Even now, the desert is not a friendly place for someone unprepared. Add illness or injury and a much longer travel time, and the desert can be deadly.

Hear the tale of a brave man who apparently gave in to his delirium.

From the Arizona Daily Star, May 31, 1902:



J. A. Adams, a former resident of Arizona and a grandson of old John Brown, whose "soul goes marching on," wandered away from his camp on the Colorado desert May 19th and perished for want of water. The story of his disappearance is graphically told by Charles Fay, one of the party, as follows:

"We were out on the desert prospecting for gold," said Fay. "An Indian whom we had employed to show us where to find water on the desert caught his foot in the stirrup while mounting his horse and fell on his back. The horse started to run, dragging the Indian by one foot. As the ground was covered by jagged rocks, the Indian would have been killed, had not Adams run up and seized the horse by the bit. The animal, wild with fright, reared and plunged. Adams was twice thrown upon the rocks and once the horse's hoofs struck him, but he still gripped the bit until Mr. Lamere and I succeeded in releasing the Indian.

"After the danger was over Adams sat down upon a rock and began laughing, and when asked if he was hurt, he replied, 'Oh, no; I'm only a little tired, but I guess you'll have to help me set this arm.' We then started for Yuma, Adams riding some twenty-five miles that afternoon and never once complaining, though we could see by his drawn features that he was suffering intense pain.

"At dusk we camped for the night and within an hour the injured man was delirious and raving like a maniac. Some time during the night he left camp. As soon as we discovered that he had gone we made every effort to find him, but could not do much until daylight, when we found his tracks all that day and until about 9 o'clock the next day, when we came to a hard, rocky place at the foot of some rock hills. Here we lost the trail, and try as we might we could not find it again.

"For three days we searched the hills, but not a trace of the man could we discover, though we well know that somewhere within a radius of twenty or thirty miles lay the body of one of the bravest men that ever lost his life in that great death trap — the Colorado desert."


A sad tale of how dangerous the desert can be when one can't simply drive out in a truck.

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Some “Tales from the Morgue” series are now available as eBooks along with some other Arizona Daily Star special sections.

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