Man Of Peace - David Asbury Harer




"Apache Land" by Ross Santee 1971 p. 110: Published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1947 "Man of Peace" (submitted by Ethel Larson [R8259] David Harer's great-grandau.)This is the story about David Asbury Harer, Sr., my great grandmother, my daughter's great great grandmother Obedience Harer Hazelton's brother. The "Man Of Peace" and friend of the Native American Apache Tribe.


"Apache Land" by Ross Santee 1971 p. 110: Published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1947.

"Man of Peace" (submitted by Ethel Larson [R8259] David Harer's great-grandau.) This is the story about David Asbury Harer, Sr., my great grandmother Obedience Harer Hazelton's brother. The "Man Of Peace" and friend of the Native American Apache Tribe.


The Valley lay deep in the heart of Apache Land. The journey had been long. He was fifty-three years old and a grandfather that day in 1876 and he rode a tired pony up the San Carlos trail. As he topped out, the old man reined in his pony and caught his breath sharply at the sight of the valley below. For some time he sat his pony, then he spoke aloud:

"This is the place! This is the valley!
The valley I've hunted for all my life."

Watching from the valley below, the Apaches missed nothing as the old man rode towards them down the trail. He carried no rope on his saddle, he was not one who followed the cows. He carried a rifle, yet he carried it in the saddle boot and not "at ready" in the crook of his left arm. The old man was not afraid.

That a lone white man would ride among them, unafraid, was something the Apache mind found hard to comprehend. A little pile of rock, the wooden cross that marked a lonely grave was all too common now.  Nor was it just an Apache game, the game was played both ways.  White men thought less of killing an Apache than they did a coyote.

That the Apaches might resent his coming or do him harm, never entered the old man's head. He had forgotten the rifle he carried in his saddle boot and after waving the Indians a friendly greeting he promptly forgot them, too. 

There was something far more important on Grandpa Harer's mind that day. After twenty-five years he had found it, the valley he had hunted so long. When he and the tired pony drank from the springs that bubbled from the thicket of locusts and blackjack oaks, the water was clear and cool as the mountain air that filled his lungs.  Grass stirrup-high covered the broad flats.  The stream from the bubbling springs that flowed through the valley was crystal-clear, its banks lined with tules.

As his eye swept the valley it was just as he had pictured it, almost as far back as he could remember. He would build the cabin here, here by the bubbling springs. The pens and corrals would be shaded by the locusts and blackjack oaks. As he looked, the waving grass that covered the broad flats became fields of rippling corn. And he could see the hogs, fat hogs; for Grandpa Harer was from Arkansas.

Man in his hunt for happiness often seeks strange things.  Unlike many men, Grandpa Harer always knew what he wanted. When he hooked the mules to the loaded wagon that April morning in 1851 and left Arkansas with his wife and baby girl on the trek West, it was not in search of the rainbow's end. The gold in California held no interest. Nor did he want land that could be had for the taking, or grass for the cattle. Grandpa Harer wanted a hog ranch. It was more than a hog ranch he wanted, though; not just a place to raise hogs. Somehow there was always a valley, he could picture the sort of place in his mind.

During the journey across the plains with the wagon train, there was no trouble with the Indians, but often they were hungry. Grandpa told of killing small birds with his rifle and how Grandma would make soup for Mary Elizabeth, the baby. A cow was yoked to the wagon when one of the work mules died.  In Tulare County, California Grandpa raised wheat and prospered. Yet he was not satisfied. Finally he reached Oregon. There were beautiful valleys in Oregon but never the one that he sought. Back in California again, the search went on and on.

When he first come to Arizona in the early '70s, Grandpa worked for a time at Hayden's Mill on the south bank of the Salt. He was farming in Salt river Valley, raising sorghum and hogs, when he first met Captain Hancock. The Captain was stationed at Fort McDowell.  Aside from the bacon and hams he cured, the captain liked Grandpa, and Grandpa often spoke to him of the valley he hunted. The valley had become an obsession, he could picture it in detail. And unlike many other men, the captain was interested; he saw things in pictures, too.

The captain had been on two weeks scout with a troop of cavalry on the Tonto. The night he got back to the fort he hunted Grandpa up when he had dismissed his troop. And the captain was excited.  "I think it's the place," he said. The troop had ridden through Reno Pass, crossed the Tonto and rode up Salome Creek. There was a big butte on the right. They had ridden up Salome Creek to where the San Carlos trail had crossed; they had followed the trail from there. "I saw it just as we topped out," the captain said, "an' it hit me in the face. But the valley is full of Apaches. I had a troop of cavalry with me, one man would not be safe." Yet in spite of the warning from his friend, the next morning, long before the morning star had set, Grandpa was on his way.

