Tigua Scouts as Texas Rangers
Tigua Scouts as Texas Rangers
Until the arrival of George Wythe Baylor in Ysleta in the spring of 1879, the Ysleta Indians had a negative image of the Texas Rangers. During the Salt War (1877-78), the Tigua opposed the privatization of the Guadalupe Salt Beds, which they regarded as tribal lands. In that incident, a group of ruffians under command of Captain John Tays of the Texas Rangers killed (shot in the back) Santiago Durán and arrested Andrés Colmenero, another tribal member (U.S. Government 1878:89, Sonnichsen 1961:58). Tays’ brother, Joseph Wilkin Tays, several years earlier (1873-74), had surveyed the Ysleta Grant (El Paso County Records, Tays Survey 1873) for the non-Indians who had created the town’s second incorporation, which represented an attempt to fraudulently, acquire the tribal grant.
"Colonel George Baylor, Texas Ranger"
Courtesy of the University of Oklahoma Library
Baylor was already a veteran frontiersman when he arrived in Ysleta to assume command of Company A, Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers. He knew how important experienced Indian trackers were to the success of a military campaign. He probably became acquainted with the Pueblo Scouts who, at the time, served the U.S. Army. Baylor’s residence, which was also the Texas Ranger post, was located within the Indian Pueblo, two blocks from the mission. He soon developed a close relationship with the Tigua Indians, which was a result of a shared trust and Baylor’s ability to speak Spanish (El Paso Herald, March 28, 1893:1:7).
George Baylor stated that he had many Tigua scouts under his command. “I had thirty-three Pueblo Indians from Ysleta with me under their own captain [war captain], Mariano Culmanaris [Sic. Colmenero], and pushed on as well as we could…” (Baylor, Frontier Times, Aug. 1915:12-13). The army and the rangers respected the Tigua tradition that the war captain led in battle his subordinate captains and other tribal warriors.
This researcher has identified only four Indian scouts that are documented in the Texas Ranger records: (1) Toribio Pedraza, (2) Domingo Olguín, (3) Bernardo Olguín and (4) Aniceto Durán (Texas Library and Archives, Texas Adjutant General Records). The enlistment records of the other 29 Tigua scouts have not been located. This investigator identified forty-one scouts or guides, who served the U.S. Army or Texas Rangers. Future research will undoubtedly yield the names of many more.
Baylor gave the following description of the scouts’ alert tracking skills: “The Pueblos rode ahead a quarter of a mile, and often were strung up to the highest pitch. Every coyote, antelope or moving thing seen was eagerly scanned” (El Paso Herald, August 1, 1900:6).
Former Tigua Scout & Tribal Leader
Courtesy of Rio Grande Collection
New Mexico State University
Sergeant Gillett, who also served under Baylor’s command, wrote the following introduction about the tribe and the role of Tigua scouts:
“A tribe of Pueblo Indians has lived at the old town of Ysleta, El Paso County, for more than three hundred years. They have always been friends with the Americans and inveterate enemies of the Apaches. It was customary, therefore, for the United States troops at Fort Davis to employ the Pueblos as guides during the Indian disturbance” (Gillett 1927:175).
Gillett stated following on the trailing abilities of the Tigua scouts:
“By stooping down with their faces close to the ground, the Pueblos got the trail leading north along the crest of the mountains. Soon the Indian guides said in low voices, ‘Hay los Indios,’ and Captain Baylor perceived the Apaches’ campfires not only a mile distant” (Gillett 1927:181).
George Baylor gave the following account of the fight with the Apaches, which took place on the eastern slope of the Diablo Mountains that faced the Guadalupe Salt Lakes.
“Following the trail, we came to a wide gravelly stream that came from the mountains to our right, and the trail led to the west, but when we struck the creek bed we found a fresh trail going east of some fourteen unshod ponies and knew in reason that they were the game we were after, and we followed the fresh signs. We had with us old Bernardo Olguin, Domingo Olguin, his son, and Aneseto [Aniceto] Duran, a nephew of the old Pueblo chief” (El Paso Herald, Aug. 15, 1900:7).
