Apache Springs Ranch


Apache Springs Ranch Throughout the Years

There is abundant archaeological evidence that the ranch and surrounding area were inhabited by a prehistoric people, pre-dating the Native American tribes which followed. Some potsherds found on the ranch resemble the corrugated pottery style employed by the pre-historic “Anasazi”, Navajo for “ancestral enemies”. Anasazi ruins have been discovered in caves and canyons in northern Arizona, amongst other places. Caves near to the ranch and numerous sites on the ranch itself have provided examples of ancient pottery and tools and other evidence indicating that this area has been thriving with ancient peoples for a long time. According to David Roberts book “In Search of the Old Ones”, the Anasazi chronology begins during the Archaic Period of 6500 to 12,000 BC. Pottery didn’t start to be produced until the Basketmaker III period of 500-750 AD. Some additional potsherds found on the ranch exhibit similar characteristics to photos of 13th century potsherds exhibited in David Roberts’ fine book.
However, the historic time period during which Tom Gardner, the founder of Apache Springs Ranch, and his Apache contemporaries and rivals lived, is in the latter half of the 1800’s. The Apache are fairly recent settlers of the Southwestern U.S. and share a language and genealogy with the Athabaskan speakers of Alaska and Western Canada, as do the Navajo. Anthropological evidence suggests that the Apache and Navajo peoples lived in these same northern locales before migrating to the Southwest sometime between AD 1200 and 1500 (“A History of New Mexico” by Susan and Calvin Roberts).
The modern term Apache excludes the Navajo people. Since the Navajo and other Apache groups are clearly related through culture and language, they are all considered “Apachean”. The Apachean tribes fought the Spanish and Mexican people for centuries. The first Apache raids on Sonora appear to have taken place during the late 1600’s. The Apache in general, but particularly the Lipan Apache, are generally credited with eventually driving the Spanish away from their attempts to settle the region, much of which is now modern day Texas. Similar Spanish failures occurred in what is now New Mexico and Southern Arizona, when the Spanish made attempts to establish frontier settlements and various Apache (and Comanche) tribes objected. Like many other American tribes, the Apache adopted a horse warrior culture. This opportunity was provided thanks to the accidental release of many domesticated horses into the wild by the Spanish, due to native raids, normal attrition and a notable Pueblo uprising in 1680 in what is now New Mexico. By about 1750, herds of millions of mostly Spanish Andaluz Mustangs(Iberian Barb descendants, also known as Jennets) were roaming the plains. Trading, warring and raiding amongst the American native tribes resulted in a rapid spread of horses through the continent. In the South, the Comanche tribe developed tremendous riding skills and horse knowledge- including extensive breeding capabilities. They soon established themselves as the most skilled and predominant “horse warrior” culture. Almost all Comanche fighting occurred while mounted on horseback, while the Apache often dismounted and utilized the terrain for cover. The Apache took a more practical approach to their horses, often seeing them as a portable source of food on a long journey, if food was scarce or making fast time was a priority. Nevertheless, they also became a formidable and wide-ranging force due to their mobility, tenacity and endurance.
We have attempted to shed a little insight into their characters, through our descriptions below.

