Rhoda Riggs, our second child, first daughter, was born 18 Mar 1859 in Travis County, Texas. She was born two days after her Uncle John and Aunt Jane Riggs were killed by the Indians in Coryell County Texas. When we moved to Bandera County, Rhoda was 7 years old. She and her brothers TJ and William and cousins Rhoda, Margaret, William C. and John Roland attended school in the area while we lived at Fort Riggs. Rhoda was 11 years old when the family left Bandera county Texas and headed to Colorado on our way to California. She helped drive the cows and helped me care for the younger children. In Colorado she attended the school we started for our children and others of the neighboring families.
In the area where our family lived in Colorado, lived Robert Wolf and his brother James William Wolf. James W. Wolf was the teacher at the school the Riggs children attended for a time. He and his brother were trying to develop a ranch in the area also. Rhoda, age 18, fell in love with James William Wolf and they became engaged before the family started to Arizona. The glowing description of the Sulphur Springs Valley James M. Riggs had written to Mr. Riggs, appealed to the Wolf brothers also. Soon after our family left for Arizona, James and Robert Wolf started to Arizona with their herd of cattle. Rhoda and James William planned to marry when both families were settled in Arizona. Anxious to see Rhoda, James William came ahead to find a ranch so the two of them, along with his brother, could go into the cattle business. He located a ranch near the south Sulphur Springs at the south end of the dry lake. When he had things ready for the herd, James William started back to meet his brother and James C. Pursley who were driving their herd of cattle to Arizona. No one knows for certain what happened but James William disappeared while on this trip. Many sad things happen to travelers. Indians or outlaws could have murdered him; he could have had an accident in some remote area; or he could have drowned while fording a river that was in flood stage. This experience broke Rhoda’s heart and she chose not to marry after losing the man she loved. Although she never married or had children of her own, she was a very loving daughter, sister and Aunt. She always helped with the work and caring for her younger siblings. She helped me with the work of the home and was a capable ranch hand when her skills were needed outside. Although she did not attended school away from the home ranch she helped her brothers get an education by caring for their ranches and interests while they were at school.
When Rhoda was a girl living in Bandera County Texas, her father gave her a heifer calf, as he did each of his children when they reached a certain age. From this calf she began building her own herd. After the family settled in the Sulphur Springs Valley and had established the Home Ranch, the older children began obtaining land for themselves where they could start their own ranches. Rhoda bought the William Downing Ranch located in the mouth of Pinery Canyon. She purchased additional cattle to add to her growing herd and established her ranch here. Rhoda is an excellent horse woman. She always rides side saddle but can out work many a cowboy while working cattle. She is well known for the horses she raises which are among the best raised on the Riggs ranches.
Rhoda is very self-sufficient. She always raises a large vegetable garden, the produce from which is canned for use in the winter. She planted a large apple orchard along with other kinds of fruit trees. This fruit is also dried or canned and shared by the family.
Arizona Range News
Friday, 21 Nov 1913
H.L. McCoy estimates that Miss Rhoda Riggs who has several acres of apple orchard in the Chiricahua foot hills, will net about a thousand dollars an acre from her crop this year. This is going some and should make the pessimist who says this isn’t apple country look like the hole in a doughnut.
Rhoda is a very generous woman and willingly shares with family, friends and neighbors. She raises chickens and turkeys. For several years now her flock of turkeys has been large enough to meet the family’s needs and to sell at Dos Cabezas and Willcox.
Arizona Range News
18 Nov 1904
Mayor's Market has ordered a fine lot of Thanksgiving turkeys from Miss Rhoda Riggs. They are expected to arrive about Tuesday.
Arizona Range News
Friday, 25 Nov 1904
Miss Rhoda Riggs was in town Monday and delivered a fine lot of Thanksgiving turkeys to Mayor's Market.
Rhoda is always helpful to neighbor and stranger alike. This story found in the newspaper is an example of her concern for others well-being.
MISS RHODA RIGGS, THE APACHE FIGHTER
How She Rode At The Head Of The Cow-punchers
In Pursuit Of Red-Handed Indians
The Apaches Raiding Mack’s Camp
This is the story of a handsome Arizona girl who led a raid against a band of Apaches that she might avenge the death of her friend, who had been slain by one of the tribe.
The girl is Miss Rhoda Riggs. At the head of a detachment of cavalry and with an escort of cowboys from the Riggs ranch, she pluckily pursued the Indians for five miles and shot three of their number.
