Cochise County, AZ

By Michael Liddy on August 27th, 2008

cochise countyThe county is in the Sierra Vista-Douglas metro area. The estimated population in 2004 was 124,013. This was an increase of 5.31% from the 2000 census.County seat: Bisbee The county was named for the Apache chief.Cochise County is one of 15 counties in Arizona.(1) 

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Cochise Biography

Cochise was one of the most famous Apache leaders (along with Geronimo) to resist intrusions by Americans during the 19th century. He was described as a large man (for the time), with a muscular frame, classical features, and long black hair which he wore in traditional Apache style. Coc

302px-naches son of cochise

hise’s family currently resides at Mescalero Apache Reservation, New Mexico.

Cochise and the Chokonen-Chiricahua lived in the area that is now the northern Mexican region of Sonora, New Mexico, and Arizona, which were traditional Apache territories until the coming of the Europeans. Due to encroachment by Spain and later Mexico, the Chokonen and Nednhi-Chiricahua became increasingly dependent upon food rations issued by the Mexican government to placate them. When this practice was abruptly ended in 1831, the various Chiricahua bands resumed raids to acquire food.

The Mexican government began a series of military operations in order to either capture or neutralize the Chiricahua, but they received stiff resistance from Cochise and the Apache who were implacable foes. Mexican troops were largely unsuccessful in their attempts and were often fought to a standstill by the Apache. As part of their attempts at controlling the Chiricahua, Mexican forces, often with the help of American and Native American mercenaries, began to kill Apache civilians, including Cochise’s father. This hardened Cochise’s resolve and gave the Chiricahua more reason for vengeance. Mexican forces were finally able to capture Cochise in 1848 during an Apache raid on Fronteras, Sonora, but they exchanged him for nearly a dozen Mexican prisoners.

Apache Pass conflict

At Apache Pass in 1862, Cochise and Mangas Coloradas, with around 500 fighters, held their ground against a force of California volunteers under General James Henry Carleton until howitzer artillery fire was brought to bear on their position.

According to scout John C. Cremony and historian Dan L. Thrapp, the howitzer fire sent the Apaches into an immediate retreat. But Carleton’s biographer, Aurora Hunt, wrote, “This was the first time that the Indians had faced artillery fire. Nevertheless, they fought stubbornly for several hours before they fled.” Capt. Thomas Roberts was persuaded by the engagement that it would be best to find a route around Apache Pass, which he did. Gen. Carleton thus continued unhindered to New Mexico and subsequently took over as commander of the territory.

In January 1863 Gen. Joseph Rodman West, under orders from Gen. Carleton, was able to capture Mangas Coloradas by duping him into a conference under a flag of truce. During what was to be a peaceful parley session, the Americans took the unsuspecting Mangas Coloradas prisoner and later executed him. This continued a series of incidents that fanned the flames of enmity between the encroaching Americans and the Apache. For Cochise, the Americans held nothing sacred and had violated the rules of war by capturing Mangas Coloradas during a parley session. Cochise and the Apache continued their raids against American and Mexican settlements and military positions throughout the 1860s.

Capture, escape, and retirement

Following various skirmishes, Cochise and his men were gradually driven into the Dragoon Mountains but were nevertheless able to use the mountains as cover and as a base from which to continue significant skirmishes against white settlements. This was the situation until 1871 when General George Crook assumed command and used other Apaches as scouts and informants and was thereby able to force Cochise’s men to surrender. Cochise was taken into custody in September of that year.

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The next year, the Chiricahua were ordered to Tularosa Reservation located in New Mexico, but refused to leave their ancestral lands in Arizona, which were guaranteed to them under treaty. Cochise managed to escape again and renewed raids and skirmishes against settlements through most of 1872. A new treaty was later negotiated by General Oliver O. Howard, with the help of Tom Jeffords who had become blood brother to Cochise, as the Americans relented to some of the Apaches’ terms. Cochise quietly retired to an Arizona reservation, where he died of natural causes.(2)

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The following was likely written pre-1900, though no exact date or year can be cited:

Cochise County was set apart from Pima County and organized in 1881, and was named for the famous Apache chief, Cochise, who, with a band of Chiricahuas, made his stronghold on the Dragoon range of mountains, and, like an European robber-baron of the ‘Middle Ages, swooped down on those who passed along on the plains below and robbed and murdered without mercy. So bold was he in his depredations, and such terror did he inspire in the breasts of all, that no one finally dared venture within striking distance of the raids of this terrible mountain bandit. Indeed, it was not until he was starved out of his stronghold and happily hanged, that anything like an attempt was made to settle up the county, now called by his name, or to develop its varied and valuable resources.


Little was done in this section of the Territory prior to the Civil War, save a few settlements on the San Pedro and at minor points. Hence the history proper of this county may be said to have begun with the discovery of the mines in the Tombstone district in 1878, antedating the organization of the county by the space of three years.

Prior to 1878 the country beyond the San Pedro was given over to a domination of the Apache outside of the one traveled wagon road to the east. The grassy plains and hills were bare of cattle, and its mineral treasures were but in the imagination of the curious. In February, 1878, Ed Scheffelin, a prospector, who had tramped much of the territory in vain, stumbled across the droppings of what is now known as the Toughnut mine and located several claims upon the ledge. It was about the time that the Comstocks and Bodie were showing signs of collapse, and the miners of the coast flocked by the hundreds to the new discovery. A city of tents sprung up and by June 1879 a stampmill was in operation. The mines had not been overrated: they were veritable bonanzas. and (luring their season of activity have produced over $25,000,000, about $5,000,000 of which took the form of dividends to the stockholders. Full $7,000.000 more was spent upon hoisting plants and milling machinery. Up to 1885 was the busy time, when the burning of the hoisting works of the Grand Central mine cast a gloom over the camp, and the water gained upon the miners, and the main properties were closed down for a long season of inactivity. The ore on the lower levels is of high grade, and there yet remain vast quantities of it. But to reach the ore it would be necessary to inaugurate a combination pumping plant that would cost in the neighborhood of $1,000,000, and this expense the mine owners are not inclined to put upon themselves until assured of the future of silver. With a combination of capital the mines will yet be cleared of water, and operations resumed on as grand a scale as ever before.

Mr. John Montgomery, one of the early correspondents of the “Citizen,” writing from San Pedro, A. T., February 7th, 1871, gives the following description of the settlement and subsequent growth of the San Pedro valley, and the afflictions they endured at the hands of the remorseless Apaches up to that time. It will be appreciated by many of the old-timers:

“The lands here were first located December 15. 1865, by Mark Aldrich, John H. Archibald, F. Burthold, Jarvis Jackson, John Montgomery and H. Brown. of Tucson. A crop of wheat and barley was planted. In February, 1866, the work was commenced on the ditch to convey water to the land. By April 25 all were ready to plant a corn crop. Houses had been built and land secured.(3)

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Cochise County COMMUNITIES


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