“The three pueblos had a score to settle with these same Apaches, as Simon Olguin, a brother of Bernardo and noted guide for the United States Army, was killed at Ojo Viejo when a company of Pueblos under a Lieutenant Bell was ambushed, or rather surprised, in a camp that Simon Olguin begged the Lieutenant not to stop at, but to go back to our trail” (El Paso Herald, Aug. 15, 1900:7).
Twenty years later, Baylor wrote an account of that last battle with Apaches, which included the following recollection of a fellow ranger, L.N. Caruthers about the battle of Sierra Diablo:
“On looking over my old papers I found my guard list for one scout to the Sierra Diablo Mountains in January 1881. We left camp in Monja Canyon of January 21, under command of Lieutenant C.L. Nevill, namely Sergeant L.B. Caruthers, Corporal Sam Graham and Private L.B. Jarnett, F.W. De Jarnette, W.H. Gyse, Ike Lee, R.L. Nevill, W.H. Roberts, and Shape Rogers, making ten men, rank and file. Besides these there were rangers as follows: Capt. G.W. Baylor, Corporal Nat Harrison, Privates Brown, Beaumont, Connedy, Palmer, Paveler. L. Wells, Tandy, Walde, Bernardo Olguin, Domingo Olguin, and Aneseto Duran, making fifteen men, rank and file” (El Paso Herald, Aug. 15, 1900:7).
Baylor depended upon Simón Olguín, tribal war captain, who led the Tigua scouts until his death at Sierra Viejo in June 1880 (U.S. National Archives, U.S. Army, Enrollment List). Later, Captain Baylor paid the following tribute to Simón’s brother, Bernardo Holguín, tribal cacique, who served as scout under his command. He was fondly remembered for his bravery and service in the following article in the El Paso Herald:
“Bernardo had for a long while been acting as scout and trailer for the United States troops, was familiar with the whole country, and brave, sober and reliable, and could read wood signs like a book. The old fellow is dead, and it is only a question of time when the Tiguas who settled Ysleta will be a name only, as the Sinecus [sic. Senecú], their one time powerful neighbors are. Domingo, his son, a bright, intelligent young fellow, is also dead. Aneseto was alive a year ago” (El Paso Herald, Aug. 15, 1900:7).
A local newspaper, upon reporting the death of Bernardo, noted that George Baylor “will make honorable mention of him [Bernardo] in his next report” (Lone Star, April 11, 1883, page 3, col. 2).
"Sostenes Gonzáles" c. 1920
Former Tigua Scout with U.S. Army &
Texas Rangers, at the age of 27 he recieved
an honorable discharge from Fort Quitman
in September 1880. Coutesy of the Arizona State Museum
James Gillett wrote the following description of Bernardo and Simón Olguín:
“In 1881 [sic. 1880] Bernardo and Simón Olgin [sic], two brothers, were the principal chiefs of this tribe. Bernardo was the elder and looked it. Both chiefs dressed in the usual Indian fashion, wore moccasins and buckskin leggins [leggings sic], and had their long black hair braided and hanging down the back” (Gillett 1927:175).
During his visit to Ysleta on December 27, 1882, the Dutch ethnologist, H.F.C. Ten Kate, interviewed Bernardo Olguín and purchased some of his war paraphernalia, which today is stored in the Leiden museum (See: Section 1, Ten Kate, concerning war shield and war cap of Bernardo Olguín).
Tigua scouts fought the last Indian battle in the State of Texas. On January 29, 1881, they accompanied Captain George Baylor and Lieutenant Nevill of the Texas Rangers in pursuit of hostile Apaches in the area of the Sierra Diablo Mountains. Captain Gillett wrote the following about the trailing skills of the Pueblo scouts:
“There was some difficulty in picking up the trail, though Captain Baylor, Lieutenant Nevill, and the Pueblos had been up the evening before spying out the land. By stooping down with their faces close to the ground the Pueblos got to the trail, which led north along the crest of the mountains. Soon the guides said in low voices: ‘Hay estan los Indios,’ and Captain Baylor perceived their campfire not over a half a mile distant” (Gillett 1963:207; El Paso Herald, Aug. 13, 1900:7; Dec. 4, 1909:17; Webb 1935).