Thomas Gardner
Thomas Gardner

The following description was largely adapted from a contribution to the “Kentucky Camp Chronicle”, submitted by Cherlyn Gardner Strong, Tom Gardner’s great-great-granddaughter.
Following his arrival in Southern Arizona in 1859 as one of the first white settlers and spending a number of years mining and farming in the Sonoita valley, Tom Gardner established Apache Springs Ranch in 1872 as a 160 acre homestead. Tom raised horses at the ranch, primarily for racing in Tucson, as well as cattle for the supply of meat to the local mines and forts. He also operated a sawmill for a period of time in the Santa Rita Mountains. In 1896, due to his age, he sold the Apache Springs Ranch to the Empire Ranch up the road and retired to Patagonia. He died there in 1906 and a monument in his honor can be seen in the Patagonia Cemetery today.
During one of his trips to Sonora, Mexico, Tom met a woman named Gertrude Apodaca, a Mexican citizen of Mayo Indian descent. He eventually fathered 12 children with Gertrude. Thomas Gardner Jr., born 1879, was the sole surviving male child. Carlos Gardner, born 1868, died in infancy in 1870. Four daughters; Mary Theresa (1862) Delia (1869), Tomasa Gertrude (1875), and Elizabeth Jane (1882), survived to adulthood. Five daughters, Josephine (c.1861), Eloisa (1864), Rosa (1866), Maria Eloisa (1872), and Salome (1874) died in early childhood of disease. Daughter Julia Manuela (1878) was killed at Apache Springs Ranch at one year of age by a lightning strike while in her mother’s arms. Gertrude was injured by the strike, but recovered.
During the 1860’s and 70’s, more than 100 people were killed by the Apache along the 15 mile stretch of the Sonoita Creek, in what later became known historically as the “Apache Wars” (see below). According to Tom’s daughter Mary, she recalls her mother making bullets while her father shot his rifle from holes incorporated into the corners of the home (loopholes); a necessary home design feature at the time.
In 1861, at the very beginning of the Apache Wars, Tom Gardner had an encounter with Cochise while on a supply trip to Tucson. He was shot through the chest and lung and managed to roll into a thicket with a weapon and defend himself against his attackers while his riding companion managed to escape to get help back at the ranch.
An article in an 1888 issue of the Philadelphia Times described Gardner as follows: “He can neither read nor write, but he is well informed on all current topics, and is sharp and shrewd on any type of trade. He is a tall, heavily built man, with long iron-gray hair and grizzled beard. His whole appearance betokens a robust constitution, and people in the mountains say that, notwithstanding his age, in a rough and tumble fight, he can whip any man for miles around. He is known far and wide for his sterling integrity and when Arizona eventually takes its stand among the other states of the union, his name will rank among the foremost pioneers.”
According to historical records, when asked by a member of the Pennington family why he continued to live in such a dangerous area during those times, he responded: “Well, you see, there was lively minin’ then, lively hoss racin’ and lively fightin’ — everything was lively.”

Lieutenant George Bascom

However, the above summary on Tom Gardner doesn’t adequately convey the danger and excitement that defined this area for the years following Gardner’s arrival in 1859 until the end of the Apache Wars which was marked by the final surrender of Geronimo in 1886. Cochise was a major figure of this time, respected by all Apache and most Americans, chief of a large band of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Although Geronimo’s name may be better known today, Cochise was possibly the most famous of all Apache chiefs and most historians agree that he demonstrated honesty, directness, extreme courage and fortitude, throughout his impressive life.
The Apache Wars really got started, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of deaths during the 1860’s, following an infamous altercation between the Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise and Lieutenant George Bascom at Apache Pass in January, 1861.
A Coyotaros Apache party (a band not associated with Cochise) raided the Sonoita Creek ranch of John Ward while he was away, stealing several livestock and kidnapping Ward’s 12 year old stepson, Felix Ward, previously Felix Tellez. A historical monument can be seen a few miles down the road from Apache Springs Ranch, off Highway 82 on the way to Patagonia, marking the spot where this raid occurred.
As an aside, the identity of Felix’s biological father is unclear, with some claiming that he was an Apache brave who had taken Felix’s mother (Jesusa Martinez) for his wife during a period while she was being held captive. Others claim that his father was Santiago Tellez, who was reportedly part Irish. Either way, what is not in dispute is that in 1859, now widowed, Jesusa and her two children- Felix and half-sister Teodora, met and moved in with John Ward, an Irishman who had migrated to Arizona and started a ranch. At the time of the kidnapping, Jesusa was 30 years old and John Ward was 54. After getting together, John Ward and Jesusa had 5 additional children before his death in 1867.
Felix never returned to the Wards after the kidnapping, but was adopted and raised as “Mickey Free” by a White Mountain Apache named Nayundiie. Free became an Apache warrior and later became a bounty hunter and scout in the U.S. Cavalry, eventually being promoted to First Sergeant. In his time as a bounty hunter, Free tracked the Apache Kid, also a former Cavalry scout, who had a $15,000 reward on his head.
But let’s return to the main story. Three months after the boy’s kidnapping, Bascom took a detail in search of the boy, travelling East, in the wrong direction from the boy’s actual location north of Tucson. Accompanying the detail was the boy’s stepfather, John Ward.
Cochise, accompanied by his half-brother Coyuntwa, two nephews, two women and a boy, entered Bascom’s camp, which was the Apache custom, to greet visitors. Mr. Ward immediately told Lieut. Bascom that Cochise was present in the camp, and pointed him out. Historical records from the time indicate that John Ward was convinced that Cochise had kidnapped the boy and stolen his livestock and had provided this view to Bascom.

