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John P. Clum

John P. Clum

If the government of the United States had paid heed to a 25 year old Indian Agent, John Clum, and hanged the murderer, Geronimo, when Clum captured the wily Apache, and delivered him into their hands, 500 human lives and $12,000,004 would not have been forfeited, and the Apache Wars would have ended in 1877 - not 1886.

John Philip Clum was born to William Henry and Elizabeth Clum on September 1, 1851, in New York. When old enough John entered the Hudson River Institute and in 1870 gained entrance to Rutgers College. It was here that he played in the first intercollegiate football game between Rutgers and Princeton. Extremely short of funds, he was forced to drop out of college to seek employment after the first year. Shortly after his twentieth birthday, he was employed by the weather department, and in October, 1871, he headed west to Santa Fe.

In November, 1873, Clum received an official letter from the Indian Bureau in Washington. It seemed that the Apaches at the San Carlos Reservation had been turned over to the Dutch Reformed Church. John Clum was a member of that church and his classmates at Rutgers, knowing that he was in New Mexico, had volunteered him for the job of Indian agent.

Inquiry revealed that the last three agents had not been very successful. Johnny Logan had been stabbed to death by a renegade; Almy had been murdered in a like manner; and the last agent had been shot at so often he resigned his job and went back East.

The position appealed to John Clum, and, though but 22 years of age, he accepted the responsibility of several hundred savage Apaches. The President issued his commission on February 27, 1874. As Clum began to assimilate information concerning the government and the Apaches, he was astounded to discover that the Indian had kept his word more often than the white man.

Logically, he reasoned that the Apache had roamed the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico for over a thousand years. When Gadsden bought it for the government, he purchased it from people who did not really own it. Spain, Mexico, the United States, or any country had no authority to buy or sell land over which the Apache had had undisputed possession for more than ten centuries.

Clum had long known of the Apache from the white man's p0int of view; now he began to see it from the Apache's. From the very first he felt certain that most of the Apache troubles were caused by injustice. He was determined that the red man would be treated fairly while he was the Indian agent.

His first actions were to disarm all the Apaches on the reservation, order the soldiers off reservation land, and to choose a police force from the Apaches to preserve order. Grizzled cavalrymen, veterans of many Apache campaigns, shook their heads in utter disbelief and prophesied doom. "He'll be scalped by his own police within a month."

They were all wrong; what Clum did was earn the trust and respect of every Apache on the reservation by giving them control of their own affairs. Not only did his Indian scouts police the reservation, but they were also instrumental in rounding up the renegades.

Clum, bald since the age of 20, was made a full brother of the Apache nation and given the Apache name of Nantan-betunnykahyeh, which means "Boss with-the-high-forehead." On one occasion Clum had a brief moment of trouble with Disalim, Chief of the Tontos. He had earlier upbraided this particular Apache for continually mistreating and abusing one of his wives. Disalin came into the agency plainly with the intention of shooting Clum. Thwarted by the timely arrival of the janitor and Dr. Chapin, Disalin fled toward the guardhouse to shoot the Chief of police.

Two shots rang out and Disalin fell dead. He had been shot twice by Tauelcleyee - his brother. Following his action he spoke these words to Clum: "Enju, I have killed my own brother - and my chief. He was trying to kill the white man and I am a policeman. I did my duty."

In 1876, John Clum made plans to journey back East to be married. As the fierce Apache had never been seen there he thought it would be a great idea to take a bodyguard of Apaches with him. When he announced his plans, 4500 Apaches clamored to go along.

Clum finally departed for the East with 22 Apaches; Marijildo, the interpreter; Dr. S. B. Chapin; and two teamsters on July 29, 1876. The group participated in a show called "Wild Apache" at intervals along the route to pay expenses. While in Washington the Apaches toured the national capitol and met several times with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

A tragedy occurred during the Apache's stay in the white man's capitol - Tahzay, son of Cochise, developed pneumonia and, though given all available medical attention, died within a few days. Tahzay was buried in the Congressional Cemetery.

After leaving Washington Clum and his Apaches visited the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. At that point Marijildo took the Apaches back to San Carlos and Clum journeyed an to Delaware, Ohio where he married Mary Dennison Ware on November 8, 1876.

By 1877 every Apache in Arizona was on the San Carlos Reservation-five major tribes. Law and order was maintained by Apache policemen and justice dispersed by Apache judges. Renegade bands of Apaches, led by Geronimo, would come out of old Mexico, raid, burn, and murder in Arizona, then disappear into the mountains of Sonora.

