Frontiersman Andy Hall Served Major Powell and Wells Fargo | HistoryNet MENU

Frontiersman Andy Hall Served Major Powell and Wells Fargo

By Chris Penn
3/26/2018 • Wild West Magazine

After exploring the Grand Canyon, he worked in Arizona.

“I have not time to write to you now,” young Andy Hall scribbled to his mother from Green River, Wyoming Territory, in May 1869. “I am going down the Colorado River in boats with Major Powell….You need not expect to hear from me for some time, 10 or 12 months at least.” In that dispatch, Hall anticipated a long, wild journey that surely would be the greatest adventure in what had already been an exciting life.

Born in Roxburghshire, Scotland, in 1848, Hall and two siblings emigrated to America with their mother in 1854 after their father died. Eventually, they settled in Toulon County, Ill. Declared too young to follow his older brother into the Union Army when the Civil War broke out, Andy joined a westbound wagon train in either 1862 or 1863. He grew his hair long, hunted, trapped, fought Indians, became a bullwhacker and, according to one report, apprenticed with a Denver gunsmith. By October 1868 he was in Green River, hauling wood for the Union Pacific. It was there Major John Wesley Powell spotted Hall at the oars of a homemade boat and recruited him for his expedition (see P. 52).

On May 24, 1869, Powell, Hall and eight other men set off in four boats toward waters never traveled by white men. The writings of Powell and some of his crew offer glimpses of the young man’s contribution to the endeavor. Hall teamed with another young man, William Hawkins (aka “Missouri Rhodes”), in Kitty Clyde’s Sister, one of the three 21-foot freight boats. Expedition member Jack Sumner dubbed them “as jolly a brace of boys as ever swung a whip over a lazy ox” and referred to Hall as “a rollicking young Scotch boy.”

Hall excelled at shooting and fishing and showed tireless energy, whether making geologic observations or doing the backbreaking work of “lining” the boats through the rapids. “He is always ready for work or play and is a good hand at either,” said Powell. The major added, “He can tell a good story, and is never encumbered by unnecessary scruples in giving to his narratives those embellishments which help make a story complete.” Less laudable was Andy’s singing, which expedition member George Bradley said sounded like “a crosscut saw.” When the party entered a particularly striking canyon, it was Hall who suggested naming it Lodore, after a line in a poem.

In Hawkins’ later account, he said Hall intervened during a heated argument at a critical juncture deep in the Grand Canyon. Hawkins had been scuffling in the river with Powell’s brother, Captain Walter Powell. Once back on dry land, the soaked and furious captain retrieved his gun from a boat. Hall saw this and stepped into the fray. “Andy Hall,” wrote Hawkins, “gave [Walter Powell] a punch behind the ear and told him to put it back or off would go his head. Cap looked around and saw who had the gun, and he sure dropped his.”

As this incident illustrates, all was not sweetness and light on the expedition. Discontent often bubbled beneath the surface. On August 28, with no end in sight and facing yet another monstrous rapid, three of the men determined to leave the river and hike out. Andy chose to stay with Powell, and the very next day the party emerged from the depths of the canyon. One day after that, they reached the mouth of the Virgin River and completed the previously unexplored stretch of the Colorado. Powell decided to trek overland to Salt Lake City with his brother. But before going, he gave the four surviving crewmen the two remaining boats. He also gave them money, $60 in Hall’s case.

After a leisurely journey downriver to Fort Mojave, Hall and Sumner continued to the Gulf of California, thus becoming the first men to run the Colorado from the Green River to the sea. Once there, they rigged up a sail and made their way back upriver to Fort Yuma. Flat broke by then, they became professional hunters, until Sumner killed a couple of Apaches and thought he’d better seek new pastures.

Hall again became a bullwhacker, first out of Yuma and then Ehrenburg, Arizona Territory. In 1873 he was boss of the Grey Eagle Stable in Prescott when the local paper reported that Hall, having “great experience fighting Indians on the plains,” was going to raise a 30-man force to fight Apaches. The next year saw him driving mail wagons, and in the winter of 1875–76 he became a special constable in Tucson.

Hall moved to Florence in the spring of 1876 and took up with a Mexican woman who already had two children. They were still together at the time of the 1880 census, but there is no record of her after that. On March 18, 1879, Hall was involved in a shooting incident. After eating at a Chinese restaurant in Globe, he left by the back door and encountered a growling, snapping dog. Hall shot the dog three times, killing it, then crossed the street. He was explaining the shooting to bystanders when someone shouted, “Look out, Andy!” Turning around, Hall saw a Chinese man named Gee Fan, seemingly reaching for a gun in his pocket. “Now, don’t do that,” Andy said, placing his hand on his own gun. Then Fan made another suspicious move, and Hall shot him.

The next day a justice ruled the killing justified, as a gun was found beside the dead man. But Pinal County officials reviewed the case and, citing irregularities in the hearing, arrested Hall. On April 27 a grand jury indicted him for murder, but he remained free on bail, and the district attorney seemed reluctant to schedule a trial. The territorial legislature made Globe part of Gila County in March 1881, but Gila authorities were equally reluctant to arrange a trial.

Meanwhile, Hall had hired on with Wells, Fargo & Co. as a shotgun messenger. On the night of November 29, 1881, he discouraged a suspicious man who stepped in front of the Globe stage. The Florence Enterprise suggested the would-be robber “lost his courage when he discovered a messenger on board training a double-barreled mountain howitzer on him.”

On August 20, 1882, Hall was guarding a small mule train packing goods and a $5,000 mine payroll to Globe. At a gulley on a stretch of trail too rough for stagecoaches or wagons, shots rang out from nearby rocks. The mule carrying the treasure box went down. Hall took a bullet in the thigh and sought cover, while the packer hightailed it into Globe to raise the alarm. Rushing to the scene, citizens found an empty strongbox—the money and Hall gone. But the guard had left a trail of dirt marks, handkerchief strips and snapped-off branches for the posse to follow. The trail first led to the body of Dr. W.F. Vail, a mine speculator, and then to Hall’s body, riddled with eight bullet holes. Hall’s empty pistol lay near his hand.

An unusually small boot print at the scene led to the capture of a local man, Lafayette Grime, who not only admitted to the crime but also implicated his two accomplices—his brother Cicero Grime, a photographer in Globe, and Curtis Hawley, a local lumberman. By August 23 the trio was in jail, and to placate an angry mob, town officials quickly held a hearing. Lafayette Grime and Hawley described how they had encountered and killed Dr. Vail and then got the drop on Hall. They also revealed where they’d hidden the payroll. An orderly crowd then hanged Grime and Hawley from a large sycamore on Main Street on August 24. Cicero Grime, who had helped plan the robbery but had done no shooting, was spared to stand trial. He was sentenced to 21 years in Yuma Territorial Prison but was transferred to the Pacific Asylum in Stockton, Calif., on July 8, 1883. Two months later Grime walked away for good.

When Hall was laid to rest on August 21, 1882, the Arizona Weekly Star praised him as one of Wells Fargo’s most trusted messengers who in his youth had achieved “a very favorable record as one of Powell’s men.” The Arizona Weekly Enterprise also noted Hall’s service with Powell and Wells Fargo and characterized him this way: “A frontiersman in the best sense of the word, possessing all the virtues of that class. He was an honest, straightforward everyday man and brave to a fault.”

 

Originally published in the August 2009 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here

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