Mickey Free

Bascom invited Cochise and his accompanying party into his tent at Apache Pass for a talk. When inside, Bascom confronted Cochise and demanded the return of the boy and the stock. Cochise replied that he did not have them. Bascom again demanded their return and Cochise again replied that he did not have them. Cochise then went on to say that if given time, he would find out who had taken them, secure them from the raiders and return them to Bascom.
Bascom replied no, demanded their immediate return and told Cochise that he and his party would be held as hostages until the return of the boy and the stock. Prior to this, the soldiers had been instructed to surround Bascom’s tent, with arms at the ready and bayonets fixed. Cochise, then produced a knife, slashed the side of the tent to create an exit and ran up the hill, amid a volley of rifle fire from the surprised soldiers. Cochise escaped unharmed, but the rest of his party was captured. It is not certain but there are reports that at this time one of the other male Indians was wounded with a bayonet.
The situation continued to deteriorate. Due to miscommunication, mistrust and mistakes on both sides, more skirmishes, raids and deaths occurred, culminating in the army’s decision to hang Cochise’s half-brother and two nephews about a mile from the station. The bodies remained hanging in the trees for a number of months.
The moment when Cochise discovered his brother and nephews dead has been called the moment when the Indians (the Chiricahua in particular) transferred their hatred of the Mexicans to the Americans. Cochise’s revenge in the form of numerous raids and murders was the beginning of the 25-year-long Apache Wars.
Despite extensive efforts by the U.S. Army and numerous battles, Cochise managed to evade capture and continued his raids against white settlements and travelers until 1872. A treaty was finally negotiated by General Oliver Howard with the help of Tom Jeffords, who was Cochise’s only white friend.
After making peace, Cochise remained primarily in his natural fortress in the Dragoon Mountains, where he died of natural causes (probably abdominal cancer) in 1874. He was buried in the rocks above one of his favorite camps in Arizona’s Dragoon Mountains, now called Cochise Stronghold. Only his people and Tom Jeffords knew the exact location of his resting place, and they took the secret to their graves.


Geronimo was born in Southern Arizona and roamed these areas, no doubt stopping from time-to-time at Apache Spring from which the ranch derived its’ name, for refreshment for he and his fellow warriors and their horses. While not a chief, Geronimo grew to become a prominent warrior leader of some of the Bedonkohe Apache who fought primarily against Mexico, but also Texas, due to their expansion into Apache tribal lands. Geronimo travelled over wide areas of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the northern regions of Mexico. After the murder of his first wife, elderly mother and 3 children by the Mexican army (see Geronimo’s first-hand account below), Geronimo swore a life of vengeance against Mexico and in this he was good to his word. After the death of his family, Geronimo’s chief, Mangas Coloradas, sent him to Cochise’s band seeking help to conduct revenge attacks against the Mexicans. Geronimo became a friend of Cochise, married one of his nieces and the two often conducted raids and warfare (two different activities) in cooperation. Following Cochise’s death in 1874, when the U.S. government immediately stepped up its’ efforts to move the remaining Apache people from their native lands to the San Carlos reservation and other reservations, Geronimo proved to be a thorn in their side, escaping twice from the reservation and making war upon the soldiers and settlers until his final surrender in 1886. His band of 38 men, women and children was one of the last major forces of independent Native American warriors who refused to accept the United States occupation of the American West. It was his final decade of unwavering determination and resistance against impossible odds in the face of almost unbelievable physical hardship that so completely captured the imagination of the American public, to this day. When Geronimo surrendered in 1886, He was in his late 50’s. He lived the final 23 years of his life as a prisoner-of-war and died at the age of 80.

