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Saga of the Apache Kid

Updated on December 4, 2011

You may know The Apache Kid as a fictional Old West character mostly seen in Marvel and Atlas comic books from the 1950s. The character was named after a real-life Native American Indian, but any similarity to the actual man ends there.

It is believed the Apache Kid was a White Mountain Apache born in the east central region of Arizona sometime during the 1860s. Many facts about his life are hard to discern as the Apache Kid’s story is part fact, part legend. Some say his family settled at Globe in Arizona Territory in 1868. Others claim he was captured by Yuma Indians as a boy, freed by the U.S. army and then became a street orphan in army camps.

His name, Haskay-bay-nay-natyl translated as "the tall man destined to come to a mysterious end," was too difficult for many to pronounce so most just called him "The Kid." He was a bright lad who quickly learned to speak English and worked at odd jobs to support himself. The Kid’s natural aptitudes were soon noticed by famed military scout, Albert Sieber (1843 –1907) who took him under his wing.

In 1881, perhaps at Sieber’s urging, the Kid enlisted in the Indian Scouts. He was assigned to a special program designed by General George Crook to stop raids by Apache Indians. General Crook (1828-1890) is considered by many to have been the army's greatest Indian fighter. The Kid was a natural and within 2 years attained the rank of first sergeant.

Albert Sieber

General George Crook

He reenlisted sometime around 1885 when a call went out for 100 scouts to serve in Mexico. However, the Kid became involved in a drunken brawl which nearly cost him his life. To save him from being shot by a Mexican firing squad the Army sent him back to a previous post at San Carlos.

However, around mid-1887 the Kid found himself in trouble again. While Sieber, the Chief of Scouts, and other officers of the San Carlos post were away on business, the Kid was left in charge of the scouts. Many of the scouts decided it was a good time to have a party during their absence and began drinking. Some became drunk and became involved in a fight which ended in the death of Togo-de-Chuz who was said to be the Kid’s father. The scout identified as killing Togo-de-Chuz was named Gon-Zizzie. Some of the Kid’s friends killed him. But allegedly, the Kid was not content to let the matter lie. He also killed Gon-Zizzie's brother.

When Sieber and the officers returned from their business they learned of the tragic events and ordered to have those involved arrested. The Kid and 4 others who were implicated, complied peacefully, but during the arrests a crowd had formed to see what was going on. Somewhere in the crowd several shots were fired, one of which struck Sieber in the ankle crippling him for life.

When the shooting started the Kid and perhaps a dozen other Apaches ran for cover. This band managed to reach the horses and fled the post. Two Calvary troops were soon hot on their trail following the band of Apaches, who were now officially deserters, up the banks of the San Carlos River.

The small group managed to evade capture with the help of other sympathetic Apaches. But, the Kid didn’t want to be pursued as a deserter the rest of his life. So, he got word to Army authorities that if the soldiers pursuing him were called off, he'd surrender. The Army was agreeable and the Kid along with the 4 others who had been arrested surrendered on June 25, 1887. Even so the Army spared them no quarter and the Kid and four others were court-martialed and found guilty of mutiny and desertion. They were sentenced to death by a firing squad. However, due to several interventions by high ranking Army officials their sentences were eventually reduced to ten years in prison.

The 5 ended up in Alcatraz Prison, but in October, 1888 their convictions were overturned and they walked out free men. But they didn’t remain free for long. Certain factions of Apaches were not happy with that decision and had new warrants issued for their arrest in October, 1889. The Kid was once again a fugitive from justice. However, they were soon back in custody and convicted. This time they were sentenced to seven years at the Yuma Territorial Prison.

But by this time the Kid was getting tired of the wishy-washy justice system and the five escaped by overpowering three guards. During the escape 2 guards were killed, Glen Reynolds and W. A. Holmes. The 3rd guard, Eugene Middleton, was badly hurt but survived the assault. Middleton later stated he would have been killed also had the Kid not stopped the others.

The 5 made good their escape partly due to a blinding snowstorm which effectively covered their tracks. Following his escape The Kid seemed to vanish. Although there were many unconfirmed sightings, none were ever proven. Of course, thereafter, the Kid became a scapegoat for virtually every unsolved crime in the region.

He became more of a legend than anything else. In 1899, the Kid was said to be living with the Apache in the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mountain range in western Mexico. But it was never proven.

Rumors persisted well into the 1920s of the Apache Kid being seen leading a band of cattle rustlers but none were ever confirmed. Other tales circulated he died from sickness or shot and killed by a posse.

In fact,one mile from "Apache Kid Peak", in the Cibola National Forest of the San Mateo Mountains in New Mexico stands a monument which supposedly marks the spot where the Apache Kid died. It is said he was shot and killed by a posse there in 1894. Local residents say the Kid was left lying where he fell and never buried.

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