Days Past: Indian captive Lucy Martinez's love story: Part I
Love stories are supposed to have happy endings. This one from Yavapai County's territorial days did not.
Lucy's story begins like a romantic novel of the Old West - think Zane Grey at his most florid. First, Apache raiders abduct an innocent Hispanic girl. Then, after two years as a captive, she is rescued and given a home in a small mining town. Soon after this, she becomes the wife of one of the most powerful men of Arizona Territory. But then the storybook romance turns sour when her husband abandons her for another woman, leaving Lucy to fend for herself and their three small children.
Lucia Martinez was 12 years old and living with an older sister, a schoolteacher, when Apache raiders prowled south across the Gila River into Sonora in search of loot and captives. When the Apaches returned to their hideaway in the rugged central Arizona Mountains, Lucia was one of their captives.
For two years, Lucia was kept under constant guard, mistreated and starved. Escape was out of the question since she was too far away from home to even consider crossing the rugged landscape that surrounded the Apache stronghold.
Happily for Lucia, the situation was changing. The discovery of gold not far from the Tonto Apache strongholds had brought miners from around the world to the newly formed Arizona Territory. An area once known only to roaming Apache and Yavapai tribes was now open to a new dominant civilization. The newcomers were well armed and quick to retaliate when Indians threatened their survival by stealing their livestock.
A retaliatory expedition of militia into Apache territory in the summer of 1864 finally provided Lucia with an opportunity to escape. In the confusion during a skirmish between the militia and Apaches, she managed to slip away and make her way to the militia camp. Daniel Ellis Conner in his book "Joseph Walker and the Arizona Adventure" told first-hand of her rescue.
He described how the malnourished, dirty, naked and trembling 14-year-old Lucia was kindly treated by the militiamen who soon rustled up some empty flour sacks, plus a needle and thread, for the shy young girl. They were impressed by Lucia's skill in converting the sacks into a serviceable dress and by her willingness to help about their camp.
In the beginning, communication with the terrified young girl was difficult since she spoke no English and only a few of the militia had any rough use of Spanish. After struggling with her name in Spanish, one of them said "Oh hell, call her Lucy," and Lucy she became.
Lucy's rescuers were led by Lt. Col. King S. Woolsey, who was not impressed at first sight of the emaciated young maiden. He later wrote: "A Yaqui squaw about 10 years of age came into our camp. She had been a captive among the Apaches, and had just made her escape. She came in with us, and now is at my Agua Fria ranch."
Soon afterward, Lucy was sent to live and work in Prescott as a servant for a recently married couple, John and Mary Dickenson, who were close friends of Woolsey.
Conner related how the members of the rescue party, on encountering Lucy in later months, marveled at how quickly she learned English and became a neat and pretty young woman once the effects of her captivity wore off. She was always grateful to her rescuers and was known to nurse them in sickness.
She had particular affection for the rescue party's leader, for less than three years later, in February 1867, King S. Woolsey and Lucy, by now his common-law wife, became the parents of a baby girl they named Clara.
The first cloud on Lucy's horizon came just three months later when financial setbacks caused Woolsey to lose the Agua Fria Ranch to foreclosure and they were forced to retreat to Woolsey's Agua Caliente ranch and hot springs, located just above the Gila River where Lucy bore Woolsey a second child, a girl they named Johanna.
Next Sunday: A serpent enters Lucy's love nest.
Days Past is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International. This and other Days Past articles are available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Contact assistant archivist Scott Anderson at 445-3122 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information.