had been replaced with more substantial adobe structures and the town had grown to number around 1500 inhabitants.
Bradshaw, with his brother Isaac, ran a ferry from Providence Point, on the California side to Olive City, on the Arizona side. Olive City was about 6 miles south of La Paz and was named for Olive Oatman whose freighting story was widely known. Earlier ferries had been simple rafts of tulles managed by Indians. Bradshaw's ferry, owned with William A Warringer, was a rude boat attached to a rope spanning the stream. It was capable of carrying wagons and a limited number of animals and the current was the propelling power. The rates were not exorbitant:
For a wagon and two animals, four dollars;
Although Bradshaw had a predilection for hard drinking, he and his partners obtained a twenty year concession for the ferry across the Colorado River. In one commentary it is noted, "The most potent character who ever came to Arizona was John Barleycorn. Came early and long survived and few were the men of that early day upon whom he did not set his mark. It is not strange that men drank and gambled almost universally in that time, for human existence was as arid as surrounding nature, and it was far more pleasant and practicable to irrigate the human system with alcohol than to bring water to the land." Possibly this is the reason that Bradshaw is reported to have cut his throat with a razor, or a draw knife in 1864 during a fit of delirium tremons. True, he had been defeated as a democratic candidate for Congress by an overwhelming plurality of 506 to 66, but his opponent was Charles D. Posten!
The discovery of gold by Joseph Walker's prospectors at the headwaters of the Hasyampa
river and in Lynx Creek; Pauline Weaver and Abraham Harlow Peeples' strike at Weaver Creek
and Henry [Heintzel] Wickenburg's discovery of the Vulture Mine, markedly increased the
demand for transshipment of men and materials from La Paz.
The Mojave Road, across the desert to Fort Mojave and then over the toll road from
Hardyville to Prescott, was subject to great depredation from the Indians. At one time an
Indian chief was asked why the Indians tried to kill the white men and he is said to have
replied that just as white men like to hunt deer, Indians like to hunt white men. The
danger and greater expense of the Mojave-Hardyville route improved the utilization of the
Bradshaw Road to La Paz and the Ehrenberg Road on to Wickenburg, Weaver Creek and
GRAY & Co. MERCHANTS
In the June 13, 1866 Arizona Miner the following appears: "We were aware some time
since that certain parties, interested in founding a town at some more eligible point upon
the Colorado River than that occupied by La Paz, had selected the locality here to fore
known as Mineral City, (where the Bradshaw Ferry crosses) some seven miles below La Paz,
for that purpose. We have seen a map of the new town site, which is to be called
"Ehrenberg" in honor of our eminent and lamented pioneer, and upon paper it has
an admirable appearance as we believe it has in reality. The map is from the facile pen of
A. F. Waldemer, Esq. and is drawn with the taste and accuracy for which he is noted. The
site embraces one quarter section of land, most of it elevated, and having a fine and
accessible frontage right upon the Colorado. Steamboats can discharge their cargoes in the
town, as in Arizona City and Yuma, and all the expense of hauling, as now required at La
Paz, will be avoided. The streets are 60 feet wide. Those at right angles are numbered.
The lots are 50 by 150 feet in size. It is said that a more easy and direct road to
Tyson's Well [Quartzsite], and so to Wickenburg and Prescott, can be had than from La Paz,
and the advantages over the site of that town would seem to be such that
"Ehrenberg" must soon become the chief settlement upon the Colorado between Yuma
and Williams Fork, and a favorable shipping point for Wickenburg and Prescott. We learn
that B. Cohn and others of La Paz, propose to erect stores at "Ehrenberg" at an
early day. The corporators of the town have already taken the necessary steps to secure
the title from the United States. As these parties are chiefly La Paz men, we presume the
residents of that town will fall in with the project, and prevent all danger of rivalry
from "Ehrenberg" by removing them en masse and really reestablish upon the spot
a new site with a better name, one that will not constantly be confused with that of La
Paz in Lower California." Michael Goldwater had been in partnership with Cohen &
Co in La Paz but when he moved to Ehrenberg the establishment became Goldwater &
Brother. Subsequently their mercantile empire developed.