The Texas Rangers and the Tigua scouts continued the chase into the Diablo Mountains where Baylor decided that his force should abandon their horses, which they left with a guard. They set out on foot and stealthily crept up the crest of the mountain toward the Apache camp in an attempt to avoid detection. The command split into two groups on either side of the hill. At sunrise, they approached within one hundred yards of the enemy camp whereupon the soldiers and scouts fired upon the unsuspecting inhabitants.
"Apache Captives, El Paso Stop Over" 1886
Geronimo's band in route to military incarceration in Florida.
Just days before this picture was taken they were escorted from
Fort Bowie to the railroad crossing. Geronimo's surrender
in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona ended the last Apache upraising in
the Southwest. Lozen, Apache warrior and medicine woman, is
the 3rd person from the back row (right).
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution
The Apaches were immediately defeated. Many were killed and some were taken captive. A few escaped on foot in different directions, leaving bloody tracks. The rangers pursued and killed those who refused to surrender. The few that escaped sustained serious injuries. Some years later, human bones were discovered in the area, which were believed to have been the remains of the mortally wounded Apaches who had eluded their trackers.
After the victory, the rangers returned through Apache Tanks and later reached Eagle Station, where they split into two groups – one party traveled to Fort Davis with the captives, while the second advanced to Ysleta with the Tigua scouts (Dolan Papers, El Paso Public Library, letters of Feb. 6 & 7, 1881, from C.L. Nevill to Gen. J.B. Jones). The Tigua scouts returned to Ysleta on February 6, 1881 (El Paso Herald, Aug. 15, 1900:7; Baylor, Frontier Times, Aug. 1925:12).
Gillett gave the following description of the return of the Tigua warriors, which included a rigorous four-day cleansing ceremony.
“On their return from the battle of the Diablos, Captain Baylor’s Pueblo Indian scouts suddenly halted about a mile from Ysleta, unsaddled and unbridled their tired little ponies, and went into camp. This was their custom after a successful campaign against their Apache enemies, so that their comrades might come out and do honor to the returning heroes. For three days and nights a feast and a scalp dance were held by the whole of the Pueblo tribe of Ysleta. They feasted, wined, and dined their returning warriors, and invited the rangers to the festivities. This celebration was the last scalp dance the Pueblo Indians ever had, for the destruction of the Apaches in the Diablos exterminated the wild Indians and there were no more of them to scalp” (Gillett 1963:200).
In the fall of 1881, Sergeant James B. Gillett and several Tigua scouts made a reconnaissance of the El Paso area, including Hueco Tanks. About the same time, a larger force of Texas Rangers with Pueblo Indians accompanied a survey party on the boundary line between Pecos and Presidio counties (Lone Star, Nov. 16, 1881:3:3; Nov. 30, 1881:2; Jan. 25, 1882:1:5). The year before, Texas Rangers and Tigua scouts protected A.B. Wingo, El Paso County surveyor, who conducted the School Lands Survey in the Hueco Tanks area (Texas State Library and Archives, Baylor post return, June 30, 1880). Between December 1878 and February 1879, Tigua scouts protected the Texas and Pacific Railroad survey team that was conducted by Jacob Kuechler, former head of the State Land Office (Bowden 1975; Chinn 1967; El Paso Times, April 12, 1883:1).
From 1880 to 1881, Tigua scouts served the rangers in west Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Chihuahua against hostile Apaches. Frequently they left the state’s boundary in pursuit of raiding Indians and bandits. It was not uncommon for a reconnaissance to last a week and to traverse several hundred miles on horseback.
In 1881, after the end of the Apache threat the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army no longer employed Tigua scouts. Some former Tigua scouts occasionally were consulted as experienced trackers in criminal investigations. In 1892, the former scout, Toribio Pedraza, helped reconstruct the scene of a homicide in Ysleta (El Paso Times, July 17, 1892:7). After the Apache campaigns, the Texas Rangers controlled border smuggling, cattle rustling, and banditry. In 1910, with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army defended the U.S. boundary between El Paso and Presidio.
(Left to Right) Three Tigua Scouts: Sostenos Gonzáles, Manuel Ortega and
Francisco Gonzáles with Eugen Van Patten (principal founder of Tortugas
Indian Pueblo, Las Cruces, NM.
Courtesy of Rio Grande Collection, New Mexico State University