Insight into Geronimo (from “Geronimo’s Story of his Life” published in 1906)

“After my father’s death I assumed the care of my mother. She never married again, although according to the customs of our tribe she might have done so immediately after his death. Usually, however, the widow who has children remains single after her husband’s death for two or three years; but the widow without children marries again immediately. After a warrior’s death his widow returns to her people and may be given away or sold by her father or brothers. My mother chose to live with me, and she never desired to marry again. We lived near our old home and I supported her”. “In 1846, being seventeen years of age, I was admitted to the council of the warriors. Then I was very happy, for I could go wherever I wanted and do whatever I liked. I had not been under the control of any individual, but the customs of our tribe prohibited me from sharing the glories of the warpath until the council admitted me. When opportunity offered, after this, I could go on the warpath with my tribe. This would be glorious. I hoped soon to serve my people in battle. I had long desired to fight with our warriors”. “Perhaps the greatest joy to me was that now I could marry the fair Alope, daughter of No-po-so. She was a slender, delicate girl, but we had been lovers for a long time. So, as soon as the council granted me these privileges I went to see her father concerning our marriage. Perhaps our love was of no interest to him; perhaps he wanted to keep Alope with him, for she was a dutiful daughter; at any rate he asked many ponies for her. I made no reply, but in a few days appeared before his wigwam with the herd of ponies and took with me Alope. This was all the marriage ceremony necessary in our tribe”. “Not far from my mother’s tepee I had made for us a new home. The tepee was made of buffalo hides and in it were many bear robes, lion hides, and other trophies of the chase, as well as my spears, bows, and arrows. Alope had made many little decorations of beads and drawn work on buckskin, which she placed in our tepee. She also drew many pictures on the walls of our home. She was a good wife, but she was never strong. We followed the traditions of our fathers and were happy. Three children came to us – children that played, loitered, and worked as I had done”. “In the summer of 1858, being at peace with the Mexican towns as well as with all the neighboring Indian tribes, we went south into Old Mexico to trade. Our whole tribe (Bedonkohe Apaches) went through Sonora toward Casa Grande, our destination, but just before reaching that place we stopped at another Mexican town called by the Indians “Kas-ki-yeh.” Here we stayed for several days, camping just outside the city. Every day we would go into town to trade, leaving our camp under the protection of a small guard so that our arms, supplies, and women and children would not be disturbed during our absence”. “Late one afternoon when returning from town we were met by a few women and children who told us that Mexican troops from some other town had attacked our camp, killed all the warriors of the guard, captured all our ponies, secured our arms, destroyed our supplies, and killed many of our women and children. Quickly we separated, concealing ourselves as best we could until nightfall, when we assembled at our appointed place of rendezvous—a thicket by the river. Silently we stole in one by one: sentinels were placed, and, when all were counted, I found that my aged mother, my young wife, and my three small children were among the slain. There were no lights in camp, so without being noticed I silently turned away and stood by the river. How long I stood there I do not know, but when I saw the warriors arranging for a council I took my place’. “That night I did not give my vote for or against any measure; but it was decided that as there were only eighty warriors left, and as we were without arms or supplies, and were furthermore surrounded by the Mexicans far inside their own territory, we could not hope to fight successfully. So our chief, Mangus-Colorado, gave the order to start at once in perfect silence for our homes in Arizona, leaving the dead upon the field”. “I stood until all had passed, hardly knowing what I would do—I had no weapon, nor did I hardly wish to fight, neither did I contemplate recovering the bodies of my loved ones, for that was forbidden. I did not pray, nor did I resolve to do anything in particular, for I had no purpose left. I finally followed the tribe silently, keeping just within hearing distance of the soft noise of the feet of the retreating Apaches”. “The next morning some of the Indians killed a small amount of game and we halted long enough for the tribe to cook and eat, when the march was resumed. I had killed no game, and did not eat. During the first march as well as while we were camped at this place I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me – there was nothing to say”. “For two days and three nights we were on forced marches, stopping only for meals, then we made a camp near the Mexican border, where we rested two days. Here I took some food and talked with the other Indians who had lost in the massacre, but none had lost as I had, for I had lost all”. “Within a few days we arrived at our own settlement. There were the decorations that Alope had made—and there were the playthings of our little ones. I burned them all, even our tepee. I also burned my mother’s tepee and destroyed all her property”. “I was never again contented in our quiet home. True, I could visit my father’s grave, but I had vowed vengeance upon the Mexican troopers who had wronged me, and whenever I came near his grave or saw anything to remind me of former happy days my heart would ache for revenge upon Mexico”.

