One of my favorite Western characters is the man who won the respect of hostile Apaches, captured Geronimo without a shot, served as the mayor and newspaper editor of Tombstone, Arizona and was a lifelong friend of Wyatt Earp. John Phillip Clum (1851-1932) was a bundle of chutzpah, energy and courage whose accomplishments became the stuff of legend.
Clum arrived in Arizona on February 26, 1874, as the newly appointed (and very young) Indian Agent for the San Carlos Apache reservation. The Apaches, until recently on the warpath, had been abused by previous agents who used their position to line their pockets. The Army, assigned to keep the Indians under control, only added to their animosity.
Clum was determined to change things. At San Carlos he treated the Apaches as friends, set up an Indian Police department and a system of self-rule. His charges nicknamed him “Nantan Betunnikiyeh” meaning “Boss with the High Forehead” because he was losing his hair. On April 21, 1877, Clum along with 100 Apache Police captured the marauding Geronimo in New Mexico and brought him to San Carlos. It was the only time Geronimo was ever captured at gunpoint, and it was done without a shot being fired on either side. Geronimo and his small band left again, to be recaptured by the Army in 1886. By then Clum had quit his job. Frustrated by an uncaring Indian Bureau and harassment by the Army, he resigned on July 1, 1877.
Before this, however, he organized a “Wild Apache” show and, in 1876, took a number of his charges on the road. They raised the money for this trip by putting on “Entertainments” in Arizona. Back East the Apaches were well received, but tragedy struck in Washington, D.C. when Taza, son of the great Cochise, sickened and died of Pneumonia. The Apaches finished their tour and returned home. Clum, who’d resigned his post, took it up again until the following year.
Clum and his wife moved to Florence, Arizona where he ran a weekly newspaper. Following the great silver strike, they moved back to Tombstone where, in 1880, he began publication of The Tombstone Epitaph. In 1881, when the town was incorporated he became its first Mayor. During this time he became friends with Wyatt Earp. Because of this friendship he was almost assassinated after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
After the famous shoot out, the Earps and their friends, including Clum, were labeled as undesirables. Clum left Tombstone and later served as Postal Inspector for the Territory of Alaska. In later life he worked giving lectures and promoting tourism for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1928 he moved to Los Angeles where he died in 1932, at the age of 80.
Clum’s early adventures were made into a 1956 movie, “Walk the Proud Land,” starring the perfect actor to play Clum, Audie Murphy.
This book, one of my favorites, is set in Arizona in the time of the Apache wars. The cover is a true classic. Painted by Pino, the most famous cover artist of the early 1990’s it also features the great cover model John DeSalvo.
The story is a classic, too. Half-Apache scout Latigo flees for his life after being framed for murder. Wounded, he collapses on the doorstep of the widowed Rose. Alone with her baby, should Rose help this man or turn him over to the law?
The book is now available in e-book format. Here’s a purchase link if you’d like to learn more.
Do you have a favorite real-life Western character? Has anyone seen the movie about John Clum?