20 Jan Gerald F. Creaghe
On February 22, 1856, Gerald was born the seventh child of nine and sixth of seven sons to Richard F.H. Creaghe and Anna Maria Archer-Butler in Ireland. Little is known of his childhood. The earliest written evidence was found by Michael Barnett when he noted “a strange note at the back of the manuscript book of the Letters of Harry Alington Creaghe” as noted below:
In a dream my darling Gerald had a few nights before he was taken dangerously ill the Christmas of 1866 – “I dreamed that I was dying and that I had all my dear brothers and sisters around my bed. I suddenly fell into a deep sleep and when I awoke out of it I looked about but could see no one, everyone had left now, and I was alone. But I did not remain long before I was startled by the rustling of wings and soon saw a beautiful angel all dressed in white who laid a white tablecloth on my pillow and flew again up to heaven. I looked at the tablecloth and there was written in letters of gold “three words” – “Are you ready?”
Gerald Francis Creaghe, December 20th, 1866
I believe the first sentence of the passage can be read as an introduction by Harry to a dream related by his “darling Gerald” and mailed to Australia soon after December 20, 1866. In letters home in April and July, Harry does not mention his brother, but in a letter to his mother dated August 5, 1867, expresses concern for his younger brother by seven years, who was then eleven years old, “… delighted I was to see by yours that you are well again at home except poor darling Gerald, whom I thank God almighty is quite well again.” We cannot know if the dream was related to the illness mentioned above, but if it was, then the boy must have been quite ill for some time. Regardless of when he was sick, it must have been a serious problem. We can conclude that the young Gerald was a spiritual lad and, perhaps, prescient. Although Gerald was quite ill around that time, it is apparent he was not “ready”.
It can also be inferred that the prospects for young men in Ireland in this family in the 1860’s and 70’s were not promising in that five, including the eldest (Richard, Harry, St. George, John, and Gerald) of the six surviving boys left Ireland to seek their way in the world. (Gerald, age fifteen, immigrated to America with his big brother, St. George, who was eighteen or nineteen at the time. Remarkable things were expected from young men (boys?) in those times.
As related by George Creaghe (b. 1924, grandnephew of Gerald), the two of them arrived at the port of New Orleans in 1870. The first job for the young immigrants was common labor – digging ditches, in New Orleans weather. It did not take long for them to figure out that there had to be a better way to make a living. Soon they were off to the gold and silver mines of Colorado in Gilpin and Clear Creek counties. There they did more labor work in the mines, but also tried some cowboying and got exposure to the ranching business. They saved what must have been a significant amount of money, gathered information, and made a decision to move on.
That move was to northeastern Arizona Territory in 1874. Apparently, they had enough capital to buy a ranch in the Coyote Creek area about thirteen miles east of Round Valley, now Springerville. They were nineteen and twenty-two years old.
According to George Crosby’s article in the St. John’s Observer, August 8, 1924, in addition to ranching, both men were interested in politics – Gerald more so than St. George. “Had he lived, he would have been a big man” in the area. Later, one of his positions was Undersheriff to Luther Martin, the second sheriff of the newly created Apache County, Arizona Territory.
Somewhere along the line, Gerald picked up the name “Paddy”. This was initially concerning in that it was a disparaging name that applied to male Irish immigrants to the U.S. in the mid to late 19th Century (Bridget, Biddie, or Bidde for females). However, Caroline Blunden gave assurances that “Paddy” should not necessarily be taken as disparagement in that it is acceptable for one Irishman to use the name for a friend even if their given name is not Patrick. Also, Gerald and his big brother do not seem to have been the kind of men who would have put up with a nickname if it were offensive.
On the subject of names, the family genealogy book lists Gerald’s middle name as Fitzroy; the same as his father, Richard Fitzroy H. Creaghe, and oldest brother, Richard Fitzroy Creaghe. However, Francis comes in as a possibility in several other sources. The dream cited above is attributed to Gerald Francis. Jean Isabel Creaghe (b. 1915) submitted the above picture captioned by her father, Percy Fitzroy Seton Creaghe (1875-1949); he refers to Gerald as his “youngest uncle”, Gerald Francis. St. George named his first son, born December 22, 1879, Gerald Francis.
There is nothing else that has come to light thus far that sheds light on his personal life, love interest, letters home; he seems to have been well liked and respected by his peers in the Arizona Territory.
In those days, apparently the county sheriff was responsible for tax collection. In the spring of 1880, Sheriff Martin sent Gerald and another deputy, James A. Richmond, deep into southern Apache County to collect or assess taxes. This was a time of significant unrest in that part of the Southwest in that Victorio’s War had been going on since September 1879. In brief summary, Victorio was a sixty-year-old Eastern Chiricauha Apache who was either a freedom fighter, renegade, insurgent, or terrorist, depending on one’s point of view. Actually, he was all of these things, as well as an effective, experienced, charismatic leader who inspired fanatical loyalty in his followers. He used his intimate knowledge of the environment in hit and run guerrilla tactics, moving quickly over formidable terrain and using international borders to discourage pursuit. This should sound familiar to an early 21st Century reader.