Eleven troops of United States Cavalry could not capture the elusive war chief, but Commissioner Smith asked that Clum and his Apache police do the impossible and bring in Geronimo. Clum took forty Apache police and marched, on foot, 400 miles to Silver City. After a month on the trail they located Geronimo at Ojo Caliente. A messenger was sent into the renegade camp to ask for a talk. Backed by 22 Apache police, Clum , faced the most feared Apaches known - Geronimo, Francisco, Ponce, and Gordo, and their warriors.

The young agent called Geronimo a thief, murderer, liar, and a treaty breaker, then told him that he was there to take all of them back to San Carlos. Geronimo replied that he did not like Clum's words and that he had no intentions of going back to San Carlos and that neither would the agent or his Apache police, as Geronimo would leave their bodies for the vultures.

At these words twenty-two, rifles, held by the police, centered on Geronimo. The war chief thought long about using the rifle he held; but he knew he was outbluffed and surrendered. His braves laid down their weapons and stepped back. That was the one and only time that Geronimo was ever captured. He did, at various times, surrender to the United States Army, to obtain government food, blankets, and weapons, but he was never captured except by John P. Clum and his Apache police.

When the Cavalry arrived, Clum had Geronimo and his chiefs in irons and under guard. The army was completely bewildered at this turn of events. To further embarrass the horse soldiers that night Victorio came in with 400 of his people and surrendered to Agent Clum. The success of Clum's handling of the Apaches was attributed to his one philosophy: Be kind to the good ones and tough with the bad ones.

In the three years that Clum had served as Indian agent his salary was still $1,600 per year. In that time four other reservations had been closed and the Indians sent to Clum at San Carlos, increasing the number of Apaches from 800 to 5,000. Seven other Indian agents had been fired as they were not needed. Clum was very unhappy with the situation and a final blow came when the Indian Bureau moved the Army in to periodically inspect Clum's charges.

The 26 year old Clum sent a brash telegram to Washington saying that if his salary was increased and he was allowed two more companies of Indian police, he would assume control of all the Apaches in Arizona and that all the army troops could be removed. Politicians could not allow this to happen as they were making a great deal of money because of the presence of the army.

Unable to accept the governmental policies Clum resigned in July 1877. When he left the San Carlos Agency all his Apaches turned out to bid him farewell. After his resignation Clum and his wife bought a newspaper, "The Arizona Citizen" and moved to Tucson. Things there were pretty dull for the Clums and in December, 1879, John rode south to take a look at the new silver boomtown, Tombstone.

It was unbelievable, but in spite of all his crimes, Geronimo was able to convince the Army that he was really a good Indian. They foolishly allowed him the freedom of the reservation. This was a tragic mistake as, once freed, Geronimo and his warriors disappeared. They left a trail of fire, death, and terror across Arizona and New Mexico. Hundreds of whites were to die before Geronimo and his warriors finally surrendered in 1886.

Quite taken with the excitement of the boomtown, Clum sold "The Arizona Citizen" to R. C. Brown and moved to Tombstone early in 1880. As he said, "every Tombstone must have an epitaph," so he provided the Tombstone Epitaph. His decision brought about the birth of the newspaper that still exists in the "town too tough to die."

When Clum arrived in the camp that had literally erupted on Goose Flats he found saloons, gambling halls, houses of ill repute, hotels, stores and restaurants, all doing a fantastic business. But nowhere could he find a building in which to start his newspaper.

Still determined to build his Epitaph, John Clum bought a load of rough lumber and a large sheet of canvas. With these materials he had a wooden framework built and covered it with the canvas. In this makeshift building the presses rolled, protected from the elements.

Two printers worked day and night and on May 1st the first edition of the Epitaph was released. Clum's front page editorial "The First Trumpet" said, "Tombstone is a city upon a hill promising to vie with ancient Rome upon her seven hills in a fame different in character but no less in importance." He fully believed in the town and was extremely outspoken in the ideas that he thought would be beneficial to the community. In short he established an editorial policy that all Epitaph editors have always followed religiously.

Clum followed up that first edition with a series of editorials exposing the sheriff's strange relationship with members of the outlaw gang. From there he wrote of the lawless exploits of the Clantons and McLowrys, who posed as honest cattlemen.

Wyatt Earp, a noted peace officer, and then a shotgun messenger for Wells Fargo, wanted to be the first sheriff of newly formed Cochise County. Clum approved of Earp and endorsed him on the Republican ticket. He chose a loser as Johnny Behan, a Democrat, won the election.

Upon this turn of events, Clum, knowing Behan to be on friendly terms with the outlaws, and fearing for law and order, announced his candidacy for mayor. Though the criminal element did their utmost, Clum, backed by the Law and Order League, won by an overwhelming majority.

