The Rio Verde Indian Reservation was established in 1873. It was an 800-square-mile property with its headquarters near present day Cottonwood. By 1875, nearly 1,500 Native Americans from various tribes had been relocated there. In 1874, with Army "help," the tribes built an irrigation ditch and had some 56 acres under cultivation.

In 1875, some businessmen from Tucson influenced Congress to order the moving of the entire population of the Rio Verde Reservation to the San Carlos Agency near today's Globe. That 10-day, 180-mile trek began in the cold of late February and about 100 of the Native Americans involved either died or disappeared along the way (insufficient food, exposure and infighting among the tribes was blamed for the deaths). The Rio Verde Reservation was then opened to Anglo miners and settlers in 1877.

After this transplanting of the tribes, the Army's main duty from then on was to put more Indians on the reservations at San Carlos and Fort Apache, and keep them there. This was hard because of tribal rivalries, each little group had their own chief and the bands were highly mobile and spread out across a wide area. Renegades were constantly leaving the reservations and had to be hunted down.

In August, 1881, a group of soldiers tried to arrest a prominent Apache medicine man named Nakai de Klinni at Cibecue on the White Mountain Reservation. A firefight broke out and the medicine man and six soldiers were dead within minutes. The tribes and the soldiers tried to keep the peace through the fall, winter and spring but on July 6, 1882, some 50 warriors crossed the reservation boundary and started raiding all through the Mogollon Rim country. 11 days later, the Army located them at Big Dry Wash (37 miles east of Fort Verde) and killed or captured them all. The survivors were returned to the reservation and that was the last major action of the northern Apache Wars.