He built the log cabin by the bubbling springs. There was a rock fireplace chinked with adobe. He made the roof of tules. He cleared the land and ditched the fields, cut logs and built the pens and corrals, put in a sizable orchard. Of medium height, with powerful shoulders and narrow hips, at fifty-three he was as active and quick as a cat. Yet how he ever got a loaded wagon into the valley alone is still a mystery to his descendants.

The valley had been a favorite camping ground of the Apaches as far back as their old men could remember. In no other valley did the beyotas (acorns) grow as sweet. It was not far from where they gathered the saguaro fruit and had their mescal pits. One thing they could not understand: the old man sang as he worked. A hymn that was a favorite of his the Apaches knew by heart:

"There's a land that is fairer than day
And by faith we can see it afar
For the Father waits over the way
To Prepare us a dwelling place there
In the sweet by and by - "

That he had taken their valley - was an intruder-never entered Grandpa's head. There was plenty for all, he said. The fact that it had been Apache hunting ground for over three hundred years and that the Apache might have another point of view never occurred to him. And the Apaches did have another point of view as far as white men were concerned. While their broad valleys along the rivers were being taken by men with hairy faces who farmed and followed the plow, the cowmen with herds of longhorn cattle were pushing deeper into the hills. The Apache fought in his own way; it was his hunting ground. The cowmen, who had come to stay, fought him in turn with always the lurking fear in his heart that his family might be murdered at the lonely ranch house while he was out on the range.

It was into this setting that Grandpa Harer came; Grandpa, the man of peace, into the fight of "dog eat dog." And the Apaches, whatever their feelings may have been when he first came to the valley, came to call him Salmann (friend).

If an Apache wanted to hunt and had no ammunition, Grandpa gave him some. If the Indian had no rifle, Grandpa loaned him his gun. When Old Nosey picked up a pair of horseshoes, put them in his shirt and rode off, Grandpa followed pronto. He simply told Nosey to give him the horseshoes and he gave the Apache a lecture on how wrong it was to steal. This was a new approach as far as the Apache was concerned; he couldn't understand. He had stolen and been caught. Any other white man he had known would either have shot him off his horse or jerked him from his pony and whipped him with his pistol. Old Nosey pondered deeply, he couldn't understand. But next day he hunted Grandpa up and stated simply, "No more steal from Salmann."

Aside from a big Newfoundland dog that had followed him from California, and the Apaches who camped with him, Grandpa stayed alone in the valley that year. When he left on occasional trips to Salt River for supplies and a visit with family, the Apaches were left in charge.

There was one trip, however, he hadn't counted on.  The big Newfoundland dog didn't share his master's feelings when it came to the Apaches. He never did like their smell. One evening the big dog thought an Apache was too close to Grandpa and growled.  Grandpa spoke sharply to the dog and thought no more about it. But next morning when Grandpa hit the floor at daybreak, there was no big dog to greet him. The dog's feelings had been hurt and he had pulled out for home in the night. Knowing the family would be worried if the dog came in alone, Grandpa caught a horse and followed. He had got as far as Sugar Loaf when he met his friend the captain. Captain Hancock had seen the big dog pass the fort alone just as it broke light. Thirty minutes later he was on his way to hunt his friend with a small detail of cavalry.

Grandpa had been in the valley a year when he went to Salt River and brought in a hundred hogs, driving them in afoot. Pork had always been held in abomination by the tribe; a hog was something an Apache would not tolerate. Yet the Apaches made no protest. Aside from calling him "Ole Hog Capitan" occasionally, they ignored the hogs completely. As soon as Grandpa had located the hogs he brought his family in.

Of his neighbors, who were cowmen, some said the old man was balmy. Others called him "touched." Why would a man raise hogs and farm, raise feed, kill hogs, render lard, cure hams and bacon, then haul it sixty miles in a wagon to Globe or eighty miles to Phoenix? Now, with a steer-the critter simply lived on grass an' walked afoot to market. He actually made friends with the Indians; some said he even went so far as to loan an Apache his gun! Whenever there was an Indian scare or a settler murdered, the cowmen said that "old Sweet Bye an' Bye had went an' spoiled the dirty varmits."

In the 80's, during the Pleasant Valley War, maybe as high as thirty men were killed. One night some of the Graham faction might be camped at Grandpa's place, the next night it might be the Tewksburys. Folks wondered how Grandpa stayed neutral through it all. The fact that he treated everyone alike and refused to speak evil of any man, refused to speak at all unless the word was good, might have meant something to them. While the cowmen stole each other's cows and fought, Grandpa raised hogs and prospered.

When Jake Loafer crawled in one night with a bullet wound and a broken leg, it was Grandpa who probed for the bullet and set Jake's leg, while Grandma nursed him through. Jake had only been gone three days till he was back again. This time he rode a horse. It seems Jake had managed to cut his foot half off while he was chopping wood.

