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John Philip Clum (1851–1932) played many roles in the Southwest: soldier, newspaper publisher, mayor of Tombstone, friend of Wyatt Earp and agent at the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona Territory from August 1874 to July1877. Clum was the only man ever to capture Geronimo—on April 21, 1877, at the Ojo Caliente Indian Reservation in New Mexico Territory. A month later, Clum arrived at San Carlos with the shackled Geronimo and other renegade Chiricahuas and threw them in the guardhouse.

Back in spring 1876, when the government closed the Chiricahua Indian Reservation in southeastern Arizona Territory, Clum and his Apache police had relocated most of the Chiricahuas to San Carlos. At the time, Geronimo had asked for several days’ grace to round up his people, which Clum had granted.

But instead of turning themselves in, the Apache leader and his people fled. In February 1877, 1st Lt. Austin Henely of the 6th Cavalry saw Geronimo in the Rio Grande Valley and told Clum he thought Geronimo might be hiding out near Ojo Caliente. The next month, Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Quincy Smith ordered Clum to Ojo Caliente to arrest Geronimo and his followers for murder and robbery and have them return horses stolen during recent raids. Clum reluctantly left on the 400-mile trip with 103 Apache police under their captain, Clay Beauford. Clum requested Army assistance and waited for them in camp some 20 miles outside of Ojo Caliente.

But when the troops were late to arrive, he made his move. He first divided his Apache police into two groups, putting a contingent of 48 men under Beauford and instructing him to quietly enter the reservation under cover of darkness. Clum then led the other group of Apache policemen directly to the reservation on April 21.

Clum concealed most of his force in the Ojo Caliente commissary, with the exception of 22 men who joined him on the agency porch. He then sent for Geronimo, asking him to meet in conference. Geronimo agreed and later arrived with 40 men, likely assuming Clum had only his small force of Indian policemen.

When Geronimo approached the commissary with rifle in hand, Clum addressed him, in Apache: “Geronimo, you and your followers have been killing white men and stealing their cattle. You have violated the peace treaty made between Cochise and General [O.O.] Howard. So now we have come to take you back with us. We have come a long way—400 miles. We do not want to have any trouble with you, and if you and your people will listen to me, with good ears and hearts, no harm will come to you.”

“Nantan-betunnykahyeh [Boss With the High Forehead—Clum was balding],” Geronimo replied, “you talk very brave. But we do not like that kind of talk. We are not going to San Carlos with you, and unless you are very careful, you and your Apache police will not go back to San Carlos, either. Your bodies will stay here at Ojo Caliente to make food for coyotes.”

At that threat, Clum raised his left hand to the brim of his hat in signal. When Geronimo moved to thumb back the hammer of his rifle, Clum then placed his right hand on the butt of his holstered Colt .45. Seeing that move, the policemen flanking him raised their rifles. Beauford and the other Apache police had already moved up and were waiting in adjacent agency buildings. At that tense moment, a wailing Apache woman suddenly assaulted Beauford. Taking advantage of the diversion, Clum tipped his hat, signaling the other policemen to swarm from their hiding places, weapons at the ready.

Realizing he was trapped between the forces of Agent Clum and Captain Beauford, Geronimo did not resist when Clum seized his rifle and placed him under arrest. Clum had the agency blacksmith make shackles for the Apache leader and returned him under guard to San Carlos. Geronimo remained Clum’s prisoner until the agent himself resigned on July 1 and moved with his wife to Tombstone. His replacement promptly released Geronimo, who resumed his raids, killing settlers and terrorizing the territory until his final surrender in 1886.

this article first appeared in wild west magazine

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On May 10, 1976, Woodworth Bernhardi Clum presented the rifle seized by his great-grandfather to the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, where it remained a highlight of the society’s Geronimo exhibit. A document acknowledging the gift describes the rifle: “A U.S. Model 1870 Springfield Rifle, cut down. Formerly the property of the Apache Geronimo. It is of .50/70caliber.”

In a video on the historical society’s website, exhibit curator Jan Van Orden said Geronimo took the rifle in battle from a soldier and that it is well used. Van Orden also said it was Clum’s granddaughter Marjorie Clum Parker who gave the rifle to the Arizona Historical Society, although the gift acknowledgment document lists Woodworth Clum as the donor. Woodworth says the rifle, which bears a notch in the stock, had remained in the family and that the children had played with it.

Before the rifle went to the Arizona Historical Society, the late firearms expert E. Norman Flayderman gave a description of it. He said it was a “U.S. Army Model 1870 Springfield rifle, Serial No. 28988, known to have been used by the famed Apache Indian Geronimo.” He added: “It has been altered considerably from its original issue appearance, as was the practice of Indians with firearms of this sort. The gun shows very heavy usage. The barrel bands have been removed, and in their place is a closely wound wire wrapping fastening the forestock to the barrel, with a similar wire wrapping fastening and strengthening a break at the wrist of the stock behind the lock; this type of repair is also typical of Indian workmanship and has been evidenced on a great many specimens of similar type. The stock shows heavy ravages of use and mistreatment, as is also typical of weapons of this type.”

The Springfield Armory in Massachusetts produced only about 12,000 Model 1870 trapdoor rifles, an intermediate step between the Model 1868 and Model 1873, when the government dropped the .50-70 cartridge and a U.S. Army board approved the .45-70 cartridge for its rifles. This author believes Geronimo’s rifle is actually a Model 1868 trapdoor, for several reasons: the serial number is too high for an 1870 (the serial numbers are always less than 3,000), many of the 1870s were not given serial numbers, and none of them had matching serial numbers on the barrel and receiver.

Regardless of which model it is, however, the rifle has solid provenance and indeed came from the Clum family.

Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Wild West.