Ben Sippy, who had been elected town marshal, was pretty well rattled by the antics of the cowboys. It is evident that he considered the job too: much to handle and the town too tough, so he conveniently disappeared. When it was apparent that Ben Sippy was gone for good, Mayor Clum called a meeting of the city council and made Virgil Earp town marshal.

As could be expected, Clam's Epitaph spouted law and order, while the Democratic Nugget, unhappy at Clum's election as mayor, the increasing power of the Epitaph, and Virgil Earp's appointment to town marshal, sided with the outlaw cowboys.

Clum's fears were soon realized. Holdups and stage robberies were frequently conducted in broad daylight; honest citizens were shot down, and fear kept them off the streets. Everyone seemed to know exactly who the guilty parties were - everyone except the new- sheriff and his deputies.

The Earps and the Clanton-McLowry gang had had several minor clashes since the murder of Marshal White and now the time for violence was near. On October 24, 1881, Curly Bill, Ringo, Ike Clanton, and the McLowry brothers boasted in the Allen Street saloons that they intended to run the Earps out of town.

Then on October 26, 1881, guns roared and thundered in the O.K. Corral leaving Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLowry dead, and Virgil and Morgan Earp seriously wounded. Judge Spicer heard all the evidence and opinions and ordered the Earps and Doc Holliday released from all charges.

Retaliation from the cowboy faction was sure to come. Several prominent citizens were marked for death by the outlaws. As to be expected these names were the Earps, Doc Holliday, John Clum, Judge Wells Spicer, E. B. Gage, and others of the Law and Order League.

Their first move was against Judge Spicer in the form of a note threatening him with death if he did not leave Tombstone immediately. A few days later the stage, in which John. Clum was riding, was riddled with bullets by night riders.

Then near midnight on Wednesday, December 28, 1881, bushwackers struck from ambush. Virgil Earp, making his rounds as marshal, left the Oriental and started across Fifth Street when the flame and roar of shotguns blasted at him from the darkness.

Two of the shots struck Virgil, one badly shattering his left arm and the other entering his left side. Dr. Goodfellow removed four inches of shattered bone from Virgil's left arm and twenty buckshot-from his side. Three of the shots went through the windows of the Eagle Brewery Saloon (now the Crystal Palace). Nineteen holes from the shots fired at Virgil were found in the outside wall.

It was not long before the assassins struck again. This time their victim was Morgan Earp. He was playing pool with Bob Hatch at Campbell & Hatch's saloon when a shot fired from the darkness of the alley struck him in the back and snuffed out his life.

A hastily convened coroner's jury ruled his death murder and named his murderers as Frank Stilwell, Indian Charlie, Pete Spence, and Joe Doe Fries. Though there is little bonafide evidence, legend tells that Wyatt accounted for most of his brother's killers. At any rate several of them were found mysteriously dead or simply disappeared.

Clum's wife died while in Tombstone and was laid to rest in Boothill. His small son was living with his parents in Washington, D. C. Perhaps he grew tired of his one man war on crime in Tombstone or it could be that he simply ceased to care. At any rate on May 1, 1882, exactly two years from the day he started the Epitaph, Clum sold his newspaper and moved away.

Though he left Tombstone at the height of its boom, John Clum could no more stay away from the boomtowns than a moth the flame. He spent his life moving from one camp to another - California, Nevada, and the frozen north. He joined the gold rush to the Yukon and was commissioned by the government to establish a territorial postal service there. While he was working at this job he met a number of his old Tombstone acquaintances, among them Wyatt Earp and Nellie Cashman.

Eventually Clum returned to Arizona and settled in Tucson. He even became friends with Johnny Behan, his old political enemy, who also had settled in Tucson. Neither of them would ever admit that he was wrong in the stand taken in Tombstone. John P. Clum lived a long life, beyond 80 years, long enough to bury all his old friends, even Wyatt Earp, up to May 2, 1932.

Ben T. Traywick Associate Editor. Indian Agent And Epitaph Founder John P. Clum. Tombstone Epitaph. March 1979.

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The Old West At Its Best - And Worst | Boothill | All The Major Towns Had Brothels | John P. Clum | The Slopers And The Easterners Soon Collided In Tombstone | The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral | Courageous And Trustworthy Men | The Clanton Gang aka The Cowboys | The West's Deadliest Dentist | Doc Holliday | The Earp Family | Morgan Seth Earp | John Peters Ringo | Virgil Earp | Baxter Warren Earp | No Individual Has Caused Greater Controversy In Western History | Wyatt Earp
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