June 16 (1829) is the birthday of the fierce Apache warrior Geronimo. (Supposedly. I wonder how accurate that date can be.)
This photo of him “driving” a 1904 Locomobile was taken on June 11, 1905 at the 101 Ranch near Ponca City, OK. I like the photo because it emphasizes the extraordinary changes that occurred over his lifetime.
He was born to the Bedonkohe band of the Apache, near a tributary of the Gila River in what is now New Mexico but was then still part of Mexico. He married when he was 17 and had three children. There was constant conflict between the Apaches and the Mexicans. On March 6, 1851 Mexican soldiers attacked his village while he was gone and killed his mother, his wife, and his three children. He had an implacable hatred of Mexicans ever since that day. He said he couldn’t count the number of Mexicans he had killed over the years.
Geronimo first fought Mexicans (and other Indian tribes) and then, after the Mexican-American War of 1848, Americans. His exploits were notorious, he was elusive and aggressive and cunning. His name was feared above all others. Newspapers turned him into a legend.
He was captured several times but escaped each time. Finally in 1886 he was captured for the last time, and he never saw his homeland again. First he was imprisoned in Florida, then was reunited with his family in Alabama in 1887. After seven years they were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he remained the rest of his life.
In his old age he became a celebrity. He took part in Wild West shows and attended fairs, including the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Crowds wanted to see the infamous chief. He sold souvenirs he made, photographs of himself, and autographs. (He printed his name.) He rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade.
He died at Fort Sill in 1909, still a prisoner of war.