by Raymond (Skip) Theiler
WSTO, Albuquerque, NM
the high tech world of today's weatherman, we don't normally
think of a Colt six-shooter or a Winchester rifle as being tools
of the trade. In the life and times of John P. Clum, New Mexico's
first weatherman, they were needed as much as an AFOS keyboard
is a brief historical insight into the life of this interesting
man who was to establish New Mexico's first weather station.
Though his tenure as a government weatherman was brief -- about
two years -- he was the first in New Mexico. From weatherman,
he went on to wear the hats of newspaper founder and publisher,
Indian agent, town mayor, school master, and postal inspector.
He was to become involved in many of the important events on
the southwestern frontier of the United States -- events that
today are the subject matter for movies and television.
Clum was born September 1, 1851, in the Hudson Valley of New
York. At age 16, he was enrolled in the Hudson River Institute
as a cadet. The skills in military science and drill that he
acquired would one day be put to use in a faraway land. When
he was 16 he entered Rutgers College. Rutgers was one of the
first colleges to adopt football; and when Rutgers played Princeton,
it was the beginning of intercollegiate football. Clum was a
member of the Rutger's team and a participant in this first
college football game.
a year in college, and broke, he decided to go west. Reading
in a newspaper that the War Department in Washington was about
to organize a nationwide Meteorological Service (later to evolve
into the U.S. Weather Bureau, then the National Weather Service),
he applied for a job. Successfully passing an examination he
was appointed as an Observer-Sergeant in the U.S. Signal Corps,
and was directed to proceed to Sante Fe. He rode the railroad
to the end of the rails at Kit Carson, Colorado, then made the
remainder of the trip to Santa Fe by stagecoach.
Englestadt, Wyatt Earp and John Clum (right)
Nome, Alaska in 1900
He established New Mexico's first weather station in a building
close to the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza. The office
is described in the 1872 Annual Report of the Chief Signal-Officer
to the Secretary of War: "The office is on the upper floor of
a two story building known as Johnson's Building on a street
without name or number. The roof is flat and affords a good
exposure for the Windvane, Anemometer and Rain Gauge and also
the Instrument Shelter . . . ." On November 15, 1871, the first
official weather observation was made in New Mexico.
atmospheric conditions did not require all of his time, so he
started a private school. In a short time he had enrolled 15
students in one of the first English speaking schools in Santa
continued in his dual position as weather observer and school
master until late in 1873 when he was offered the job of Indian
Agent at the large San Carlos Reservation in central Arizona.
by lofty idealism, and with a profound empathy for the Apache,
Clum entered into this new phase of his life with the purpose
of righting some of the wrongs done to the Indian. As one of
the first advocates of self determination for the Indians, he
organized an Apache police force and a Tribal Court. He also
introduced the Apache to agriculture and ranching.
any society, there are always a few nonconformists. In the world
of the Apache, one of these was a short, powerfully built warrior
known to the Southwest as Geronimo. Not a hereditary chief,
he led his followers through force of personality and his physical
early 1876, Geronimo and his renegades were reported to be in
New Mexico at the Ojo Caliente Indian Agency just to the northwest
of present day Truth or Consequences. Clum was instructed by
his superiors in the Indian Service to take his Indian police
and arrest Geronimo. In one of the legendary events of the southwestern
frontier he led his Apache policemen into New Mexico to what
11 troops of the U.S. Cavalry had thus far been unable to accomplish.
Having read Greek history, Clum decided to reenact the trick
of the Trojan horse.
at the Ojo Caliente Agency late at night, he concealed most
of his force in some agency buildings and nearby ravines. He
sent a scout to Geronimo requesting a conference. With only
six visible policemen, he waited at the agency for his answer;
at dawn he had it. Believing they had the advantage in numbers,
Geronimo and his Lieutenants rode boldly forward. After a verbal
confrontation in which Geronimo related that he had no intention
of living at San Carlos, and that furthermore he was not amused
by this meeting, Clum gave a prearranged signal. At Clum's signal,
the concealed policemen quickly formed a circle around the hostiles
with their rifles leveled and Geronimo was a prisoner. All in
all not a bad day's work for a former weatherman. In the military
campaigns ahead, Geronimo would on more than one occasion surrender
to the Army, but this was to be the first and only time he was
to be captured.
July 1877 having become disillusioned by the bureaucratic sluggishness
of the Indian Service, Clum resigned as agent. However, for
the rest of his life he would remain an advocate of Indian rights.
next major act of Clum's life would be played out in Tombstone,
Arizona. Like many of the boom and bust mining towns of the
old West, Tombstone went from sagebrush and Jackrabbits to a
population in the thousands in just a few months. Included in
these thousands were all segments of society -- some good and
some not so good -- but the common denominator was the fast
buck. By early 1881 the town had become divided by competing
political and economic factions. Popular history has given us
Wyatt Earp, Inc., as the champion of law and order and the Clanton-McLowery
gang as the champions of unlaw and disorder.
one to sit out a good fight, as Mayor of Tombstone and editor
of The Tombstone Epitaph, Clum was solidly aligned with
the Wyatt Earp-Doc Holliday faction and against the Clanton-McLowery
faction. Just what side, if any, wore the white hats in this
political and economic power struggle is still debated by latter
day historians. Anyway, the point became moot after the October
26, 1881, gunfight at the OK Corral, as the Clantons and McLowerys
became residents of Boothill, and the Earps left Tombstone never
was briefly an Assistant Editor for The Los Angeles Examiner.******
1891 Glum went to Washington to start a 20-year career as a
Postal Inspector. This service would take him to all parts of
the United States, and in 1898 to the Territory of Alaska where
he organized the Territorial Postal System. He retired from
the Postal Service in 1910, and spent the remainder of his years
in Los Angeles.
May 2, 1932, at the age of 81, John Clum rode his last long
trail to the land from which no man ever returns.
Clum, Apache Agent, University of Nebraska Press.
*****Dan T. Thrapp,, University of Oklahoma Press.*****
Britton Davis,The Truth About Geronimo, University of