On a spring day in 1871 Pete Kitchen left the 17 Cavalry troop and one civilian packer, led by Lt. Howard Cushing, and returned to his ranch. He had taken them through the Patagonia and Huachuca Mountain ranges of south east Arizona in their pursuit of Cochise and his Apache warriors.
It was in the fertile Santa Cruz valley that Pete established his Potrero Ranch on 1000 acres in southern Arizona, about 60 miles south of Tucson, in 1854. Here he made a house of adobe for his family with an adjacent adobe buliding 60 feet long with 24 inch thick walls that he called "The Stronghold". From the flat roofs of the buildings, with 3 to 4 foot high parapets, he had a commanding view of the valley in all directions.
Pete grew wheat and barley, planted corn, melons, potatoes and cabbage, raised hogs and a fine herd of cattle. He supplied meat and produce to the Army camps and citizens of the territory. His Hams were renowned from El Paso to Yuma. Travelers and settlers alike were always welcomed at his ranch and treated to fine hospitality as were the peaceful Apache Indians of the area.
The outbreak of the Civil War and the Bascom Affair occuring nearly at the same time in 1861 changed the peace in the region for years to come. The Union soldiers burnt their forts as they abannoned them to go fight the Confederates in battles to the east. The Apache, led by Cochise, went on the warpath seeking revenge on Lt. Bascom and all the settlers in Arizona and New Mexico. Countless times Kitchens cattle and horses were run off or captured by the Apache and his Hogs became pincushions during these brutal attacks at the Potrero Ranch.
Pete found himself in the heart of Apache Country trying to protect his family, neighbors and ranch while most other settlers fled to Tucson for protection. With dedicated ranch hands including a blacksmith, saddler and wagon maker, they fought through the tide of Apache warfare while always armed with revolvers and rifles when tending to the reanch and fields. Many of the men who worked for Pete, including Mexicans and Opata Indians, were killed or wounded during this period. Pete even lost his own 11 year old son during an attack on June 8, 1871.
Over 10 years after the Bascom affair started Cochise surrenderd and peace came once again to the Santa Cruz Valley and the Potrero Ranch. For 17 years Pete Kitchen prospered at his ranch. He held his ground through thick and thin. Never once was he dislodged from his home that is reputed to be the site of the most Apache attacks anywhere in the state of Arizona.
What the Apache failed to do the coming of the railroad did. They made it easier for citizens of the territory to acquire the goods they needed. Thus Kitchen sold his holdings in the early 1880s, moved to Tucson, built a home and settled into retirement. Pete Kitchen- Pioneer, Rancher and Indian Fighter died peacefuly in Tucson on August 5, 1895.
3 days after Pete Kitchen returned to his Potrero Ranch Lt Cushing and 2 other men were killed when they were ambushed by the Apache on May 5, 1871 in the Battle of Bear Springs in the Mustang Mountains.