Arizona pioneer rose from private to captain in Confederacy
James Henry Tevis wanted to close the Yuma Territorial Prison much sooner than 1910 when the last prisoners were moved to Florence. While serving as a representative from Cochise County in 1891, he proposed eliminating the need for the prison by hanging the worse offenders and whipping those who committed minor offenses. He believed it would eliminate the need for the prison. His proposal failed.
This column described Tevis' early experiences in Arizona Territory before the Civil War last week. He was a Virginian who was in Arizona by 1857 helping to build stage stations.
The outbreak of the war between the states in 1861 drew Tevis into the Confederate Army. He enlisted as a private in a military company known as "The San Elizario Spy Company." Information about this unit is scarce except for a report that it was assigned to patrol the Rio Grande in 1861.
He was transferred to the Confederate forces of Colonel John R. Baylor in January, 1862. Named a lieutenant in Company A of the Arizona Rangers, it was led by Captain Sherod Hunter.
His new assignment led to an incident which later brought a murder charge. Two men were accused of alerting Union troops that Confederates were advancing on a New Mexico town. Baylor ordered Tevis to arrest them and question the two about the accusation. One of the pair was soon afterward found hanged from a cottonwood tree. It was later alleged the other man was forced to watch the hanging and threatened with the same fate. In 1866 a grand jury charged Tevis with murder, but the charges were eventually dropped.
Ordered to occupy Arizona, Capt. Hunter's men invaded and occupied Tucson on Feb. 27, 1862. Several days later, Tevis and 20 other men were ordered to provide an escort for Col. James Reily who was going to Sonora to try to arrange Mexican support for Confederate occupation of the Southwest. The effort failed, and they were back in little more than a week.
When Hunter's troops decided to retreat from Tucson on May 14, 1862 because of the approaching California Column, Tevis was left in the area with a squad to watch for the Union forces. Almost captured when the Californians stormed into Tucson, he later remarked, "They got too close for health, and I left."
Tevis commanded the rear guard as the Confederates retreated back to Texas. Once there, his Company A was allowed several months of rest. A promotion to 1st lieutenant followed when Company A moved into Louisiana in 1863 with the brigade of General Henry Hopkins Sibley. The battalion to which Company A was attached suffered such heavy casualties in fights with Union forces led by Union General Banks that the Arizonans, then called the "Arizona Scouts," were reassigned to a Texas Cavalry regiment.
By May of 1864 Tevis was a captain, but was badly wounded during the capture of a Union transport vessel by his Arizona Scouts on the Red River. A lengthy recuperation followed, but by November of 1864 he was again in command of the Arizona Scouts. His unit was then mostly involved in minor skirmishes and scouting in Arkansas.
When the Confederates surrendered in 1865, Tevis went to St. Louis where he found employment as a street car conductor. Married to Emma Boston in 1866, he was there until 1877 when they moved to Kansas for several years.
In 1880, Tevis decided to return to Arizona Territory with his family. The lure of mineral wealth may have been what brought him back because he soon owned 19 mining claims in Cochise County. He was living in Tombstone at the time of the famous Battle at the OK Corral between the Earps and Clantons.
When an opportunity came in 1884 for Tevis to manage a new Southern Pacific Hotel near Tres Cebollas Station in eastern Arizona, he left Tombstone. After he homesteaded 160 acres of land near the hotel, a town began to develop which took the name Teviston because he was its leading citizen.
Teviston no longer exists because of a conflict between Tevis and a man named Bean, the Southern Pacific stationmaster. Bean wanted to name the town after himself. Tevis thought the idea ridiculous. He joked that beans were all he ever got to eat, and he had no desire to live in a town with that name.
Bean had the last word. After Tevis' death in 1905, the town's name was officially changed. It became Bowie in 1911.
Frank Love is a local historian. Much of this information about Tevis was found on the Internet. A more detailed description of his life written by Robert Perkins can be found on the Web site of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Col. Sherod Hunter Camp 1525, Phoenix, at http://members.tripod.com/~azrebel/