This exciting adventure was the result of the recent treacherous killing of J.D. Mack, a prospector in Pinery canyon. He was shot from ambush by an Apache of the Chiricahua tribe, one of half a dozen who in war paint, were out for murder and plunder. They took his ammunition, rifle and six-shooter, and left him, as they thought, dead. He then painfully dragged his bleeding body over the sharp rocks of the trail to the Riggs ranch, where he knew he would receive kindly care, for Miss Riggs had often spoken cheering words to him when he came to her ranch after a fruitless search for gold in the mountains.
She heard his cries early in the morning and, dressing hurriedly, ran down the trail in the direction the moans came from. Mack was almost exhausted and could scarcely speak. She took him in her strong arms and carried him to her cot, where she made him comfortable. The cowboys had started out to attend to their horses and Miss Riggs and her aged father were alone at the ranch house. She bandaged the wound of the injured man, and, learning the story of the shooting, quick as a flash buckled her six-shooter, which hung in a belt on the wall, about her waist and was off to the corral.
There she summoned one of the cowboys to attend to the injured man until her return, and, saddling one of her fastest horses, started on a run along the trail which cut across the foothills to Fort Grant, (she went to Camp Bonito, an outpost of Fort Grant located at the mouth of Bonito Canyon. Fort Grant was about 60 miles across the Sulphur Springs Valley, too far away to easily summon help) where she told the officers what had taken place. A detachment of cavalry was at once ordered to return with the young lady and run down the Indians if possible.
Miss Riggs rode as far as her ranch with the troopers, directing them to the place where they could find the trail of the Apaches. At the ranch, she ordered the cowboys to prepare to go with her and hunt down the renegade Indians. The punchers were jubilant at being led by Miss Riggs on a scouting tour. Horses were saddled, six shooters were buckled on, and the men threw themselves into the saddles and were ready to start almost before the troopers had disappeared over the hill. With yells which could be heard for a mile, the cowpunchers, with Miss Riggs riding at the head of the band, left the ranch and started up Pinera (Pinery) canyon.
The Apaches had stationed their ponies near the place where Mack was shot and Miss Riggs was first to discover the trail of the Indians, where they mounted their ponies. Through the thorny branches of the mesquite trees, the dashing leader took her men, riding at full speed when there was no apprehension of an attack from ambush, and creeping over the ground when dangerous places were encountered on the trail.
A few miles from Pinery canyon, the Indians separated and the soldiers remained together, taking the trail, which led through a pass in the mountains. Miss Riggs saw that the Indians had parted and she also saw that the soldiers were following the trail, which led into the pass. The other pony tracks took an almost straight course up the mountainside, and although they were nearly twenty-four hours old, there was a chance of finding the Apaches concealed in the hills. The young woman was familiar with the tactics employed by the Chiricahuas and was careful not to lead her brave punchers into an ambush.
“These renegades,” she said, “are worse than old Geronimo, and when they come out of the mountains they cover up their tracks pretty well. They are smarter than white folks.”
But the cowpunchers had little trouble in trailing the retreating Indians. The tough cow horses ran up the slopes of the mountain with ease, for they were accustomed to such work. The scouting party trailed the Indians into the deep canyons of the Chiricahuas, where the sharp turns made their progress difficult. Miss Riggs insisted on riding ahead of the men, and whenever a particularly dangerous point in the canyon was reached, she “thumbed” her horse and dashed ahead to make sure that the Apaches were not hiding in the rocks. In spite of her commands, the men pressed their horses close to hers in the narrow canyon and often tried to gain the lead to receive the first leaden missiles in case the sharp windings of the precipitous canyon walls revealed the Apaches hidden in the rocks.
“We got sight of the Apaches and we never lost them”, said Miss Riggs when she returned from the trip. “The Indians that went toward the pass were sure clever, for they left the trail one at a time, half a mile or so apart, and bore off toward the high places where the band we followed hit for. The places where they left the trail were picked out so that the soldiers would not see where the blades of grass were knocked down and trampled. All but one of the Indians jumped the trail, and the one who stayed with it led the soldiers through the pass and around the other side of the mountain and was going to take them to a place where the others could shoot them from ambush. The Indians that left the trail went up over the mountain and down the other side and they were about all together excepting the man who was herding the soldiers, when we saw them. We got out of the canyon and were not long in getting up on the side of the mountain. The Indians were just disappearing over the ridge when we caught a second glimpse of them. We lit out and went straight after them.
