William Brazleton – Masked and Unmasked

William BrazletonWilliam Brazleton was about 6 feet tall, and weighed around 200 pounds. He was described as “a great big, good natured fellow who was as harmless as any man could be.” Little is known about his early life. He did tell a friend that he had robbed a couple of stages in northern Arizona, three over by Silver City, New Mexico, and four around Tucson.        
 
There were stage robberies in the vicinity of Tucson that mysteriously had two sets of horse tracks leading to the scene of the robbery, but none leaving it. These robberies were performed by a man who wore a mask over his head with holes cut in it for his eyes and mouth.              
 
Because of information received from a confederate of Brazleton’s, the sheriff set up an ambush. On August 19, 1878 Brazleton was shot down in a hail of bullets.     
 
At this time, the reason for two sets of horse tracks leading to the robbery scenes, and none leaving it, was the following. It seems that Brazleton had devised horseshoes that could be reversed in order to confuse trackers.  
 
Now, as to his fame after death… Brazleton was brought back to Tucson, propped up against a wall, with his guns on his lap. And, pictures were taken of him with and without his mask. Today, any series of outlaw photographs, either alive or dead, includes at least one of the two pictures of Brazleton.
 
Incidentally, taking pictures of dead outlaws wasn’t unusual. Quite often dead outlaws were displayed in public with photographers charging money for people to have their picture taken next to the local bad boy. That is, until he started stinking too much.        
 
 

William Johnson and an Old West “Romeo and Juliet”

Born and raised in Ohio, when the Civil War broke out, William Johnson became a Captain on the Confederate side. Following the Civil War, he mustered out in Texas.       
 
Deciding to do some ranching in New Mexico, Johnson picked up a small herd of cattle in Texas and drove them up to New Mexico. On the way up he ran into some Indians, and was wounded in both legs. He managed to make it to the Beckwith ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico.             
 
During Johnson’s recuperation he fell in love with one of Hugh Beckwith’s daughters, Camellia. Although Beckwith was also a believer in the Confederacy, he was against Johnson marrying his daughter. Thinking love conquers all, the two got married anyway. And Johnson started a ranch near the Beckwith spread.    
 
The cattle on the Beckwith ranch seemed to grow beyond all proportion of normalcy. And neighboring rancher John Chisum felt the reason for this was that Beckwith was stealing some of his stock. So, in April of 1877, John Chisum and a bunch of his cowboys conducted a raid on the Beckwith ranch. As it happened, none of the Beckwith men were present. But son-in-law William Johnson was. And he engaged the Chisum men in a rifle shootout until Chisum decided to give up the cause. 
 
Now, you would have though old man Beckwith would have been pleased with the performance of his son-in-law. But it doesn’t seem he was, because their one-sided feud not only continued, it escalated, until on August 16, 1878 when Johnson was talking to Beckwith about ranching practices… quite possibly criticizing Beckwith’s practice of taking other rancher’s stock… when Beckwith grabbed his shotgun and fatally shot his son-in-law. And you think your in-laws are harsh.     
cowboy with rifle

Billy Wilson and Pat Garrett

Billy Wilson and Pat GarrettDuring the Old West men changed names so freely that sometimes there’s confusion as to their real ones, and their aliases. Some say the subject of today’s story’s real name was Billy Wilson; others David Anderson. In reality, what a man calls himself isn’t important; it’s what he does while using that name. Under the name of Billy Wilson, our man came to Lincoln County, New Mexico and bought a livery stable. Later he sold it, and was paid in crisp new $100 bills. Unknown to him, they were counterfeit. On the run for passing counterfeit money, he joined Billy the Kid and his renegade posse.     
 
In 1881 Pat Garrett arrested our man. Wilson was sentenced to 25 years for counterfeiting. But, he escaped jail, and went to Texas. There he used another name… David Anderson.        
 
Our man, using his new identity, bought a ranch. This time he used real money, got married, had children and became a respected citizen of the area. But, eventually his real identity was discovered, and it seemed he would be returned to New Mexico to serve his sentence.          
 
