The Walker Party, The Revised Story: Across New Mexico and Arizona Territories and up the Hassayampa River, 1861-1863
For over 150 years the accepted story about the Walker party’s 1861-1863 expedition through the Southwest was based on a handwritten manuscript by D. E. Conner, a member and assumed historian of the party. The manuscript was published posthumously in 1956 as Joseph Reddeford Walker and the Arizona Adventure. Long thought to be based on notes taken while underway, detailed research reveals that much of what Conner wrote was based on embellished writing and a generous dose of hindsight bias using observations written by others who were in the Southwest before the Walker party.
The Walker Party, The Revised Story is a fresh look at the party’s formation in California and route into New Mexico Territory, and an analysis of the adventures of these rugged men, including their:
• Flight from advancing Confederate troops in New Mexico Territory;
• Return to Santa Fe once the territorial capital was back under Union control;
• Obtaining passports to travel in the territory;
• Encounters with Apaches along the Rio Grande;
• Stops at forts Craig, McLane, and West;
• Questionable involvement in the capture and death of Apache chief Mangas Coloradas;
• Prospecting for reported “sands freighted with gold” near the headwaters of the Gila River;
• Passage by San Xavier del Bac and through Tucson;
• Approach to and encampment at Maricopa Wells among the Pimas and Maricopas; and
• Route to and up the Hassayampa River and discovery of gold in central Arizona Territory.
Why is “The Revised Story” an important book? Joseph Reddeford Walker and the Arizona Adventure by D. E. Conner is long out of print and largely unavailable, even at the finest libraries. However, assumed facts from Conner’s book have been widely quoted in many histories about the 1860s Southwest. These quotes have not always been consistent with what Conner wrote, aside from questioning whether Conner was right in the first place. Certain key episodes that Conner wrote about, particularly the capture of Apache chief Mangas Coloradas and the details of the Walker party’s ascent of what would become the Hassayampa River, both of which Conner seemingly made up to a large extent, have been perpetuated in the works of some highly acclaimed historians.
The Walker Party, The Revised Story is an important book because it is transformative. It sets the records straight and corrects widely used incorrect details.
“The book represents seven years of research and writing,” Pieter remarks about the book and its maps, “Ortelius, the interpretation that it provides to my story, is part of the reason that I persisted.”
Book format: A quality paperback, 274 pages with a comfortable font size, 14 custom maps made with Ortelius software with detailed captions, an extensive bibliography, and an image of a mid-1800s painting spread across the front and back covers illustrating the period view north from the Pima-Maricopa villages, the view that the men of the Walker party would have seen in 1863.
Pieter Burggraaf retired as a writer in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. Pete has lived in Arizona most of his life and is a graduate of the University of Arizona. An avocational historian, he researches, writes and occasionally teaches about people whose lives and adventures touched historic Maricopa Wells and the Pima and Maricopa villages, at the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers, a location he calls “The Junction of American Southwestern History.”