Marianne Babal is a Corporate Historian for Wells Fargo.
Just after noon on May 24, 1869, 10 men launched four small boats onto the Green River in Wyoming. Maj. John Wesley Powell was determined to lead his scientific expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers through the Grand Canyon, the last uncharted territory in the American Southwest. The youngest among his men was 18 year old Andy Hall, a Scottish immigrant who left his home in Illinois for a life of frontier adventure. Hall later became one of Wells Fargo’s stalwart shotgun messengers, guarding gold and silver shipments in the Arizona Territory.
Before departing on the historic Powell Expedition, Hall wrote a letter to his family informing them: “I am going down the Colorado River to explore that river in boats with Major Powell, the professor of the Normal College in Illinois. You need not expect to hear from me for some time ten or twelve months at least. …” Hall signed off the letter, “Yours till death.”
Death was a distinct possibility. No one on the expedition had much river-running experience, and downstream lay unknown territory and unimaginable hardships. After two weeks on the Green River, they encountered a vicious series of rapids, where the water rushed through canyon walls over 2,000 feet high. Hall remarked the water’s fast flow reminded him of a poem called “The Cataract of Lodore” by English poet Robert Southey. Powell liked the name and added “Lodore Canyon” to the map, where it remains today. The expedition lost its first boat to these rapids, one-third of its supplies, and very nearly the lives of three men. Powell aptly named this stretch of water “Disaster Falls.”
The river party encountered more challenges before landing ashore June 28 where the Green River met the Uinta River in Utah Territory. Hoping a passing wagon train would carry letters, Powell and his party wrote of their adventures to the outside world. Hall wrote excitedly to his brother, “We had the greatest ride that ever was got up in the countenent, the wals of the canone where the river runs through was 15 hundred feet in som places (sic).”
Powell and his men had no way of knowing that a false news story about the drowning of the entire expedition was then making headlines around the country. When Powell’s letter from Uinta reached colleagues in Illinois weeks later, it proved he and his companions were alive and well.
In mid-July, their boats entered the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon and spent the next six weeks descending through many rapids. On Aug. 27, the expedition encountered a stretch of river that appeared impassable. To run this rapid was near suicidal, but to bypass it they would have to lift their boats hundreds of feet up sheer cliffs — perhaps 10 days of backbreaking work, and they had just five days of food left. At this point, three members of the expedition decided to climb out of the canyon and walk across the desert to a Mormon settlement about 50 miles away, abandoning the expedition on amicable terms. Powell, Hall, and four others decided to take on the rapids in two remaining boats. The river crew miraculously made it through “Separation Rapids,” but the walkers were killed in the desert.
On Aug. 29, the surviving members of the expedition emerged from the rock walls of the Grand Canyon and spotted a group of men fishing from shore. Mormon leader Brigham Young, assuming there were no survivors of the Powell expedition, had alerted settlers to monitor the river for wreckage. Ninety-nine days after setting out on their 1,000‑mile river odyssey, the six survivors earned a good meal and some rest. From there, Andy Hall and Billy Hawkins rowed one of the surviving boats all the way to Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first explorers to navigate the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon all the way to the river’s end.
Life after the expedition
After completing his epic adventure, Hall settled into a more mundane frontier existence as a teamster and laborer. He ran a stable in Prescott, Arizona, and then drove a mail wagon in southern Arizona before moving to the mining town of Florence, east of Phoenix. In the summer of 1882, he worked as a shotgun messenger for Wells Fargo, guarding gold and silver shipments sent from Globe, Arizona, to the railroad depot at Casa Grande, Arizona. A portion of Hall’s 90-mile messenger route out of the Globe mining region included a narrow mountain trail where Wells Fargo’s green wooden treasure boxes had to be transferred from stagecoaches to pack mules.
On Aug. 20, 1882, as Hall escorted a $5,000 payroll for a local mine, two robbers opened fire on him and mule driver Frank Porter. Porter fled, running for help. Hall, wounded in the leg, took cover behind some boulders, never getting a good look at his attackers. Robbers Frank “Curtis” Hawley and Lafayette Grime hacked open a treasure box, grabbed gold coins and a pocket watch, and then fled the scene. Hall bandaged his wound and began to follow the trail of the robbers, whom he assumed to be a group of Apaches.
During their escape, Hawley and Grime encountered Globe druggist Dr. W.F. Vail. Knowing Vail could likely identify them, they shot him, then climbed over a nearby hill. There, they saw Hall limping toward them. Still thinking his attackers had been local Apaches, Hall called out to the two men, and began walking toward Globe with the pair. On the way, Grime concluded Hall had grown suspicious of the heavy saddlebags he carried. When the trio sat down to rest on the trail, Hawley maneuvered around behind Hall and shot him in the back. Hall ran a short distance, then returned fire, emptying his Colt revolver. Hall’s Colt was no match for the robbers’ rifles, and the two shot Hall multiple times. As Hall lay mortally wounded, Grime fired a final shot that killed the brave Wells Fargo messenger.
After Porter had raised the alarm, he returned to find Hall dead and Vail gravely wounded. Before dying, Vail identified his killers as two men from Globe. The double murder outraged local citizens, and Wells Fargo and Gila County offered rewards for capture of the killers. Sheriff Pete Gabriel arrived from an adjoining county to help with the investigation. He learned that Grime had recently borrowed a Springfield rifle and empty cartridges found at the crime scene matched that rifle. Lawmen suspected Grime and his brother Cicero, and when the posse discovered Lafayette Grime at work in a mill north of Globe, Gabriel pretended to be an eyewitness and shouted that Grime was the man seen shooting Hall three times. A stunned Grime responded, “I only shot at him twice,” and was immediately arrested.
Grime confessed to the robbery and implicated Hawley and his brother, who had scouted the robbery location, cut telegraph wires to aid their escape, and helped hide the stolen gold. Gabriel wanted to take the three suspects in custody to Florence, Arizona, fearing Globe citizens would raid the local lockup and hang the men without trial. The night of Aug. 24, after forcing the prisoners to dig up the stash of gold, a group of Globe citizens did just that. The mob spared Cicero Grime, who had a wife and children and was not present for the actual murders. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Wells Fargo paid for Hall’s funeral in Globe, as was customary when a messenger died in the line of duty. Gabriel reportedly used a share of the reward money paid to mark Hall’s grave. Over the decades, the old Globe cemetery became overgrown and neglected, and grave markers fell to ruin. The final resting place of Hall, the man who had lived adventures beyond imagination, became lost to time — until recently.
On Sept. 16, 2019 — proclaimed Andy Hall Day by the mayor of Globe — descendants of Hall’s family, Globe city officials and citizens, and Wells Fargo employees celebrated placement of a memorial plaque for Hall in Section 4 of historic Old Globe Cemetery, as part of the 150th anniversary of the Powell expedition. Although Hall’s exact gravesite could not be pinpointed through historical research, this section of the cemetery was determined to be Hall’s most likely burial site. As the same church bells that rang at Hall’s funeral in 1882 sounded once again, this courageous Wells Fargo messenger, who had made his mark on the history of the American West, was once more remembered and will never again be forgotten.