“I reckon it was about five miles of the hardest riding the boys ever saw. We sure sifted through the pines, and it was all I could do to keep the men from yelling, they were so glad that the Indians were in sight. We spoiled the prettiest ambush you can imagine when we struck down the mountainside. There were the soldiers coming up on the trail of the lone Apache who was leading them an interesting chase; and not a mile below us were half a dozen Indians hidden behind the rocks so that the soldiers could not see them. They were getting ready to surprise the soldiers, and I reckon those brave men from Fort Grant would not have returned had it not been for us. We cached our horses in the pines where they could not be seen and crept down toward the Indians. There were only two rifles in our crowd and the other men had six-shooters. We could not fight unless we got up close, and this we were trying to do. All the time the soldiers were getting nearer and I was afraid that they would be fired on and killed before we could engage the attention of the Apaches.
“Don’t go any further, boys; I’m going to shoot,” I said to the men, and they jumped toward me and tried to take my rifle from me.
“Can’t you see that the Indians are getting ready to fire on the soldiers, and they will be right in range in a few minutes? Let me alone. I know what I’m about,’ I said, and I pulled away from the men, took good aim and fired. The Apache who was slowly leading the soldiers into the ambush of his companions dropped from his horse, dead, and down we all went on the ground behind a big rock. The soldiers stopped in their tracks when the Indian fell, the ambushed redskins acted like crazy men and the soldiers bunched together and seemed uncertain what to do.
“I saw that the Indians had located our hiding place and their rifles were trained in our direction. It would not do for us to move, because we could not fire at such long range with six-shooters, and the soldiers could not figure out who killed the lone Apache they were trailing. They were too far off to do us any good, but I told the boys that I would start things moving and requested my man with the other rifle to go after the Indians with me from the best place he could find in the rocks. So we just peppered away and the Indians came at us, but did not hit even so much as a piece of leather. We could see them getting into their saddles and in a moment three of them lit out down the mountain, with the soldiers after them. The other three were done for.”
The Indians were not from the San Carlos reservation, but were Chiricahua Apaches, there being a number of renegades who come out of the mountains frequently and cause trouble.
The yells of the cowboys were hushed when they reached the ranch house, for the aged father of Miss Riggs stood at the door with his right arm extended. They know by this sign that Mack was dead. However, his death had been speedily avenged.
This is another version of her story I found.
Miner Shot by Apaches
Cavalry Pursues the Indians
[By direct wire to the times]
Tucson, April 6-[Exclusive dispatch.] A serious outbreak of Apaches is again threatened. J.D.Mack a mining man, was shot last night in Pinery Canion of the Galliura (Chiricahua) Mountains, just outside of the reservation where he was ambushed by Indians. But one shot was fired and the mining man was left for dead by the Apaches. His camp was plundered and the chief bent of the Indians seemed to be to secure am-munition. They took a rifle and six- shooter belonging to a mining man and left. Mack dragged himself to the ranch of Miss Rhoda Riggs, four miles away, where he told her the story. He said the Indians were dressed for warfare, and he believed they would kill a great many people unless they were taken back to the reservation. Miss Riggs, a young ranch woman, mounted her fastest horse and rode to Fort Grant, where she notified the officers commanding the Ninth Cavalry. A detachment of troopers was sent at once to the scene of the shooting guided by Miss Riggs who rode with them as far as her ranch. There she organized a band of cow-punchers to aid the soldiers in running down the Apaches and the brave young woman rode at the head of her little troop of cowboys. Sympathy for Mack aroused her, so she said she wanted to help fight the Indians, and she knew that her cow-punchers would find the redskins if they were outside the reservation. If they come upon the Apaches there will be a desperate fight.
There is more to this story in my diary (Mary Elizabeth Riggs Diary volume I)
Arizona Range News
date not know
Mr. Mack did not die. Though shot through the abdomen, the peritoneum being perforated, exposed to the cold of a spring night in the mountains, and then taken to Willcox to a physician before his wound could be dressed, he kept his pluck and is now practically well.
Because of open flames in stoves, fireplaces and lamps, fires are common occurrences in homes.
Occasionally some of our family have come from Texas to visit. Leonard Craft, grandson of Mr. Riggs’ sister, Rhoda Copeland, came to visit our Rhoda.
Arizona Range News
Friday 23 June 1916
Leonard Craft of Blackwell, Texas, arrived in Willcox last week enroute to visit his relative, Miss Rhoda Riggs.
Rhoda’s health is failing. She is no longer able to take care of her place. She is moving to the Prue place.
Rhoda passed away 16 July 1929. She is buried in the Riggs Family Cemetery next to her father.
(Riggs Family Cemetery location, row 1 headstone i)