Arizona Miner: April 2, 1870, Letter from Ehrenberg "Friend Marion: I reached this
commercial center a day or two since, from La Paz, which later place is some seven miles
above. La Paz, at this time presents a very dilapidated appearance, and to one who saw it,
some years ago, when Gray & Co., Myers & Co. and Raven were actually engaged in
business at that place, it can not but produce feelings of sadness for it is now quite
apparent that it must soon pass into ruins and become one of the things of the past. At
the present there are but very few people, and since the death of M. Raven, nothing is
doing by way of business. This place is quite pleasantly situated and contains a number of
good business houses, and ought to be quite healthy. The river is rising and is said to be
in fair boating condition. One steamer passed up to Mohave the past week. Sx, J.H."
There are a number of interesting descriptions of Ehrenberg in the late '60s and early '70s. From Lambert Florin's Ghost Towns of the West:
"Whiskey, loose women, pigs and the law were all mixed up in Tom Hamilton's life. He served some of the whiskey over the bar and drank about the same amount to keep it from spoiling. Loose women were no problem as long as he could get enough customers for them. But his pigs caused the judge no end of trouble - and he was the judge.
"Hamilton ran a combination store, saloon and brothel in Ehrenberg, a brawling frontier town in the late 60's and through the '70's. The drab cluster of adobe buildings was not a mining town but served as a supply center for the placer activity along the Colorado River's east shore.
"As a bartender, Hamilton set up the bottles and glasses, pawed in the money and gold dust and took three fingers himself when anybody wanted to pay for it. And if there were fights and shootings, he was no man to stop the boys from having a little fun. Somebody was bound to be thrown in the calaboose and who would he face in the court in the morning? Tom Hamilton, justice of the peace.
"That is, if and providing the j.p. was sober enough to face anybody. If not, he was regaining his strength in bed and further derelict in another duty - looking after his pigs. The porkers had no respect for the flimsy fence around the sty and were not inclined to lead their lives in quiet desperation. They wandered. And most of the time into stores to root around in the leather, lamp wicks and lard and cause general consternation. They also invaded private kitchens and found no welcome greetings from the women trying to get a pot of beans in the oven.
"Complaints became so numerous the judge decided he would have to do something, but nothing as drastic as staying sober to look after his swine. He simply commandeered araft, took his pigs across the Colorado and turned them loose. They had to be content rooting around in the willows, until the happy day they discovered a prospector's camp and reduced the food supply to a shambles. The prospector evened things up by shooting one of the vandals and hanging the butchered carcass to a convenient tree branch.
"But these going on were witnessed by one of the Indians in the j.p.'s employ and he reported them to Hamilton. Already unsteady, the owner of the pigs downed a couple more, groped for his gun, crossed the river and found the guilty pig shooter still in camp and very indignant. 'This is California,' he protested to Hamilton with a show of bravado. 'Your jurisdiction is good only in Arizona and you can't force me to cross the river.' The judge responded that his gun said he could and he did.
"The hearing was held in the saloon immediately. Tom Hamilton lubricated his throat and made a speech to the effect that the prospector was now in Arizona where he was subject to the law laid down by Ehrenberg's justice of the peace. He had stolen and killed a pig belonging to the said jurist and the crime had been witnessed. Nobody could say he had not had a fair trial so the penalty was fair - to Hamilton. 'I fine you $50 for stealing and $50 for the hog.'"
By 1870, according to the United States Census Bureau, the town of Ehrenberg consisted of some 87 dwellings inhabited by 96 families. Slightly less than one half the families were foreign born, principally Mexican. There were nearly four men to each woman and only five children under ten years of age were recorded. However, by 1872 Mary Elizabeth Post came from the east to teach at the Ehrenberg School. She described her experience as follows:
"My school room was a building formerly used as a saloon. The floor was of earth. Our furniture consisted of tables and chairs brought from the homes. I had fifteen pupils, not one of whom knew any English and I knew nothing of Spanish. Sometimes an old prospector who had been used to visiting the saloon would wander in, and when he saw the new use to which his old stamping ground had been put he was more embarrassed than the young teacher and her pupils."
