JOHN P. CLUM, INDIAN AGENT
- Published Date
Whenever the regular teacher of the “Friendly Indian” Sunday School class at the San Dimas Union Church was absent, the 10-year-old boys were delighted with their substitute, who no doubt told more real Indian tales than those from the Bible. This man was John P. Clum, who had served as Indian Agent at the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona, from 1874 to 1877. He truly understood the Indians, and was the only man to capture Geronimo peacefully.John Clum was born on a farm in New York State, and attended Rutgers College as a Divinity Student. He played on the 25-man team who took part in one of the first inter-collegiate football games in 1869. Soon after this, his knees gave out, and apparently he decided to “go West” with many of his friends.
In 1874, as Indian Agent, he established the first Tribal Police and Tribal Court, on the San Carlos Reservation. These worked very well in keeping peace, but were not popular with his superiors in the Army, as they did away with the need for the Army on the reservation and the subsequent profits from its provisioning. In 1877, Clum was able to capture Geronimo without bloodshed, and incarcerated him at the Fort. However, since his superior officers disagreed heartily with his methods, Mr. Clum resigned his post and moved on. His successor freed Geronimo and his men, leading to fifteen years of terrible bloodshed and Indian wars before Geronimo was again captured by General Miles in 1886, and the Indian Wars truly ended.
While in Tombstone, John Clum was its first Mayor, and Founder and Publisher of the “Tombstone Epitaph.” He also founded the “Tucson Citizen” newspaper in that town. Clum and Wyatt Earp were best of friends, joining in many gun battles with cattle rustlers and “bad men.” Clum was a witness of the “shoot-out at the O.K.Corral” between the Earps and the Clantons.
In 1898, John Clum was appointed Postal Inspector for the Territory of Alaska, and trudged up the infamous Chilkoot Pass, going between Dyea on the coast, to Dawson’s gold fields. In the next five months, he traveled 8,000 miles through Alaska and the Yukon. He established seven new post offices and equipped many others. When Mr. Clum was in Alaska, a dollar would buy a bowl of soup - or one minute with a dance-hall girl! John Clum was eventually appointed postmaster for Fairbanks and worked there until 1909.
Eventually, he brought his family to California, and bought a citrus ranch on W. Cienega in San Dimas, where he took a leading part in local affairs. He moved to Los Angeles in 1928 and died there in 1932. Had his humane and sensible plans been followed with the Indians, much anguish and bloodshed would have been avoided.