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One of the earliest pioneers of Arizona was Peter Kitchen, who came to the Territory in 1854. He was born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1822. Little is known of his early life beyond the fact that he served in some capacity during the Mexican War. He was a man, as I remember him, about five feet ten inches in height, rather spare, always wearing a wide brimmed sombrero; very quiet in his manner; low and soft spoken. There was nothing about the man to indicate the daredevil of dime novels, which is associated in the Eastern mind with the pioneers of the West. After coming to the Territory, he lived at the Canoa for several years, and then moved to a ranch near Nogales, called the Potrero, where he farmed a little, and raised cattle and hogs. He fortified his residences, both at the Canoa and the Potrero by building the adobe walls of the houses higher than the roofs, and having loopholes to shoot through. On many occasions he and his employees stood off Apache attacks. He lived in the heart of the Apache country, and, although subjected to severe losses, he refused to leave the country, but defied the red devils to the end. The following description of his ranch is taken from Bourke’s “On the Border with Crook.”
“Approaching Pete Kitchen’s Ranch, one finds himself in a fertile valley, with a small hillock near one extremity. Upon the summit of this has been built the house from which no effort of the Apaches has ever succeeded in driving our friend. There is a sentinel posted on the roof, there is another out in the ‘cienega’ with the stock, and the men ploughing in the bottoms are obliged to carry rifles, cocked and loaded, swung to the plough handle. Every man and boy is armed with one or two revolvers on hip. There are revolvers and rifles and shotguns along the walls, and in every corner. Everything speaks of a land of warfare and bloodshed. The title of ‘Dark and Bloody Ground’ never fairly belonged to Kentucky. Kentucky was never anything but a Sunday School convention in comparison with Arizona, every mile of whose surface could tell its tale of horror, were the stones and gravel, the sagebrush and mescal, the mesquite and the yucca, only endowed with speech for one brief hour.
“Within the hospitable walls of the Kitchen home the traveler was made to feel perfectly at ease. If food were not already on the fire, some of the women set about the preparation of the savory and spicy stews for which the Mexicans are deservedly famous, and others kneaded the dough and patted into shape the paper like tortillas with which to eat the juicy frijoles or dip up the tempting chili Colorado. There were women carding, spinning, sewing – doing the thousand and one duties of domestic life on a great ranch, which had its own blacksmith, saddler, and wagon maker, and all other officials needed to keep the machinery running smoothly.
“Between Pete Kitchen and the Apaches a ceaseless war was waged, with the advantage not all on the side of Kitchen. His employees were killed and wounded, his stock driven away, his pigs filled with arrows, making the suffering quadrupeds look like perambulating pincushions – everything that could be thought of to drive him away; but there he stayed, unconquered and unconquerable. ”
The following clipping from the Tucson Citizen of June 15, 1872, shows that under adverse circumstances, Pete Kitchen was prosperous:
“Personal: Our friend, Peter Kitchen, was in town this week from the Potrero. He reports that his crops are excellent. He has about twenty acres of potatoes planted, and has made this year about 14,000 pounds of No. 1 bacon and hams, which he has sold at an average of thirty-five cents per pound; also 5,000 pounds of lard, sold at the same price. Mr. Kitchen’s ranch is located near the Sonora line and at one of the most exposed points for Apache depredations in Arizona. The Apaches have endeavored to take his place many times – one partner, and all his neighbors, have been murdered, and last summer his boy was killed within gunshot of his door. Instead of being frightened or discouraged by those bold and numerous attacks, he seems only the more determined to stand his ground and take his chances. The Indians have learned to their sorrow that in him they have no insignificant foe. He never travels the same route twice in succession, and he always sleeps with one eye open; therefore, ambushes and surprises do not win on him worth a cent. He has been on the picket line now for fourteen years, and has buried nearly all his old acquaintances and should his luck continue, he may truly be called the first and last of Arizona’s pioneers.”
Peter Kitchen died a natural death on August 5th, 1895, in Tucson, and was buried in that city.