Unsolved Arizona, A Puzzling History of Murder, Mayhem, & MysteryUnsolved Arizona, A Puzzling History of Murder, Mayhem, & Mystery, Jane Eppinga, History Press, $21.99. Paper, Photos, Bibliography, Index.

This book will entertain history-mystery buffs with thirteen true stories about unsolved, odd, and fascinating episodes pertaining to Arizona.

Readers will find the Glen and Bessie Hyde adventure ending in tragedy as the couple honeymooned for twenty-six days on the Colorado River rapids.  Their bodies were never found.

A chapter titled “Lust for the Dutchman’s Gold” takes the reader to Arizona’s Superstition Mountains where legends and scary stories abound. Spaniards, Apaches, Mexican miners, and American adventurers found, lost, hid, and died over golden treasure.  Secret maps, wandering gold-seekers, lies and wild tales still haunt these mountains where nobody has ever found the gold, but scattered throughout the hills are decapitated skeletons.  Lost treasure in the Superstitions has led more than one man to his death.

Here too you will find a chapter about the Wham paymaster robbery, a $28,345.10 loss of government funds.  It happened in May of 1889 at Cedar Spring, Arizona.  The military payroll consisting of $5.00, $10.00, and $20.00 gold pieces was stolen by a band of robbers as the payroll, carried in a wagon under escort, was ambushed and robbed.  The Wham robbery was named after Major Joseph Washington Wham whose personal history included previous robberies, thus he became one of the suspects.  In the end a variety of characters were arrested tried, and found not guilty.  Local ranchers made jokes, soldiers escorting the payroll were told to keep quiet, Wham himself was never held responsible, and after all the political hyperbole, court room haggling and wild newspaper accounts, the money has never been recovered.

A chapter about the missing evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson tells of an eccentric who led authorities on a wild chase during which she disappeared for five weeks.  Other chapters tell of a missing baby, a couple who vanished in the desert near Yuma, the mysterious disappearance of a Willcox rancher’s wife, and the kidnapping of a six-year-old girl, June Robles held in a cage in the desert outside Tucson.  One chapter dwells on the details of the frustrating saga concerning the disappearance of a National Park Service ranger, Paul Fugate.  In January 1980 Fugate walked away from his office in the Chiricahua National Monument in southern Cochise County, Arizona, and was never seen again.  The author takes readers on a trip this time, following Fugate’s activities for several days leading up to his disappearance.  Much of the information comes directly from Fugate’s wife.

The book is a mix of famous old-time mysteries and more recent crime investigations.  They are all about Arizona, and remind us of the harsh desert conditions people are faced with then and now.  Vast stretches of high desert offer scant vegetation, prickly cactus, little water and merciless heat.  Desert dwellers including rattlesnakes and coyotes, wolves and mountain lions sometimes figure into the conditions people face when finding themselves lost, alone, or abandoned.

The author Jane Eppinga has written a large number of books targeting Arizona subjects, with special interest in the macabre.  These include Arizona Twilight Tales: Good Ghosts: Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains.  She is a member of Arizona Professional Writers, and National Federation of Press Women.

Get your copy HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Widow’s Peak published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988-0700, www.silklabelbooks.com

Zebulon Pike and Pikes Peak

Zebulon PikeZebulon Pike was a successful explorer. But, it seems he was successful in spite of miscalculations. He started his exploration at the age of 26 when, as a soldier, he led 20 men on an expedition up the Mississippi River. They left in August, expecting to get back before the winter freeze. Unfortunately, he miscalculated and the waterways froze, so the small band had to spend the winter in Minnesota.  
 
Less than three months later Pike was ordered on another venture. This time he and his men were sent to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas River. When they arrived in Colorado, Pike saw a towering peak. He decided to climb it. It was another miscalculation. He grossly underestimated the height of the mountain. Dressed only in thin cotton clothes, they struggled in deep snow and freezing temperatures, without making it to the top. Incidentally, although this mountain came to be known as Pike’s Peak, it was not something that Pike himself promoted.     
 
During this second expedition Pike miscalculated his location, and wandered into Spanish territory, where they were captured. He and his men were moved from Santa Fe, to Chihuahua, before being released. The whole time Pike was gathering information on the Spanish territory to be later given to his commanders.     
 
The army was impressed with his daring, and they promoted him to brigadier general. Unfortunately, on April 27, 1813 Zebulon Pike made another miscalculation by standing too close to an abandoned British powder magazine that was exploded. A rock from the explosion hit him in the back and killed him.  
 
Zebulon Pike was only 34 years of age. Another great man from American history who packed a lifetime in a few short years. 

Bitter Creek George Newcomb

Bitter Creek George NewcombGeorge Newcomb was born in Kansas in 1867. At a young age he went to Texas to become a cowboy. From there he drifted up to Oklahoma. He so frequently sang, “I’m a wild wolf from Bitter Creek, and it’s my night to howl,” that his friends started calling him Bitter Creek George Newcomb.   
 
Bitter Creek joined the Dalton gang, but fortunately for him, he missed out on the Coffeeville Raid where the Daltons were wiped out. From there he drifted over to the Doolin gang.     
 
While at a country dance he met a 15 year old Rosa Dunn, and was smitten. Rosa became the legendary “Rose of Cimarron.”      
 
