Marc Simmons: The legend of the White chief among the Apache

An engraving based on a photo of Charley McComas was published in Harper's Weekly in 1883. Image from Ware Families

Historian Marc Simmons explores the legend of Charley McComas, who was captured as a boy by a group of Apaches in 1883:
In 1924, a war party entered the southwestern corner of New Mexico and killed cowboy Frank Fisher in the Animas Mountains. Then the Apaches pillaged a couple of ranches and quickly slipped below the border for safety.

The armed posse that tried to intercept them presented a picture on horseback that seemed more appropriate for the 1880s than the 1920s. And something else.

A couple of the lawmen got a glimpse of the fleeing murderers. Astonishingly, they reported that the leader of the party appeared to be a tall white man, with flowing hair and a blonde beard!

This was not the first time that such a figure had been seen with the renegades. Southern New Mexicans had long speculated that this individual was Charley McComas, seized by Apaches near Lordsburg in 1883 when he was 6 years old and raised as an Indian.

For years, newspapers in El Paso, Silver City and Tucson ran stories about the white chief who was supposed to be leading the “lost Apaches.” In April of 1930, they attacked a Mexican village on the Chihuahua-Sonora border and scalped three persons.

During the mid 1930s, a Norwegian anthropologist, Dr. Helge Ingstad, got curious about the Broncos and tried to track them down. He interviewed people who had seen them and became convinced that their blue-eyed leader was indeed Charley McComas.

Get the Story:
Marc Simmons: White chief may have led last free Apaches into 20th century (The Santa Fe New Mexican 4/11)

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