For the most part, Victorio ranged and raided over southern New Mexico, west Texas, northern Chihuahua, Mexico, with the 9th and 10th U.S. Army Regiments (Buffalo Soldiers), a unit of Texas Rangers, and the Mexican Army chasing him. Southern Apache County and southeastern New Mexico were just at the western extreme of his operations. The Apaches ere raiding for livestock, food, supplies and killing civilians to discourage (terrorize) the population. However, Springerville was no more than forty miles from the northwest corner of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The most direct path the two deputies could have taken south was as close as fifteen miles from the reservation. Victorio was not on the reservation the, but he had been. He and his band hated it and left. He felt the U.S. government wanted to force them back. There were young Apache men there who agree with Victorio’s thinking. The further south Gerald and James traveled, the closer they got to where the war was actively taking place.
Granted, news traveled slowly in those days, but there must have been some sense of danger in the region. Was there some conversation around sending two men on horseback that far south alone? We will never know. Gerald and James were killed by gunfire on this mission in early May, 1880. Their bodies were found on Ash Creek upstream from where it flows into the Gila River. According to family legend related to me in the 1950’s by my grandmother (Nellie B. Creaghe, 1894-1977), the killers cut off Gerald’s finger to steal his signet ring (see St. George Creaghe, Signet Ring) given to him by his father before leaving Ireland. Another account states they were scalped. This is possible. The Apaches had co-opted the practice in 1837 when the Mexican government began offering 100 pesos for a male Apache scalp – less for women and children’s.
It is clear that the attack occurred either on May 7th, as the newspapers reported it, or on May 9, 1880, as inscribed contemporarily in Gerald’s copy of a church hymnal. All accounts attribute the deaths to Apache Indians; either one of Victorio’s bands, a band actually led by Victorio (less commonly known as “Vittorio”), or, simply, Victorio. In order for it to have been Victorio himself, remarkable distances would need to have been covered by over inhospitable terrain, on horseback, by warriors and their women and children in a relatively short time. Could they have done it?
On April 28th, Victorio and his band attacked a silver mine settlement at Alma (near today’s Alma and Mogollo, New Mexico) in New Mexico Territory. They killed six people there, and an additional thirty-five, mostly Mexican sheepherders and their families, in the area. It is not apparent in my research just who these people were and where they were killed; but, if two of the killed were deputy sheriffs, it would have been worthy of comment.
Victorio’s band was not seen again until May 13th, just before he attacked Fort Tularosa (near Aragon, New Mexico) the next day. After that the group continued raiding in southern New Mexico Territory and into Mexico. In October, they were finally fixed in position by a unit of the Mexican Army in Chihuahua. Victorio and virtually all of his warriors were killed. Some women and children survived.
Could Victorio and his primary band have traveled from Alma to Ash Creek and back to Fort Tularosa in fifteen days? While considering the question, remember that these were tough, tough people who were highly motivated, and well lead. Having acknowledged that, it is about sixty-five air miles from Alma to Pima, Arizona, where Ash Creek empties into the Gila River after flowing some fifteen miles from its head waters on Mt. Garland. Depending on just when Gerald was attacked – May 7th or 9th – the mixed group of warriors, women, and children would have had to average around seven miles a day. Of course, we cannot assume they took a direct line. And we don’t know how long it took to kill thirty-five people, process some sheep for food, nor has the fact part of the route crosses a mountain range with 7,000-foot peaks. Possibly this could be done in fifteen days.
If the band turned around immediately after encountering the two deputies and proceeded directly to Fort Tularosa – one hundred direct miles over even more mountains – they would have had to average fifteen to twenty-five miles per day. Again, it seems possible, but seems unlikely for the reasons discussed previously.
It seems to me that the band under Victorio’s direct control could not have been responsible. More likely, a group of warriors, perhaps from the San Carlos Reservation, not directly affiliated with but sympathetic to Victorio’s cause, were responsible. This sort of thing did occur, and furthered Victorio’s mystique of being able to travel great distances at amazing speed. Of course, it could have been common, non-Indian thieves; but all accounts refer to Indians as the attackers. The legend of the response of St. George and other men of Springerville is discussed in the “St. George Creaghe” entry.
The most contemporary account is the one cited by Percy Creaghe in his picture caption: Arizona Democrat, Tuesday, June 22, 1880. I have not been able to locate the article, but Percy states that it is in a “clippings book”. That might hold more definitive information.
Who actually did this is irrelevant in that two young men – Gerald was twenty-four, James thirty-two – were violently murdered. It was not a glorious or romantic tale of the “Old West”. In fact, legend has it that Gerald’s finger was cut off to steal his signet ring. I am sure neither Gerald nor James was “… ready”.
Both men, Gerald and James, are memorialized on the Arizona Peace Officer’s Memorial which was dedicated in 1988 on the grounds of the Arizona State Capitol. They are the sixth and seventh names listed (see “Historic Sites”). Due to confusion, perhaps related to the appearance of his signature, Gerald is listed as David Creaghe. The board charged with managing the memorial has been twice informed, and perhaps that can be corrected in the future. I have not been able to determine where Gerald is buried.
Stephen B. Creaghe, July 8, 2015
Barnett, Michael; Letters of Harry Alington Creaghe, 1885 – 1868, 2012. Letters from HAC to home. Includes ship over and early time in Australia. CFHS Library.
Becker, Jack A.: Letter regarding Gerald’s signature.
Creaghe, Percy F.S.: Scrapbook entry.
Crosby, George: St. George and Paddy Creaghe, St. John’s Observer, August 8, 1880.
Gott, Kendall D.: In Search of an Elusive Enemy: The Victorio Campaign, Combat Studies Institute Press. Victorio’s War – a study of the conflict as insurgency. CFHS Library.
Wikipedia: Victorio, Battle of Fort Tularosa, Alma Massacre, Victorio’s War.