Mangas Coloradas
Brigadier General West


Mangas Coloradas was a massive (6’6” tall) and accomplished warrior and Bedonkohe chief, but was better known for calm, deliberate thought, a trusting nature and absolute honesty. He was also Cochise’s father-in-law and the two maintained a very close relationship throughout their lives. For most of his life, Mangas focussed his attention on raiding and making war with the Mexicans, who had established a reputation amongst his tribe for treachery and cruelty.
Initially, Mangas was not unhappy with the arrival of the Americans, as they were the enemy of his enemy. However, the advent of mining in the Apache lands brought along a breed of man that the Apache could not tolerate and it led to numerous conflicts between the Apache and miners. Following the Bascom affair, Cochise and Mangas struck an alliance to drive the Americans out of Apache territory. They were joined in their alliance by Victorio, Juh and Geronimo. Although the goal was never achieved, they appeared to be having success following the beginning of the Civil war in 1861, as federal troops were withdrawn to the East and the white population diminished due to departures and deaths resulting from a lack of protection.
In the summer of 1862, after recovering from a bullet wound in the chest, Mangas met with an intermediary to call for peace. In previous discussions with his contemporaries Cochise, Geronimo, Victorio and Juh, Mangas displayed more respect and faith in the Americans and was frequently counselled by the others not to be so trusting. As a result, the other chiefs did not accompany Mangas on his peace mission. In January, 1863, Mangas arrived at Fort McLane under a flag of truce, to meet with Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West. Instead, armed soldiers took Mangas into custody. According to historical accounts, West provided a verbal execution order to the sentries. That night, Mangas was tortured, shot and killed “trying to escape”. While tied on the ground, Mangas was provoked with red hot bayonets until he moved to simulate his attempt to escape.
When word of the fate of beloved his father-in-law got back to Cochise, as well as to Geronimo, Victorio and Juh, it hardened their resolve for vengeance and led to many more raids and deaths of settlers and soldiers, during the years which followed.


Victorio was a famous warrior and chief of the Warm Springs band of the Chihenne (Warm Springs) Apache tribe. Like Cochise, he rode with Mangas Coloradas during his twenties and also married one of Mangas’s daughters.
After a lifetime of fighting the Mexican army, Victorio turned his attention to the U.S. army following the Bascom affair and although he surrendered in 1870, he and his band were placed on at least 3 different reservations, despite his band’s request to live on traditional lands. Influenced by Geronimo, Victorio left the San Carlos reservation for the final time in August of 1879, which started “Victorio’s War”. Victorio was successful at raiding and evading capture by the military and won a major engagement with the military at Las Animas Canyon in September, 1879. He and his band continued raiding and killing and generally wreaking havoc in Arizona and New Mexico over the next year.
In October 1880, while moving along the Rio Grande in northern Mexico, Victorio and his band were surrounded and killed by soldiers of the Mexican Army in the Tres Castillos Mountains in the state of Chihuahua.


