The Coming of Cochise

cochise, apache, oak

The name Cochise started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the 1950s:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 8 baby boys named Cochise
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby boys named Cochise [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

Ultimately we know of this name through Cochise, the leader of the Chokonen Chiricahua Apaches during the 1860s and early 1870s.

His Apache name was Cheis or Chees. White men called him Chees, Kachise, Cachees, Cochil, and Cochise. There were other forms, spellings, and pronunciations but they all described one man — one of the fiercest guerrilla fighters who ever lived.

His name was derived from the Apache word for “oak,” but it “invok[ed] not the tree or the wood itself so much as the strength and quality of oak.”

So why were babies being named Cochise in the 1950s? Because Cochise had been turned into a character for various movies and television shows during that time:

  • 1961 – TV show Bonanza (1 episode)
  • 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 – TV show Broken Arrow (main character)
  • 1956 – TV show TV Reader’s Digest (1 episode)
  • 1955, 1956 – TV show The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (3 episodes)
  • 1954 – movie Taza, Son of Cochise
  • 1953 – movie Conquest of Cochise
  • 1952 – movie The Battle at Apache Pass
  • 1951 – movie The Last Outpost
  • 1950 – movie Broken Arrow
  • 1948 – movie Fort Apache

And the name was used in the title of yet another TV show, Sheriff of Cochise, which aired from 1956 to 1958. (It was set in Cochise County, Arizona.)

Because a fictionalized version of Cochise could be seen in something during every year of the decade, it’s hard to attribute the emergence of Cochise in the ’50s to one specific piece of media.

What are your thoughts on the name Cochise?

Sources:

  • Cochise – Wikipedia
  • Livingston, Stoney. “Cochise (Cheis).” The Settlement of America: An Encyclopedia of Westward Expansion from Jamestown to the Closing of the Frontier, ed. by James A. Crutchfield. New York: Routledge, 2015.
  • Roberts, David. Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, And The Apache Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

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