But a strange thing happened. The governor of New Mexico filed a petition to have our man given a Presidential pardon. Accompanying the petition were about 25 letters, including one from Pat Garrett, the man who originally arrested him. Our man was granted his pardon. 
 
David Anderson eventually became the county sheriff. But on June 14, 1918, unarmed, David confronted a young man who was causing a disturbance. The kid pulled a pistol, and killed Sheriff Anderson. Unlike Anderson, the young man was given no chance to reform his life. Within an hour of Anderson’s death, he was hanged.  

Trailing Louis L’Amour in Southeast Arizona

LOUIS L’AMOUR IN SOUTHEAST ARIZONA

John Slaughter

Trailing Louis L’Amour in Southeast Arizona – Louis L’Amour chose to give his last look at Southeast Arizona in The Burning Hills.  It is a romance and adventure novel that acknowledges the Arizona pioneer ranches.  The novel occurs after 1891.  That was the year John Slaughter moved permanently to the San Bernardino Ranch.  The old Arizona was beginning to close, but the frontier still survived.  The novel begins in the New Mexico boot heel, travels through northern Mexico’s Embudo Canyon and concludes at and near the vicinity of Slaughter’s San Bernardino ranch.

John Slaughter came to Arizona in 1877 but did not establish his headquarters on the San Bernardino until 1891.  Slaughter had led a life of adventure as a Confederate soldier, Texas Ranger, and pioneer rancher before coming to Arizona.  His first wife died while coming west to meet him in New Mexico.  Slaughter married Cora Viola Howell, the daughter of a southeast New Mexico rancher.  It was a life-long love affair.  In later life as a Cochise County Sheriff, Slaughter cleaned up Southeast Arizona.  He may be numbered with Milton, Mossman and Tilghman as the last of the great, old, frontier lawmen.

L’Amour had told of the Apache reservation emeute of 1882 in Shalako.  The story occurs in the New Mexico boot heel just east of the Mesa.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 took many Cochise County men into the Rough Riders.  The Mexican Revolution had the people of Douglas hunting cover.  Poncho Villa raided Columbus to the east in the New Mexico boot heel in 1916.  The Mesa again was manned by troops.  The stone corrals are still there, probably built up again from the Apache wars and Mexican and Spanish redoubts.  The U. S. Army Signal Corps’ new aviation section would fly their first combat missions from the nearby New Mexico Boot heel.  Their underpowered Curtis JN-3 Jennies demonstrated that the U. S. needed better warplanes.  These underpowered scout planes probably looked down on or dropped dispatches to the Mesa outpost.

Texas Rangers Surrender

Texas Rangers SurrenderThe stories of the bravery of the Texas Rangers are legendary. However, there was one incident when a group of them were cowards.  It was when events made the Texas Rangers surrender.
 
About ninety miles east of El Paso, Texas, are salt beds where people went to gather this essential mineral, not only for food, but also for silver mining. In 1876, Charles Howard tried to get control of the salt beds by filing a land claim on them. The salt gathers living in the area didn’t like this. In a confrontation, Howard killed one of their leaders. This caused an uproar. Texas Ranger major John B. Jones was sent to investigate. Seeing the need for more help, he organized Company C of the Texas Rangers.  
 
To be fair, the men he recruited were toughs from Silver City, New Mexico, and the man he put in charge, John Tays, was no leader. Under normal circumstances, none of these men would have met the Texas Ranger standards. But, these weren’t normal circumstances. 
 
On December 12, Tays and the other Rangers entered San Elizario. As soon as they got there, the salt gathers knifed to death the local storeowner. The Rangers did nothing. The next morning a sniper shot their sergeant. With the Rangers under siege, they surrendered to the mob. 
 
The Rangers were locked up in a building and then the salt gathers killed anyone they thought was against them. After the killing was done the Rangers were released to return home the best way they could.
 
Within days military troops showed up, but by then all of the killers had fled south of the border.
 
Never before, nor since have the Texas Rangers stood by and watched crimes take place, or surrendered without a fight.    
 
 
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