To turn a hungry person from the door, red or white, was a sin as far as both Grandpa and Grandma were concerned. She cooked for all who came. And no trail was ever too rough or the night too dark for Grandma to ride a horse alone if some neighbor needed nursing or some woman was expectin'. And while Grandpa never wore a ring in his nose, Grandma - a person in her own right - had a way of snubbing him up short when she thought the occasion warranted.

Though a man of deep convictions, he was never one to preach.  There was only one occasion when Grandpa ever tried it, it might have been the audience. The cabin was full that day-there were children and grandchildren present-when Grandpa began to speak upon the evil of strong drink. He was warming to his subject, too. "David," said Grandma in her quiet voice, "don't preach, it's unbecoming of you. I've seen you so drunk that you fell off your horse."  Grandpa was flustered, yet he always spoke the truth. "That's right, I was drunk an' I fell off the horse. I was a young man then, but I know better now."

Grandpa didn't like to kill anything that wasn't necessary; he never cared to hunt. But one son-in-law, Florence Packard, was a mighty hunter of panthers and bear. Wearing moccasins, he followed his dogs afoot. When a rancher offered him a horse, Florence Packard refused, saying that he wanted nothing with him on a hunt that he couldn't pack on his back. Farming held no interest for Florence. He pursued the varmits relentlessly, often hunting them at night. Yet somehow he managed to find the time to father twelve fine children, and help Grandpa build a schoolhouse.

Aside from Florence's brood there were other grandchildren, too, and several waifs an' strays that Grandpa and Grandma raised. The first teacher was a woman, and while Grandpa was a man of peace, not all his grandchildren were. The school was hardly under way until the children ran her off.  Grandpa brought in a man next term.  The new teacher was one-eyed, with a broken nose and crooked smile. He was tall, with sloping shoulders and hands that hung almost to his knees. And Grandpa was innocent about the whole affair.

He had never seen a prize fighter in his life. The children were innocent, too. Some of them were big, gangling boys in their teens; this intruder was only another teacher to them and without preliminaries they planned to put him on his way. The affair was short and sweet; when it was over, teacher's knuckles were skinned up some but he still wore his crooked smile. There was not a boy who ganged him who wasn't on the floor. They still speak of that little school in the valley and how well mannered the children were. There was never a school on the Tonto that had such discipline.

Aside from his feelings for the Apaches, Grandpa Harer liked snakes. too. He said there was no harm in most of them. He went so far as to pull the fangs on a rattlesnake and kept it as a pet. Josie, sixteen and pretty, was a favorite granddaughter of his. One day when she was teasing him he said, "Let me alone, now, Josie, or I'll put the snake on you."  Josie thought the snake was harmless, for Grandpa had pulled its fangs. In the scuffle that followed, the snake bit Josie on the arm and Josie nearly died. Yet she protested in her delirium that it wasn't Grandpa's fault. Even Grandpa didn't know there were other fangs that grew. He felt terrible about the whole affair and promptly dispatched his pet, the rattlesnake, and would have no more of them.

The Apaches still camped in the valley, coming and going at will. It was July and August when the Indians came in droves. Sometimes as many as two hundred would come streaming off the hill. Bucks always riding singly, squaws riding loaded ponies with children up behind; Indians afoot and squaws with loads upon their backs a white man could hardly lift. Squaws and children laughing and chattering, waving to their friends. They had come not only for the saguaro fruit and to gather the beyotas, but to visit Grandpa and his family.

Apaches from the San Carlos Agency, they traded calico, blankets, sugar and white flour that had been issued at the post for corn and dried fruits that came from Grandpa's orchard. And always they brought presents. There was Grandpa with his warm smile, shaking a buck by the hand, and Grandma bustling about. Children, red and white, chasing each other, playing games and visiting quietly since they had not seen each other in months.

In his thirty years in the valley, aside from the pair of horseshoes Nosey took, there was only one other thing that an Apache ever stole. It was a favorite mare of Grandpa's, stolen by a renegade Apache from the reservation, who killed the mare and cut steaks from her flank.

The neighbors, who were white men, didn't score as well. Any fat hog that wandered off Grandpa's range was apt to disappear. Grandpa said the hog became confused, lost all sense of direction and couldn't find his way home. Yet he knew where they went.

When renegade Apaches were raiding in the hills, Grandpa would sometimes send the family to the Fort but he never went himself.  Neighbors were murdered by the Apaches, their stock was driven off and killed. Grandpa and his family never were molested. The cowmen finally came to respect him. Unlike his friends the Apaches, they never quite came to understand the simple man of peace who raised hogs instead of cattle and who lived by the Golden Rule.

When Grandpa finally took the long trail at eighty-three, the long trail that all men, red or white, must ride alone, it was the Apaches who mourned his passing. For four days, each morning as the sun rose and each evening as it set, their wailing filled the valley:

"Salmann, Salmann, Salmann--"

"In The Sweet By And By"
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Clarence A. Olin
Lois Olin Nader