Rather contrasting descriptions can be found. The Arizona Citizen on August 26, 1871 said, "This is a nice, cool, healthy place. It is not afflicted with flies and but few mosquitoes. It is not sultry, a breeze is always felt from midday to next morning. It is the most pleasant town on the Colorado. Several good and large buildings are now up and occupied and more will soon follow. Hooper, Whiting & Company recently opened here with an immense stock of goods and their large building on Front Street will soon be completed. This firm has all the transportation contracts to the northern military posts, and their business is managed by J. F. Barney, who knows how. It is surprising to walk through their establishment and note the magnificent stock of staple groceries, liquors, cigars, tobaccos, wagon material, mining apparatus, etc., and they do a large wholesale business."
An army wife, Martha Summerhayes, passed by Ehrenberg on the way to her husbands post in 1874, but returned on May 16, 1875.
"Under the burning mid-day sun of Arizona, on May 16th, our six good mules, with the long whip cracking about their ears, and the ambulance rattling merrily along, brought us into the village of Ehrenberg. There was one street, so called, which ran along on the river bank, and then a few cross streets straggling back into the desert, with here and there a low adobe casa. The Government house stood not far from the river, and as we drove up to the entrance the same blank white walls stared at me.
"The house was a one-story adobe. It formed two sides of a hollow square; the other two sides were a high wall, and the Government freight-house respectively. The courtyard was partly shaded by a ramada and partly open to the hot sun. There was a chicken-yard in one corner of the enclosed square, and in the center stood a rickety old pump, which indicated some sort of a well. Not a green leaf or tree or blade of grass in sight. Nothing but white sand, as far as one could see, in all directions.
"Inside the house there were bare white walls, ceilings covered with manta, and sagging, as they always do; small windows set in deep embrasures, and adobe floors. Small and inconvenient rooms, opening one into another around two sides of the square. A sort of low veranda protected by lattice screens, made from a species of slim cactus, called ocotilla, woven together, and bound with raw-hide, ran around a part of the house.
"Fisher was the steam boat agent. There were several other white men in the place, and two large stores where everything was kept that people in such countries buy. These merchants made enormous profits, and their families lived in luxury in San Francisco. The rest of the population consisted of a very poor class of Mexicans, Cocopah, Yuma and Mojave Indians, and half-breeds.
"The duty of the army officer stationed here consisted principally in receiving and shipping the enormous quantity of Government freight which was landed by the river steamers. It was shipped by wagon trains across the Territory, and at all times the work carried large responsibilities with it."
Ehrenberg continued to be a vital link with central Arizona until 1877 when the Southern Pacific completed its rail line from Los Angeles to Yuma. However, the Colorado River steam boats continued operating until the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation completed the Laguna Dam on March 31, 1909. Some activity continued as a Blythe Stage line advertised that it would take passengers from Dry Riverside County, California to the saloon door in Ehrenberg.
In Riverman Desertman, Camel Dekens noted, "We sometimes went to Ehrenberg for entertainment, because for a few years Ehrenberg still had two saloons, run by Sam Wilson and Anton Hageley, and a house of prostitution, plus a few homes and a grocery store." Replacement of the ferry by the bridge and increasing automobile traffic along Highway 60-70 provided a brief respect from oblivion for the community.
In 1934 a monument constructed of Malpais boulders and put together with white mortar was dedicated at an old cemetery just off Highway 60-70. The monument which is ten feet tall, extends from its eight foot square base to a bench, three feet above ground level into which are embedded relics of the pioneer era. A shaft, topped with a hieroglyphic rock made by prehistoric inhabitants of the area, extends ten feet above ground. When dedicated a copper plate, which has been stolen, was attached bearing the inscription, "Ehrenberg Cemetery. This Monument built to perpetuate the memory of the Pioneers, Trailblazers and Adventurers that rest in these unmarked graves. Arizona Highway Department, 1934." Tribute should be given to John Edwards, highway maintenance foreman, at this time, who had the foresight to prepare this monument. He was also responsible for the memorial to Hadji Ali in Quartzsite as well as one at the Harrisburg Cemetery and the monument dedicating the Wickenburg Massacre.
On March 12, 1989 a plaque was dedicated by the Lost Dutchman Colony of E Clampus Vitus to "Our Unknown Brothers" at the Ehrenberg Cemetery. A tribute to those who's lives had been lost in the search of elusive fortune at the whims of the earth and its regurgitation of its gold!
Compiled and produced by: Dr. Robert Stragnell,
Clampatriarch of ECV Lost Dutchman Chapter 5917 ECV
Credo Quia Absurdum
Last modified: January 01, 2015