Pauline Weaver: The legendary "First Citizen" of Prescott

By Ken Edwards

(Part two of Pauline Weaver’s story – read part one)

When the Civil War broke out, Weaver went back to Yuma to sign on as a Union scout. In March 1862, he assisted General Carleton’s California Column in routing the Confederates from Arizona and New Mexico.

George Oaks, a member of the California Volunteers, described Weaver as follows: "He had come to Arizona about thirty years before and knew the country and the Indians well. He was pretty much of an Indian, himself, and liked to scout far ahead of us. He had been so much alone that his speech was part English, part Spanish, with a few Indian words thrown in for good measure. He wore his clothes ’til they fell off him, and if he had shook those long gray whiskers of his all of a sudden I’ll bet woodchucks, gophers and trade rats would have jumped out of them."

Pauline returned to La Paz in late May, 1862. By 1863 he was trying to bring peace among the various Indian tribes of central and western Arizona. He did manage to set a treaty that taught the Indians a password ("Powlino, Powlino, Tobacco"), which they could use to let the white men know that they wanted peace. However, many of the prospectors who were pouring into the region didn’t understand the meaning of the password, and simply shot Indians on sight.

Weaver started a ferry service across the Colorado near La Paz that was known as Weaver’s Landing. On October 20, 1862, the Los Angeles Star reported "A party intends to leave the Colorado River on the 10th of November for [Arizona's] San Francisco Mountains under the guidance of Pauleen Weaver [to go] where diggings of unparalleled richness are known to exist."

A prospecting party of ten men, including Weaver, left Fort Yuma about April 1, 1863. The men discovered a surface placer bonanza on top of a hill about 30 miles south of present-day Prescott. This became known as Rich Hill. A flood of prospectors followed as word got out, and the Weaver Mining District No. 2 was formed. A town was founded and by late 1863, Ben Weaver, Pauline’s son, and Charles B. Genung came to the district and discovered the first quartz lode.

Although Pauline did not profited significantly in the strikes, he did establish a small ranch in the Walnut Grove area. In mid August 1863, Captain Nathaniel Pishon led a military party from Santa Fe to the gold fields of the Bradshaw Mountains. While camped near Granite Creek, they encountered a solitary Pauline Weaver, apparently hunting. This may be the origin of the legend that Weaver was "Prescott’s first citizen".

In February 1864, Weaver was hired to provide scouting services for the army at Fort Whipple. He was described by a newcomer as follows: "He was then in the government employ, but lived a great deal with the Indians and had acquired their stealthy manner of walk and other peculiarities. He was then an old man." Judge Joseph Pratt Allyn said, "[he]—is the opposite of [Joseph] Walker in every respect; garrulous to a fault, tells large stories until he has the reputation of a sort of Arizona Munchausen, impulsive, and with a failing memory."

Charles Poston, Indian Agent of the Territory, tried to get some government compensation for Weaver in his declining years, stating "This old pioneer has been among the Indians of Arizona since 1832 and to his teachings and efforts may largely be ascribed the peaceable and industrious character of the tribes of the Gila and Colorado River."

Weaver sent some Yavapai Indians to the Colorado River reservation, where he thought they might be better fed, but they were rejected by the Mohaves. He reported, " It is hard to ceep a hunkry Indian from stealing and almost as hard to keep the whites from making an indiscrimanade Sloghter of them for Stealing. [sic]"

In late fall, 1864, Weaver’s garden was raided by some Yavapai boys and their leaders refused to punish them. Pauline complained to Captain Anderson at Fort Whipple. The nearby settlers killed three Indians after a second raid, and when Anderson arrived, the soldiers attacked two nearby rancherias, killing several more. In subsequent raids in January 1865, nearly fifty Indian men, women and children were killed.

In June, Weaver was wounded in an Indian ambush, but he was able to make it to Fort Whipple where he recovered quickly. He ended up with the military and worked as a spy and guide at Fort Whipple and Fort McDowell.

In November 1866, Pauline was permanently assigned to Camp Lincoln (Camp Verde). He slept on the ground in "a jungle of cottonwood trees, willows, reeds and other swamp like vegetation, removed some distance – as usual – from the larger military encampment." He apparently had contracted malaria, but refused to go to Fort Whipple for medical care. He was found dead on June 21, 1867.

In 1892 he was exhumed and reburied in San Francisco. On October 27, 1929, after a campaign to have his remains moved back to Prescott, Weaver’s casket was carried by Boy Scouts from Ruffner’s funeral parlor to the new gravesite at Sharlot Hall Museum where he was ceremoniously reinterred.

Mountain man, trapper, rancher, prospector, scout, guide, pioneer. Pauline Weaver was all these things. Although he was half Native-American and half Anglo-American, he was raised and lived primarily among white men. He generally got along well with both Indians and whites, but he didn’t shy from doing battle, when necessary. He had the tough, durable, constitution to survive the hardships of life in the wilds of the southwest and was as independent as they come. His efforts to bring peace among the diverse people of the Arizona and California frontier did not always bear fruit, but he was generally well respected. Despite his opportunities for striking it rich along with other prospectors, Pauline never seemed to have significant wealth, even in his ranching days. And perhaps he didn’t want it. His home was in the open where he could be his independent self. Although he may not have been Prescott’s "first citizen", he certainly contributed to local folklore, and earned his place as an important figure in Arizona history.

(Ken Edwards is an active volunteer at the Sharlot Hall Museum. The Story of Pauline Weaver by James Byrkit, from which most of this article is taken, is available at the Museum Store)

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(mon105pa). Reuse only by permission.

The Pauline Weaver Monument on the grounds of the Sharlot Hall Museum marks the spot where Weaver’s remains were moved to in 1929. Weaver place as "Prescott’s First Citizen" is shaky for many reasons, but his legacy in Arizona is solid. Sharlot Hall Museum Photo

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