Lozen was the sister of Victorio and was a fearsome and highly-skilled Apache warrior. It was very rare to have a woman become a full-fledged warrior, but Lozen’s strength, speed, skill with a bow and riding ability, were legendary. A quote attributed to Victorio stated “Lozen is my right hand…strong as a man, braver than most and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.” The reference to shield was used more than once and alluded to Lozen’s alleged ability to prophesize the movements of their enemies.
Lozen rode by her brother’s side when he left the San Carlos reservation and embarked on a year-long rampage against Americans who had appropriated their homeland. As the band fled American forces, Lozen inspired women and children, frozen in fear, to cross the surging Rio Grande. “I saw a magnificent woman on a beautiful horse – Lozen, sister of Victorio. Lozen the woman warrior!”, remembers James Kaywaykla, a child at the time, riding behind his grandmother. “High above her head she held her rifle. There was a glitter as her right foot lifted and struck the shoulder of her horse. He reared, then plunged into the torrent. She turned his head upstream and he began swimming.” Immediately, the other women and the children followed her into the torrent. When they reached the far bank of the river, cold and wet but alive, Lozen came to Kaywaykla’s grandmother and said “You take charge now. I must return to the warriors”, who stood between their women and children and the onrushing cavalry. Lozen drove her horse back across the wild river and returned to her comrades.


Also known as Whoa, Juh was a leader of the Janeros local group of the Chiricahua Apache. Prior to the 1870’s, Juh was unknown in the areas controlled by the United States. He lived primarily in the remote wilderness of the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Like the other chiefs, his focus was upon Mexico prior to the Bascom affair and he rode with Mangas Coloradas, Cochise and was particularly close to Geronimo. Juh was a large man at over 6 ft. tall and 225 pounds. He was a natural leader but had a severe stuttering affliction and often relied upon Geronimo to act as a conduit for Juh’s words. He married Geronimo’s sister Ishton and had three sons with her.
Historians believe that Juh planned and executed an 1871 attack in which Lt. Howard Bass Cushing was killed in the nearby Whetstone Mountains northeast of the Apache Springs Ranch. A noted U.S. Army Indian fighter, Cushing had made disparaging comments about Cochise that had offended the Apaches and he relentlessly pursued Cochise around southern Arizona. As a result, Cushing became the object of Juh’s attention and he drew Cushing into an ambush and battle which was intended to teach the U.S. Army a lesson. It worked.


Nana married both a sister of Geronimo and a sister of Victorio and was the elder statesman of his contemporaries mentioned above.
Nana and about 30 warriors had avoided the same Mexican army that surrounded and killed Victorio in 1880 and although Nana was near 80 years old at this point, he continued to lead a war party against Army supply trains and isolated settlers.
In less than a month, Nana fought 8 battles, killing 30-40 Americans, at least as many Mexicans, captured about 200 horses to replace the 100 ridden to death and then fled back to Mexico. He escaped the tracking efforts of more than 1000 soldiers, not counting the three to four hundred militia volunteers and Indian scouts.
He was later kidnapped and killed by a pair of adventurers from El Paso, seeking the treasure accumulated by Nana and Victorio from their years of raiding. Three of the Apache trackers that had been working for the U.S. Army in tracking Nana, went on to El Paso to find the adventurers and avenge the old chief.


Naiche was the final hereditary chief of the Chiricahua Apache. He was the youngest son of Cochise and his wife Dos-the-she, who was the daughter of Mangas Coloradas.
In 1880, Naiche travelled to Mexico with Geronimo’s band, to avoid forced relocation to the San Carlos reservation and carried out years of raiding and making war. They surrendered in 1883 but escaped in 1885 until their final surrender in 1886.
Naiche was a tall, fine-boned handsome man with the reputation for being the finest Indian artist of that period. He painted his pictures on deerskin in color. His subjects were flowers, deer, other wild animals, turkey and various objects of nature found here, as he saw them.
He died in the Mescalero reservation in 1919.