wild peaches and berries . They were the first to encounter Spanish missionaries traveling through to look for cities of gold .
A European presence did not begin to be felt at La Junta until after the conclusion of the 1848 Mexican- American War . Two U . S . soldiers lingered by the water and adjoining green pastures after they had put down their guns . Milton Faver , who had traveled alone on horseback from Missouri as a runaway 17-year-old , began hauling produce and dry goods in a cart from Chihuahua City and , ultimately , became a renowned merchant and rancher . He might have even been the first American cowboy when he initiated cattle drives of longhorn to Fort Davis , where he sold beef to the Buffalo Soldiers stationed at the remote outpost .
Faver protected his family from Comanche by building a fort at Cibolo Creek , which was constructed with three-foot thick adobe walls . When civilization began its hesitant approach to the remote Southwest , he once rode a train to San Antonio to meet his son returning from the Civil War . Faver found the experience so disconcerting , he bought two horses to ride for their return trip . His home has become a contemporary resort with an airstrip for flying machines that deliver movie and rock stars seeking a retreat , and where he raised his family and ran a great ranch , a U . S . Supreme Court justice drew his last breath inside the fort ’ s now luxurious walls .
Ben Leaton , who had also fought the Mexicans , prospered at La Junta like Faver , though he was not the sole progenitor of his story . Lacking any
When the Mexican government decided it wanted to be shed of indigenous peoples and end their depredations , it began paying $ 1.50 per scalp , and Leaton took to marauding . interest in returning to the organized states of the north , he started a trading post with his Mexican wife , which also turned into a fort and the headquarters for a cattle company . Leaton ’ s horses and peasants hauled giant loads of freight on massive , wooden-wheeled carts to be sold to the strangers drifting toward the river ’ s comforting promises to make a life , or who were , perhaps , mid passage on their way to Chihuahua City to search for silver .
His relationships with the Comanche and Apache were fraught with anxiety and distrust , even though he had made money by purchasing goods they had stolen from settlers . The Indians kept rustling his cattle , however . Leaton ’ s version of an olive branch was to invite the chiefs to his fort to dine and drink his peach brandy . One of his workers translated to his guests and expressed Ben ’ s interest in reaching a peace accord by offering the tribal chiefs a few animals , and when they agreed , he thought his problem was solved . The departing natives , however , made off with dozens of longhorns that evening . Drunk and sated , they were still able to think deviously enough to steal .
Leaton had another idea , considerably less charitable . The Comanche were invited for a return feast . They again grew intoxicated on the sweet peach liquor and drowsy on the chunky steaks served up on a broad oaken table in the fort ’ s courtyard . None of them took note of the false wall that had been erected , which hid a couple of cannons . Leaton excused himself
Continued on page 26 .
Cenizo Winter 2023 9