Massacre on the Lordsburg Road
A Tragedy of the Apache Wars
Marc Simmons, Author
The preface brings us to March 28, 1883, approximately noon when Judge Hamilton C. McComas, wife Jennie and six year old, blond haired/blue eyed, Charley, decided to have a picnic under a walnut tree on the Lordsburg Road in New Mexico. Jennie thought it would be nice to accompany her husband along on this trip when he was called away on business; the scenery was beautiful and they decided little Charley would enjoy the experience. The Lordsburg Road was safely traveled by the Judge on many occasions and thought it safe – after all this was the late 1800’s and the Indian Wars thought to be over – only someone forgot to tell the Chiricahua Apaches.
Why is this McComas story important to the Ware family descendents? Judge Hamilton C. McComas and Juniata Maria Ware, (Jennie) the daughter of Hiram B. Ware and Amanda Melvina Holbrook, were married March 17, 1869 at Fort Scott’s Congregational Church. He was thirty-nine, she was twenty-three. “The Judge” was six foot one and had the carriage of a gentleman and an attractive personality. He was considered a warm-hearted and a staunch and faithful friend. Jennie won the most eligible bachelor.
Hiram was raised at New Portland, Maine, at fourteen he went to sea on a whaler out of Nantucket, five years later he returned known as a boy of “courage and dauntless spirit”. Amanda was from Columbia Green, Connecticut, they were married in 1840. They settled in Hartford where Hiram opened a harness and saddlery business. A year later, Eugene Fitch Ware, their first son was born. The Fitch name came from American inventor John Fitch whom Hiram admired. While Eugene was still in school Hiram moved the family west to Burlington, Iowa and here two more sons were born, Charles L (Charley) and Robert then – Juniata (Jennie) on March 4 1846. March was an important month for Jennie as the most important events in her life happened in that month, her birth, her marriage and her death.
Eugene, while still in his teens, joined the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War having come from a strong abolitionist family. He served in the 4th Iowa Cavalry and as Captain in the 7th Iowa Cavalry. On the Great Plains they were charged with keeping the overland trails free and open from Indian attacks. The best know of several of his books is “The Indian War of 1864”, he mustered out in 1866. Eugene then took a strenuous newspaper job on the Burlington Hawk Eye. Having had malaria while in military service, afterward his local “physician dosed him with quinine, arsenic and strychnine then recommended he move farther west to live in the open air” (reviewer’s comment – I’m surprised that he lived to reach “farther west”) He hitched a ride on a pioneer wagon headed for southeastern Kansas. He staked a claim at the head of Deer Creek and plowed 20 acres. He talked his whole family into joining him in Kansas and Hiram set up another harness shop in Fort Scott. Fort Scott welcomed the Ware’s and Hamilton C. McComas, from Illinois, about the same time.
Jennie, “a bright girl, always well informed, a great reader” she was described by an early writer. The Ware’s were known as readers; Eugene had an extensive personal library, in his latter years he was instrumental in the founding of the Fort Scott Library. At the time of Jennie’s death she had an extensive library of her own containing books on history, philosophy, religion, essays, and poetry which she favored. She is described as possessing a strict piety. At sixteen Jennie, was formally united with Dr. Salter’s Congregationalist Church in Burlington, Iowa and upon the move to Kansas she helped form the First Congregationalist Church of Fort Scott. A picture of her is said to show a woman of determination, purpose and courage. Jennie was slight, petite and wore a size 8 according to a great granddaughter who inherited one of her garments. Tiny Jennie, and tall handsome Hamilton. New Year’s Day 1870, a son, Frederick was born to Jennie and “Ham” which died the following August 27th. A mere thirteen years later his parents would be interred also in Fort Scott’s Evergreen cemetery.
“Ham” had two other son’s, David and William, from his disastrous and divorced, first marriage, from Louisa K. Pratt. In later years David and William reunited with their mother.
As brother, Eugene became more interested in law he clerked at McComas & McKeighan law firm. After “being examined” he, and brother Charles, opened their own law firm – “Ware and Ware”.
Christmas Day, 1870 a daughter Ada was born, in May 1873, daughter, Mary then November 1876, Charles Ware McComas, the last of their children was born. “Charley, a rosy cheeked little boy became the idol of his father”, Ham.
The researched details are amazing as they tell the story from preserved records. Dates, places a regular timeline of the stories of the McComas family and the portions that share the Ware’s story. Mostly, you will read of the attachment of Jennie and her devoted brother Eugene who never gave up the search for little Charley captured by the Chiricahua Apaches after the massacre of his parents. The book tells of the silence of surviving tribal Apaches even into the 1950’s for fear of reprisal, it also tells of the writers interviews with some of those survivor Apaches. What is described is a dreadful scene of massacre as these Apache’s were not known for taking prisoners. The book tells of the history of this tribe. They would even kill each other – tribal friends, family member didn’t seem to even matter. They raided for personal or tribal needs; food, guns, ammunition, clothing. Arizona, New Mexico and the Mexico territories mostly traveled.
Three different stories of poor little Charley were told by various tribal members; one tells of Charley being taken in by an older Apache woman who saved him from death; a second tells of him being killed with a rock to the head; yet another tells of him being injured in a camp move, due to an impending raid by soldiers hunting for Charley, the third of his being left on the trail to die by women Apaches who thought him to slow their escape. Names are given and the details of the stories told.
The compelling story of Eugene’s lifelong search for his beloved sister’s child, Charley, is the most inspiring tale of family love and devotion that you may read, or close to what you may have read, in some time. We have the story of the McComas family, the Ware’s and the Chiricahua Apaches in vivid detail. Here, we have the historical background for understanding the time and places, the people and their family lives which is woven into a richly detailed embroidery of details by a great researcher/author/story teller – Marc Simmons.
I once was blessed to have classes on Old Testament theology taught by a professor who made the Old Testament sound like it happened on our lunch break – all of us were eager to return to class. Mr. Simmons possesses this quality.
Book Review by Cleo Holden