Geronimo and Nachez, Chirachaua Apache Chiefs, 1886
From left to right: Son of Geronimo, White Horse, holding Nahi’s baby girl; Geronimo mounted, Natches/Nachez/Naiche son of Cochise and hereditary chief, mounted & wearing a hat; Fun, considered the bravest fighter in Geronimo’s band.
AZUSA Publishing of Englewood, Colorado issued the postcard above that has a photograph taken by C.S. Fly [Camillus “Buck” Sidney Fly, 1849-1901] 27 March 1886. It is titled: “Geronimo and Nachez, Chiracahua Apache Chiefs” and was taken during a temporary truce just before the peace conference in the Apache Wars. The wars lasted from 1872 to 1886. It is one of several important photographs taken by Fly who took the only known photos of Geronimo before he surrendered. Fly also was a witness to the famous 1881 Gunfight at OK Corral that took place outside his photography studio in Tombstone, Arizona.
In March 1886 Fly accompanied Arizona General George Crook to the peace conference with Geronimo and his people held in the Canyon de Los Embudos of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The pictures he took of Geronimo and the other free Apaches are the only known photos of Native Americans taken while still at war with the United States. Fly posed the Apaches, coolly asking Geronimo and others to change positions, turn heads or faces exhibiting nerves of steel according to witnesses. Fly was described as so wrapped in his artistic work that he was no respecter of persons or circumstances even in the most serious interviews with the Indians.
Fly who was born in Andrew County, Missouri, 1849, moved with his family to Napa Valley, California when he was very young. After he married Mary (Mollie) McKie Goodrich in September 1879 they moved to Tombstone, Arizona where they opened a photography studio in a tent in December of that same year. By July of the next year they built a 12-room boarding house that was also home to the photography studio and a gallery called “Fly's Gallery.” Both Fly and Mollie were interested in photography but she ran the boarding house and studio while he traveled around the region taking photos. Mollie, one of very few female photographers of the time, took photos of anyone who could pay the studio price of 35 cents.
During a period of heavy drinking by Fly beginning in 1887, Fly and Mollie separated. She continued to run the studio and gallery while he traveled about. He returned to Tombstone in 1894. He was elected as the Cochise County Sheriff in 1895 and served in that position for two years. He also ran a ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains. Even though they had been separated for many years she was at his bedside when he died in 1901. He is buried in the new Tombstone cemetery.
After a fire destroyed the boarding house in 1912, Mollie moved to Los Angeles, California. Before she died in 1925 Mollie donated Fly’s collection of images to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Geronimo was the name given to a prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache during a battle with Mexican soldiers. His Chiricahua name is often written as Goyathlay or Goyahkla in English. It means “the one who yawns.” He was born June 1829 in what is now part of Arizona, United States but was then part of Mexico. It was following a Mexican attack on his tribe and the resulting deaths of his mother, wife and three children sometime between the years 1851-1858 that Geronimo joined in the revenge attacks against the Mexicans. The loss of his family caused him to hate all Mexicans for the rest of his life. He and his followers frequently attacked and killed any group of Mexicans they encountered after that tragic event.
After the surrender in 1886 Geronimo was a prisoner of war and not allowed to live in Arizona. He spent time as a prisoner in Florida, Alabama and finally Oklahoma. In 1905 he agreed to tell his story to Stephan M. Barrett who was the Superintendent of Education in Lawton, Oklahoma. Barrett appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt to get permission to publish the book in 1906. It was reissued by Ballantine Books in 1971 under the title: “Geronimo, His Own Story.” He spent his final years in Oklahoma where he died of pneumonia in 1909 following a fall from a horse.
The Apache, a group of culturally related Native Americans found in the Southwest United States, currently include Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Plains Apache also known as Kiowa-Apache. Geronimo was raised according to Apache traditions including religious beliefs. In his later years, while a prisoner, he converted to Christianity and encouraged his people to also convert. A few years after he joined the Dutch Reformed Church he was expelled for gambling after that he seemed to harbor mixed feelings about religion. There are numerous legends and stories about his escapes and feats.
For more information about C.S. Fly and Geronimo, see: