Mickey Free

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Mickey Free
Free (date unknown)
Free (date unknown)
Born1848 (1848) or 1851 (1851)
Navaho County Arizona
Other namesFelix Telles, Felix Ward
OccupationUS Army Indian scout

Mickey Free (b. 1847/1848; d. 1914), birth name Felix Telles,[2] was an Apache Indian scout and bounty hunter on the American frontier.[3][4] Following his kidnapping by Apaches as a child, he was raised as one and became a warrior. Later he joined the US Army's Apache scouts, serving at Fort Verde between December 1874 and May 1878 and was given the nickname, Mickey Free.[2]

Early life[edit]

Telles' mother was Jesusa Martinez, a Mexican woman. His father was Santiago Telles.[5][6] The two met and fell in love but Telles refused to marry Jesusa.[7] His given name at birth was Felix. In 1858, Jesusa and her two children, Felix and his sister Teodora, met and moved in with John Ward,[8] an Irishman who had migrated to the Arizona Territory and started a ranch. The August 26, 1860 United States Census for the Sonoita Creek settlement in the Arizona Territory indicates that Felix Ward was 12 years old, his sister Teodora was 10, and his sister Mary was 5 months. Jesusa Martinez was listed as 30 years old and John Ward as 54 years old.[9] A half-brother, Santiago Ward, later claimed his birth as July 25, 1860,[10] but this contradicts the census record. John Ward and Jesusa had five children before his death in 1867.[4]

Capture by the Apaches[edit]

Felix was abducted at age 12 on January 27, 1861,[11] by a Pinal Apache raiding party. He was later traded to the Coyotero Apache, who are also known as White Mountain Apaches. The kidnapping had lasting implications for relations between the Apache and the United States. John Ward was away from his home on Sonoita Creek on business. Returning home, he learned from neighbors that his cattle and step-son had been taken by Apaches.[11]

He went immediately to Lieutenant Colonel Pitcairn Morrison at Fort Buchanan and believing that his stepson had been taken by Chiricahua Apaches, insisted on military intervention.[12] Second Lieutenant George Nicholas Bascom, acting on orders set out on January 28 to find the trail. In the morning he could not locate it. In the afternoon, he located a trail leading east toward Chiricahua country and Apache Pass.[13]

Bascom, commander of Company C, 7th Infantry, knew from experience that only Chiricahua would go east. What he did not realize was that the opening of Fort Breckinridge on Aravaipa Creek and the San Pedro River in the Pinal homeland was forcing all raiders to go east. The events which followed became known as the Bascom Affair[14] and triggered the Chiricahua Wars.[15]

On 4 February 1861, on orders to retrieve the child at all costs, Bascom went to Apache Pass to seek out Cochise, son-in-law of Mangas Coloradas.[16] Cochise said he didn't have the child but thought he knew who did and if given ten days could bring him in. Bascom had the Apaches surrounded, informing Cochise they would be held as hostages until the child was returned. Cochise escaped and captured his own hostages to offer in exchange, but Bascom refused.[17] A series of violent retaliatory actions followed from each side before the Chiricahua Apaches eventually declared war.

Telles was adopted and raised by Nayundiie, a White Mountain Apache, and became foster brother to Tlol-dil-zil, later known as John Rope.[18][19]

Scout for the US Army[edit]

He joined the U.S. Army's Apache Scouts on 2 December 1872 as a scout and within two years he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He was posted to Camp Verde to serve as an interpreter, where he met Al Sieber.[18]

Because the soldiers could not pronounce the Scouts' names, they gave them nicknames. Due to his red hair and other features, the soldiers claimed the scout named Feliz, bore a resemblance to a character in Charles Lever's 1840 novel, Charles O'Malley: The Irish Dragoon named "Mickey Free".[20]

Free served as a scout for George Crook in the pursuit of Geronimo and Nana.[21] He accompanied Crook on his expedition to the Sierra Madres in 1883 and accompanied Chatto and other Apaches on a visit to Washington, D.C. in 1886.[18] He left the scouts in 1893.[18]

In his time as a bounty hunter, Free tracked the Apache Kid, who at one point had a $15,000 reward on his head.[22]

Later life and death[edit]

After leaving the Army, Free moved to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation with the remainder of the White Mountain Apache Scouts and lived out the rest of his life as a farmer until his death in 1914. He married four times and had two sons and two daughters.[18]


  1. ^ Smith, Victoria (2009). Captive Arizona, 1851-1900. University of Nebraska Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-8032-1090-6.
  2. ^ a b Ayers 2010, p. 17.
  3. ^ Heard 1997, pp. 110-111.
  4. ^ a b Sweeney 1991, p. 427.
  5. ^ Worcester 1979, p. 75.
  6. ^ Hayes.
  7. ^ Radbourne, Allan (2005). Mickey Free, Apache Captive, Interpreter, and Indian Scout. Tucson: The Arizona Historical Society. pp. 1–5.
  8. ^ Arizona Highway, PDF, pg. 25, 28-29, July 2003
  9. ^ "Image: Titus-1860-census.jpg, (1573 × 2400 px)". latinamericanstudies.org. Archived from the original on 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2015-09-01.
  10. ^ C. M. Palmer Jr. (3 August 2014). "What became of Mickey Free?" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-09-01.
  11. ^ a b Altshuler, Constance Wynn (1969). The Latest from Arizona! The Hesperian Letters, 1859-1861. Tucson: Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society. p. 165.
  12. ^ Kessel 2001, p. 90.
  13. ^ Mort, Terry (2 April 2013). The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars. Pegasus Books. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-4532-9847-3.
  14. ^ Chamberlain 2007, p. 213.
  15. ^ Mort 2013, p. Chapter 1.
  16. ^ Sweeney 1991, p. 154.
  17. ^ Bourke 2003, p. 18-19.
  18. ^ a b c d e Thrapp 1991, p. 518.
  19. ^ Rope 1971, p. 135.
  20. ^ Hutton, Paul Andrew (5 March 2016). The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History. Crown/Archetype. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-7704-3581-3.
  21. ^ Vandervort, Bruce (2005). Indian Wars of Canada, Mexico and the United States, 1812-1900. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415224727.
  22. ^ Griffith 1969, p. 183.


  • Ayers, Steve (2010). Camp Verde. Arcadia. ISBN 978-0738579122.
  • Bourke, John Gregory (2003). Charles M. Robinson, ed. The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke: November 20, 1872-July 28, 1876. University of North Texas. ISBN 978-1574411614.
  • Chamberlain, Kathleen P. (2007). Victorio: Apache Warrior and Chief. University of Oklahoma. ISBN 978-0806138435.
  • Griffith, A. Kinney (1969). Mickey Free, manhunter (1st ed.). Caldwell Idaho Caxton Printers. ISBN 978-0870041303.
  • Heard, Joseph N. (1997). Handbook of the American Frontier: The far west. Scarecrow. ISBN 978-0810832831.
  • Hayes, Celia. "Mickey Free – Apache Indian Scout".
  • Kessel, William B. (2001). William B. Kessel, Robert Wooster, ed. Encyclopedia of Native American Wars and Warfare. Facts on File. ISBN 978-0816033379.
  • Mort, Terry (2013). The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars. Pegasus. ISBN 978-1605984223.
  • Rope, John (1971). Keith H. Basso, ed. Western Apache Raiding and Warfare. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0816502974.
  • Sweeney, Edwin R. (1991). Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0806126067.
  • Thrapp, Dan L. (1991). Encyclopedia Frontier Biography: A-F. University of Nebraska. ISBN 978-0803294189.
  • Worcester, Donald E. (1979). The Apaches: Eagles of the Southwest. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0806114958.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lords of Apacheria: Mickey Free, the Hunt for Geronimo and the Apache Kid, and the Longest War in American History Crown Publishing Group (NY) 2014 ISBN 978-0770435813