Desert Raid

Old Tales of the Southwest

"Desert Raid"
by Winifred Davidson
San Diego Union, 1 Nov. 1936

At the opening 1869 Josiah Emery, a Maine youth of 24, was in charge of the stage station at New River on the Colorado desert. His brothers, Herbert and Henry, and his father, William S. Emery, were in charge of other similar stations at Cook’s Wells, Laguna and Seven Wells. With the exception of a hired man, Josiah was alone most of the time at this isolated desert spot, which was in the path of immigrants to California and of those gentlemen the road who sometimes found rich spoils among these newcomers, a few passing south with from the mines, and among lingering at the stations.
Josiah and his helper were weighing grain for their horses. Hearing unusual noise they looked up. Two dark faces smiled with cruel intent. One intruder was armed with a long knife, the other with revolver. "What do you want?” asked Emery. “A shirt,” responded one of the Mexicans.

Bandit Shoots Youth

As Emery truned to take the garment from his stock he heard the click of a pistol and glanced around. The bandit had fired at the back of the young man;s head, but the ball struck him sidewise across the mouth, tearing out teeth and causing him to fall. He lay behind the counter in an unconscious state for some time.
These men had driven 14 horses from California into the station corral. As Charles F. Emery, brother of Josiah, recalls: “At the same time the cook was getting some barley for the horses. He saw on the wall the shadow of a large knife coming towards his back. He threw up his arms, knocking the knife from the bandit’s hand. The cook ran out of the door and hid in the trees, the bandits running after him.
“My brother said when he regained consciousness he was standing in the door with his rifle, shooting at two Mexicans. He wounded one of them and they turned and ran away among the trees.

He Rides for Aid

“The cook did not come back and Josiah saddled a horse. Suffering great pain he rode 18 miles to the Alamo station where father and Henry were. Father at once hitched two horses to a wagon and drove to Yuma with Josiah for a doctor’s care.”
But there was not at Yuma the quality of doctoring and dental attention which young Josiah needed. He was later taken to San Francisco but caught a severe cold on the voyage. Owing to loss of blood he gradually weakened and died Oct. 3, 1872.
Charles F. Emery adds a gruecome detail to this story of the frontier: "The Cocopah Indians at that time were very friendly with father and my brothers. Henry asked some of them to go back with him to the New River station. When they arrived there was no one there. Henry asked the Indians to follow the tracks of the bandits, bring them back and he would give them the horses. They did so, and came back with the ears of the bandits, saying they had had a desperate fight and had had to kill them.”

A Profitable Meeting

Capt. William S. Emery saild for California in the Louisana in the fall of 1849, via Cape Horn. He did not arrive at San Francisco until the spring of 1850, owing to the severity of the weather. On that voyage and on another made several years later he sailed into San Diego harbor. At a hotel in Old Town he met a “brother Mason who was owner of several stage stations on the line from Los Angeles to Arizona, on the Colorado desert, now Imperial valley.”
This man said to him, “Captain, I have made money there, but have had a little trouble •with the Cocopah Indians. I will sell out to you. Go to San Francisco and get our older sons, come back, and you will make good there.”
This was a good move, Charles Emery says. With the exception of the tragedy which overtook Josiah, Capt. Emery and his Sons “did very well there until the railroad was built. Then the stages and overland travel closed.”

Stations Are Bases

As kept by the Emery family, these desert stations were real oases. Horses on the Butterfield Overland stage line were changed there. Immigrants were cared for. These in 1869 were mainly people coming across the plains from Texas. They would start out with everything they needed for setting up homes in California, but sometimes by the time they had reached the desert stations they were in desperate straits, willing to exchange anything they had left for food and clothing.
William Emery accumulated a heard of 60 head of cattle from such people, “but as the Cocopah and Coyote Indians and others became so troublesome, they were unable to raise any cattle there, especially on the New River.” In the early ‘70’s the family acquired Pine Valley and moved there.

Home       Top      Genealogy       Biographies       Diaries      Histories      Photos      Recipes      Websites