Albert Sieber was born in Mingolsheim (near Heidelberg), Germany, 29 February 1844. When he was a child he came to America, first settling in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and then moving to Minnesota, where he enlisted at the age of 18 in Company B of the 1st Minnesota Infantry. During the Civil War he served valiantly at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg, where he received wounds that were to plague him the rest of his life.
However, after the Civil War, like many young men at that time, the East held no appeal. He decided to go "where the action was": the West. He prospected for a short while in both California and Nevada, but in about 1868 he arrived in the newly-founded town of Prescott, Arizona. He began managing a ranch there and also began learning Indian fighting skills. By 1871 he was well-known throughout the territory for his remarkable scouting skills. He was hired by General George Crook to be Chief of Scouts in 1871. Throughout 1872 and 1873 he was involved in most of the major engagements during Crook's great Tonto campaign. When Crook accepted the surrender of Chalipun at Camp Verde on 6 April 1873, Sieber remained at Camp Verde to help manage affairs there.
In February 1875 Sieber was asked to help transfer the Yavapais and Tonto Apaches at Camp Verde to San Carlos, when the Camp Verde Reservation was terminated. This was an extremely dangerous operation, and it was mostly due to Sieber that the operation was successful. This transfer was among the most tragic in the history of Arizona. It was carried out in the dead of winter, and involved the elderly, women, and children of a most unfortunate people. About 25 children were born en route to San Carlos, and a real tragedy occurred near the Mazatzal Mountains which resulted in the deaths of several Indians. It was Sieber's incredible bravery that helped prevent a truly horrendous massacre. From 1875 on, Sieber was mostly in San Carlos country.
In 1882 a serious outbreak occurred at San Carlos that required Sieber's expertise. The Indians that broke out (headed by Na-ti-o-tish) were finally cornered at Big Dry Wash (near what is now Chevelon Creek), and a battle ensued. Sieber again proved his fearless bravery in this engagement--the last battle with Apaches within the territory of Arizona itself. After this engagement Sieber was often sent on spy missions into Mexico.
In 1883 Crook led a major expedition into the Sierra Madre of Mexico (against the Chiricahuas who followed Geronimo). Sieber was a principal scout in this expedition. He continued to serve the army in the early campaigns against Geronimo, but he was not present at the final capture.
On 1 June 1887 Sieber was shot in the leg at the time of the outbreak of the Apache Kid at San Carlos. (See my page on the Apache Kid.) The wound crippled Sieber for the rest of his life, and apparently he became rather bitter about it. He, however, continued to serve at San Carlos until Major John L. Bullis fired him in December 1890. Basicially, Sieber felt that Bullis was unfair in his dealings with the Apaches at San Carlos. After he was fired, Sieber went into prospecting in the Globe, Arizona, area. He also prospected in the Sierra Anchas, north of Globe. When it was decided that a dam (Roosevelt) should be built on Salt River in Tonto Basin, Sieber was hired to lead an Apache crew to work on the roads leading to the dam. On 19 February 1907 a large boulder impeded construction of the road, and Sieber got underneath the rock to inspect it. It rolled over on him, and he was killed. Some feel, however, that some Apaches rolled the rock over on him. No one knows if that is true, but that rumor has been in this area ever since. Anyway, Sieber was buried in the old Globe cemetery, and a great tombstone was erected at his grave shortly after. Governor George W. P. Hunt convinced the Arizona Territorial Legislature that it should be built for him. The monument still stands as a fitting tribute to a remarkable man. Also, a stone was erected by Apache workmen at the site where the boulder killed him. It is still located just north of what is now the Roosevelt Dam bridge.
I wish I could convey to my readers just how much Sieber contributed to history in this area. I, personally have met many individuals who still have stories to tell: Apache and white alike. The great Western historian, Dan L. Thrapp, has written a wonderful book about Sieber, and I recommend it highly (Al Sieber, Chief of Scouts). I promise you the book will enthrall you. Sieber was a most amazing individual, and this area will always hold his memory in high regard.
A personal note: I often go up to the old graveyard to ponder the lives of the many old pioneers buried there. There are many: old Judge Aaron Hackney, frontier journalist; Phineas Clanton-- last of the notorious Clanton brothers of Tombstone; Sheriff Glenn Reynolds, killed at the time of the disappearance of the Apache Kid into the mists of legend. But, it is Sieber's grave that continues to capture my imagination. Last year I went up there to honor his memory on Memorial Day. While there I saw an Apache lady just leaving the area. When I arrived at Sieber's grave I was surprised to something new there. Four large obsidian rocks had been placed at the head of the grave. We call those rocks "Apache Tears" in Arizona. Now, I don't really know if it was the Apache lady who placed them there, but I like to think so. You see, Sieber was thought of highly among some Apaches. When he died he was mourned by many in San Carlos. By others he was truly despised. (I have heard from them too.) However one looks at Sieber, it cannot be denied that his impact on this section of Arizona can never be questioned. He was truly a giant, in an age of giants.
Return to Zybt's Homepage