On May 1, 1895, Bitter Creek and fellow outlaw Charley Pierce were on the run. They decided to go to the ranch owned by Rosa Dunn’s family on the Cimarron River in Oklahoma. Bitter Creek not only wanted to see Rosa, he was also hoping to collect the $900 owed him by Bee and John Dunn, Rosa’s brothers. Unfortunately for Bitter Creek and Charley Pierce, there was a $5,000 reward on their heads. 
 
When the two men dismounted at the Dunn’s house, gunfire opened up. With Bitter Creek and Pierce on the ground, the Dunn brothers stepped outside. Pierce let out a moan. It was silenced with another blast. 
 
The Dunns put Bitter Creek and Pierce in the back of their wagon, and headed for Guthrie. On the way in Bitter Creek, who wasn’t quite dead, asked for some water. He was given lead instead.  
 
We’re not sure about Rosa’s attitude concerning the event, there have been varying accounts over the years. But, with the $5,000 reward, and the $900 the Dunn brothers no longer had to pay Bitter Creek George Newcomb, I’m sure they felt pretty good about what happened.

Chuckwagon: Fart and Dart Beans

The following recipe for Fart and Dart Beans is not an actual 1800’s cattle drive recipe.  However, it is in the spirit of the bean dishes the cowboys ate.  Even better yet, it tastes great.

Fart and Dart Beans

Fart and Dart beansMix together one 16 ounce can of the following: Pinto beans, pork & beans, red kidney beans, lima beans, white northern beans and butter beans.

1 lb cut up bacon                             1 chopped onion

½ tsp minced garlic                          ½ tsp prepared mustard

½ cup vinegar                                   1 cup brown sugar

Fry the bacon until done, but not crisp.  Pour beans, bacon, onion and garlic into large pan and mix.  Simmer for 15 minutes a combination of the mustard, vinegar and brown sugar.  Pour the liquid over the beans and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Mix the beans a couple of times during the cooking process.

An Interview With Wild Bill Hickok

Interview with Wild Bill HickokThis is an interview by Henry M. Stanley, African explorer who uttered the famous line “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”  He met James Hickok while working for the Weekly Missouri Democrat.  At the time of his interview with Wild Bill Hickok he was a scout for the Seventh Calvary.

April 4, 1867, Weekly Missouri Democrat – James Butler Hickok, commonly called “Wild Bill” is one of the finest examples of that peculiar class now extant, known as Frontiersman, ranger, hunter and Indian scout.  He is now thirty-eight years old and since he was thirteen the prairie has been his home.  He stands six feet one inch in his moccasins and is as handsome a specimen of a man as could be found.  Harper’s correspondent recently gave a sketch of the career of this remarkable man which excepting a slight exaggeration, was correct.

We were prepared, on hearing of “Wild Bill’s” presence in camp, to see a person who would prove to be a coarse, illiterate, quarrelsome, obtrusive, obstinate bully; in fact one of those ruffians to be found South and West, who delights in shedding blood.  We confess to being greatly disappointed when, on being introduced to him, we looked on a person who was the very reverse of all that we had imagined.  He was dressed in a black sacque coat, brown pants, fancy shirt, leather leggings and had on his head a beaver cap.  Tall, straight, broad compact shoulders, Herculean chest, narrow waist, and well formed muscular limbs.  A fine handsome face, free from any blemish, a light moustache, a thin pointed nose, bluish-gray eyes, with a calm, quiet almost benignant look, yet seemingly possessing some mysterious latent power, a magnificent forehead, hair parted from the center of his forehead and hanging down behind the ears in long silky curls.  He is brave, there can be no doubt; that fact is impressed on you at once before he utters a single syllable.  He is neither as coarse nor as illiterate as Harper’s Monthly portrays him.

The following verbatim dialogue took place between us: “I say Bill, or Mr. Hickok, how many white men have you killed to your certain knowledge?”

After a little deliberation, he replied, “I would be willing to take my oath on the Bible tomorrow that I have killed over a hundred a long ways off.”

“What made you kill all those men; did you kill them without cause or provocation?”

“No, by Heaven!  I never killed one man without a good cause.”

“How old were you when you killed your first man, and for what cause?”

“I was twenty-eight years old when I killed the first white man, and if ever a man deserved killing he did.  He was a gambler and counterfeiter, and I was in a hotel in Leavenworth City then, as seeing some loose characters around, I ordered a room, and as I had some money about me, I thought I would go to it.  I had lain some thirty minutes on the bed when I heard some men at the door.  I pulled out my revolver and Bowie knife and held them ready, but half concealed, pretending to be asleep.  The door was opened and five men entered the room.  They whispered together, ‘Let us kill the son of a b—h; I bet he has got money.’

“Gentlemen,” he said further, “that was a time, an awful time.  I kept perfectly still until just as the knife touched my breast; I sprang aside and buried mine in his heart and then used my revolvers on the others, right and left.  Only one was wounded besides the one killed; and then, gentlemen, I dashed through the room and rushed to the fort, procured a lot of soldiers, came to the hotel and captured the whole gang of them, fifteen in all.  We searched the cellar and found eleven bodies buried there-men who had been murdered by those villains.”

Turning to us he asked, “Would you have not done the same?  That was the first man I killed and I was never sorry for that yet.”

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