By February of 1884, the hostile bands of Chatto, Geronimo, Natchez, and Chihuahua had returned to their reservations at Fort Apache and San Carlos. When the Chiricahuas arrived at the agencies, they were faced with the same old problems of the reservation system: food shortages, rations that were late and inferior in quality, and simple boredom. The situation was such that another breakout was virtually assured.
On May 18, 1885, after only 15 months on the reservation, the Chiricahuas fled from the agency and made their way into Mexico. The renegades were led by Chihuahua, Geronimo, Nana, Natchez, and Mangus (the son of the great Mangus Coloradas). Military detachments led by Emmet Crawford and Captain Wirt Davis journeyed south in pursuit of the Apaches but were unable to catch them. Then, in November of 1885, the younger brother of the great war chief Chihuahua, led a devastating raid through Arizona and New Mexico that rivaled Nana's famous raid four years earlier. The Apaches, led by Josanie (or Ulzana), rode over 1000 miles and killed nearly 40 people before slipping back into Mexico. Clearly, the Chiricahuas were still a force to be reckoned with.
By the end of 1885, General George Crook was preparing his second expedition into Mexico. In January of 1886, columns of troops led by Wirt Davis and Emmet Crawford were scouring the Sierra Madres in search of hostile Apaches. The renegades were discovered in the rugged mountains south of the Haros River. After attacking the Apache camp, Crawford's command was ambushed the following day by Mexican militia. Captain Emmet Crawford was killed during the engagement.
Fortunately, Crook was able to meet with some of the hostiles and set a date for future negotiations. In March of 1886, the fateful meeting between Crook and the hostile Apaches took place in the Canyon de los Embudos (Canyon of the Tricksters). From the Apache's point of view, Crook's terms were harsh. The Indians must surrender unconditionally and leave Arizona forever. Their place of internment was to be Florida. All of the Apaches agreed to surrender except for two. Inspired by bootleg liquor (obtained from a trader named Bob Tribollet), Geronimo and Natchez fled back into the mountains. The war was still on.
Crook was vilified for his failure to bring in all of the hostiles. On April 28, 1886, George Crook, the man who had done so much to bring about the final defeat of the Apache nation, was transferred from the Department of Arizona. He was succeeded by General Nelson A. Miles.
In the summer of 1886, American troops again entered Mexico in pursuit of the renegade
Apaches. A detachment led by Captain H.W. Lawton and Lieutenant Leonard Wood crossed the border in June. The following month, Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood led a party of soldiers and Apache scouts southward into Mexico. In the rugged Torres Mountains, Gatewood finally caught up with the renegades. He was able to arrange a future meeting between General Miles and the hostiles in Skeleton Canyon, a remote pass located near the Mexican border. Shortly thereafter, Geronimo and Natchez surrendered for the final time. For the first time in history, the Apache nation lay prostrate in defeat.
The waning years of the 1800's witnessed the closing of the frontier throughout most of the Old West. But not quite everywhere. In Arizona, the early 1890's were marked by the escapades of the notorious Apache Kid. (The Kid managed to elude capture until his death in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico in 1894.) In 1890, Apache scouts discovered signs of another rogue Apache named Massai in the Chiricahua Mountains. (Massai had been one of the Chiricahuas sent to exile in Florida, but had escaped on the way. He then made his way back to Arizona!) 1890 was also the year of the great Hassayampa flood. And to make matters worse, the fabulous ore body of the Vulture mine suddenly came to an end that year. The vein was faulted out and could not be found again. (A new vein was eventually discovered in 1908.) And finally, in 1890, General George Crook, the man who had done so much for Arizona, passed away. His death was genuinely mourned by his former enemies, the Apache Indians.
By the turn of the century, many of Arizona's famous soldiers and pioneers had passed away. In 1896, Charles B. Gatewood, the man who had captured Geronimo, died. Three years later, the veteran frontiersman, Willard Rice, died at Prescott, Arizona. He had come to Arizona in 1863. In 1902, the eminent Charles D. Poston passed away in Phoenix. Poston had come west with Herman Ehrenberg back in the 1850's. Three years later, another famous Arizona prospector died. In 1905, Henry Wickenburg committed suicide on the banks of the Hassayampa River, not far from the site of his fabulous 1863 gold strike. In 1907, the great Indian scout, Al Sieber, was killed in a freak accident on Tonto Creek. Three years later, in 1910, one of Sieber's best friends, the veteran frontiersman Ed Peck, died at Nogales. He had come west in 1858 with the George Banghart party. On February 19, 1914, Thomas J. Jeffords passed away. He had outlived his friend Cochise by 40 years. Three years later, in 1917, one of the last of Arizona's great scouts passed away. Corydon E. Cooley died on March 18, 1917. The old pioneer days of Arizona were gone forever.