Thomas Jonathan Jeffords By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
March 28, 2014
As wind howled through the Chiricahua mountain range near Tombstone, Arizona, a tall man with sloping shoulders walked with great purpose. As he glanced about, the heads of several Apache Indian warriors emerged, eyeing the traveler as he proceeded into the labyrinth of stone and cactus. Cochise, the famed fearful leader of the Chiricahua Apaches, slowly appeared on the path where the man was walking. Behind him stood several of his braves. The man nodded to Cochise, and introduced himself as Thomas Jonathan Jeffords. In broken Apache, Jeffords explained “I’m here to speak with you personally”. Impressed with his boldness and his attempt to speak Apache, Cochise welcomed Jeffords into his camp. The two men talked about the wagon pass that ran through Apache land. Several teamsters hauling supplies to the Arizona settlements had been killed by Cochise’s men. Jeffords operated the stage line, and fourteen of the twenty-one drivers the Apaches had gunned down had worked for him. His goal was to convince Cochise to allow his wagons to go through without assault. The meeting proved to be a success in more ways than one. Not only did Cochise agree to stop the raids on Jeffords supply line, but the two became lifelong friends. Jeffords once said “He respected me and I respected him. He was a man who scorned a liar; he was truthful in all things. His religion was truth and loyalty. ” With Cochise’s acceptance of Jeffords, so did the tribe. They called him Tyazalaton, which meant sandy whiskers. Cochise however gave him the name Chicksaw, or brother. When the situation between the Apache Indians and the United States government erupted into the Cochise war in 1871, Jeffords was called upon to help. The military was aware that Jeffords was friends with Cochise, and asked him to arrange a meeting to talk peace. Jeffords agreed and his efforts resulted in a treaty being drawn up. Part of the terms of the treaty was that the Apaches had to be moved to a reservation. Cochise agreed only after Jeffords was named Indian agent for the apaches. Jeffords held the post for four years, until 1876, two years after Cochise died. Jeffords died on February 19, 1914 at a mining camp outside Tucson, Arizona. His funeral was attended by local government officials, and hundreds of Apache Indians. The headboard over his grave reads “Friend and blood brother of Cochise. Peace maker with hostile Apaches. Descendants of Cochise, who still reside in the area, continue to honor the memory of the individual history records as “the only white man the leader ever trusted” by placing a wreath of white flowers on Jeffords grave once a month.
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