History of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
Travel Down the Mission Trail
Scholars' Bookshelf
Missions Bibliography
Ysleta Bibliography
Roster of El Paso Area Tribal Leaders
Native American Water Use Chronology
Tigua Military History
Hueco Tanks Battle  
Tigua Scouts  
Last Apache Battles in Texas
Tigua Scouts as Texas Rangers  
Texas Ranger Station at Ysleta  
Tigua Contributions  
Texas Ranger Commander  
Early Accounts & Bibliography
Tigua Participation at Texas State Fair
Travel Links & More
Ysleta Land Grant Chronology
Acknowledgments / Resources
Last Apache Battles in Texas

Last Apache Battles in Texas

In 1880 and 1881, Tigua scouts participated in the last battles with Apaches in the State of Texas. In June 1880, a small Apache band broke away from Victorio’s party prior to General Terrazas’ victory at Tres Castillos in Mexico, and traveled north to the Rio Grande and into Texas. The band of twenty warriors, including four women and four children, crossed the river and advanced toward the hills.

Nearby, Lieutenant Bell with a detachment of buffalo soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry and Tigua scouts, made a reconnaissance of the region in response to frequent attacks by Victorio, the Warm Springs Apache. Sergeant Simón Olguín, Tigua Tribal War Captain and veteran scout, rode with his three brothers, Bernardo, Ponciano, and Francisco, and his, nephew, Domingo. In the early evening of June 10, 1880, the group arrived at Paso Viejo, a small pass between the mountains that parallels the Rio Grande from the Eagle Mountains on the west, about twelve miles west of present day Valentine, Texas.

"Three Apache Scouts" c. 1880
Belvodo, Nakéss, Shortnin' Bread
Courtesy of Arizona Pinoeer Historical Society

About the same time, Lieutenant Bell ordered that camp be made at this location and that an evening meal be prepared. After supper, Simón warned the lieutenant that they should relocate to a safer position in the open plains, some three or four miles north of the pass. He noted that Paso Viejo was a favorite Apache campsite because it was close to the Rio Grande where they crossed the river to raid Mexican and American settlements of either side of the international boundary. He added that the Apache preferred to camp at the rocky defile because of the location had ample pasturage and spring water. Simón cautioned Bell, that if the Apaches arrived at the pass during the night and discovered the nearby soldiers, that they would probably make a surprise attack at sunrise, which would result in the killing of some of the detachment.

"James B. Gillett" Sergeant of  the Texas Rangers
Courtesy of the University of Oklahoma Library

Captain James B. Gillett of the Texas Rangers, recorded the battle that took place the next morning:

Lieutenant Bell, fresh from West Point, replied that he was not afraid of Indians and did not propose to move. During the night the little band of twenty Apaches reached the pass, just as Olgin [sic] had prophesied, and hid themselves in the rocks. The next morning the soldiers had breakfast, packed their mules, and were standing by their horses ready for the order to mount, when a sudden fusillade of bullets was fired into their midst at short range. Other volleys came in quick succession. At the very first volley that grand old Indian, Simon Olgin, was killed, as were five or six of the Negro cavalry. The remainder of the soldiers thereupon fled, but the four Pueblo Scouts took to the rocks and fought until they had routed the Apaches and saved the bodies of their uncle and the soldiers from falling into the hands of the attackers to be mutilated” (Gillett, 1963:199-200).

"Paso Viejo Battle Site"  June 11, 1880
Photo July 1966 by N.P. Houser

The soldiers quickly deserted the battle scene, while the four Tigua scouts defended the body of their war captain and repulsed the Apaches. The enemy hastily traveled to Bass Canyon, a gap in the mountains on the Overland Stage Road, some twelve to fourteen miles west of Van Horn, Texas. There, they ambushed an emigrant train traveling to New Mexico. A member of the party, Mrs. Graham was walking along the wagon. Upon seeing the attack, she jumped on the wagon tongue to retrieve a Winchester rifle, but was immediately shot to death. Her husband was wounded in the thigh. Mr. Grant, another member of that train was killed (Crimmins 1950:116).

"Paso Viejo Battle Site" June 11, 1880
In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission placed the
commemorative marker at the battle site which recognized the
courageous action by the Tigua warriors including their fallen
War Captain, Simón Olguín.
Photos by N.P. Houser, July 1966

A short time later, at Ojo Caliente, located southwest of the Eagle Mountains, the same Apaches attacked and killed several soldiers, including Simón’s brother, Francisco (U.S. Government 1880:160; U.S. Government, National Archives, Record Group No. 94, Enlistment Register). They then attacked the stage at Quitman Canyon and killed the driver, Morgan, and his passenger (Gillett 1963:200).

"Map of West Texas - 1881"
by Capt. William Roscoe Livermore U.S. Army
Courtesy of University of Delaware

The U.S. Army enlistment register recorded that the five Olguín family members – Simon, Bernardo, Francisco, Domingo and Ponciano, respective ages: 45, 50, 21, 25, and 34, enlisted at Fort Bliss on March 22, 1880 for a six-month period by Sergeant Woodward. They were listed as farmers from Ysletta [sic]. They shared a common physical description - black eyes and hair and had a yellow completion. They were of moderate height - Simón was 5’4”, Bernardo 5’6”, Francisco 5’6”, Domingo as 5’7” and Ponciano 5’6”.

The register stated that Simón was “Killed June 11, 1880 by Indians at Ojo Velgo TX” [sic. Paso Viejo], and that Francisco was “killed July 29, 1880 at Ojo Caliente”. Bernardo was discharged at Fort Quitman on Sept. 22, 1880, as a sergeant, and his surviving brother, Ponciano, and son, Domingo, were discharged as privates at the same location Quitman (U.S. Government, National Archives, Record Group No. 94, Army Enlistment Register; U.S. Government 1880:149). Three months before the fight, a Las Cruces Newspaper reported the following about the increased frequency of Apache raids in southern New Mexico and the enlistment of Tigua Indians: “Ten more murders in four days. Militia Company without supplies. The Hillsboro Mail Rider returned for Colorado this morning driven back by Indians. Pueblo Indians are being enlisted in US Army at El Paso” (Thirty-Four, March 24, 1880, P. 1).

"Mariano Colminero, Ysleta, TX, Native of the Soil"
May 26, 1918 (Scout and Tribal Leader)
Courtesy of the El Paso Public Library, the Aultman Collection

In 1966, Juanita Carbajal, who was nearly a hundred years old, recalled that Simón Olguín had been killed at Ojo Viejo by Apaches, when he was serving as a scout for the Negro Troops [Tenth Cavalry, Buffalo Soldiers]. She said, that although just a girl at the time, she remembered seeing the surviving Tigua scouts return with the deceased war captain tied to his horse. His body was returned on June 13th, the tribal feast day of San Antonio (Houser interview, 1966). In 1936, the State of Texas, in honor of the state’s centenary, placed a bronze plaque at the Sierra Viejo site (located on the former Clay Miller Ranch), to commemorate the battle in which Simón Olguín and five Buffalo Soldiers had been killed (Shipman Collection, El Paso Public Library).

"Ramona Paíz" c. 1917
Standing with her uncle's mule and Winchester Rifle.
Photo by Father Juan of the Ysleta Mission
Courtesy of the Arizona State Museum