Robert Leatherwood – Accidental Hero

Robert Leatherwood was not a big man. He stood only 5’ 5” tall, and weighed about 130 pounds. He was born in North Carolina in 1844. Robert served on the Confederate side during the Civil War, and eventually migrated to Tucson, Arizona where he became a lawman. Because of his size and fearlessness, Leatherwood was given the nickname the “Little Giant.”    
 
His greatest contribution was that of serving the public, both as a lawman and as a politician. He served a couple of terms as county sheriff, on the Tucson city council, as Tucson’s mayor and three terms in the territorial legislature. One of his greatest accomplishments was bringing the railroad to Tucson.       
 
Leatherwood was a blustery man who was almost illiterate. The story is told of him betting a fellow poker player $20 that he didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer. The other man took him up on the bet, and started “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” Leatherwood interrupted him, and said “OK. OK. You win,” and threw him a twenty dollar gold piece.         
 
The heroic deed that started Robert Leatherwood off on his political career took place on May 22, 1886. He and two other lawmen were chasing Geronimo and 14 Apache, who had a white captive. On this date the three lawmen accidentally stumbled into the camp of the Apache. Leatherwood’s two companions pulled back on their horse’s reins and turned to run. But Leatherwood charged into the Apache camp, sending Geronimo and the others running for the hills. For weeks Leatherwood was hailed a hero. Then, finally he confessed that he had also tried to turn his horse… but the gunfire spooked the horse and it ran out of control through the Apache’s camp.  
Robert Leatherwood

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.

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

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Mickey FreeWherever Mickey Free went, death seemed to follow. Even when he was a kid.  
 
On January 27, 1861, at the age of 12, Apache Indians kidnapped Mickey. An inept soldier by the name of Lt. Bascom led a command to find him. Lt. Bascom came across Cochise and some of his braves. And although Cochise knew nothing about the kidnapping, Lt. Bascom accused Cochise of stealing Mickey. A fight ensued, and some Indians were shot. Cochise went on the warpath, and in 60 days, he and his braves killed 150 whites. 
 
Later Mickey gained his freedom. Although Mickey’s real name was Felix Martinez, when he returned he started using the name Mickey Free. Some say Mickey came from his Irish father. His last name “Free” came from his being free from captivity.
 
Mickey has been described as having long, unkempt, fiery red hair and a red mustache. He only had one eye. He supposedly had a mug that looked like the map of Ireland. A nice way of saying that he was really ugly.
 
Mickey was a scout for the Army in the Apache campaign. The Apaches didn’t like him, and the feeling was mutual. He would spread rumors about the Apache, and when the Army used him as an interpreter, his translating was to the detriment of the Indians.
 
One time Mickey was sent to capture an Apache. He tracked him for 300 miles. After Mickey killed the Apache, realizing the body was too heavy to carry, he carved off the Indian’s face as proof of the kill.
 
Mickey only had one friend, chief of scouts, Al Sieber. Even he said of Mickey, “He’s half Mexican, half Irish and whole SOB.”  

Valentine T. McGillycuddyValentine T. McGillycuddy; Army Surgeon, Agent to the Sioux, Candy Moulton, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325-3200, $26.95, Paperback.  Biography/U.S. History, 292 pages, Map, Illustrations, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

Valentine Trant McGillycuddy was born in 1849 in Racine, Wisconsin.  His parents were shopkeepers.  The boy had several siblings, and even as a child was drawn to healing the sick, practicing on the family pets.  He entered the University of Michigan at age seventeen, and became a doctor at age twenty, completing medical school at the Marine Hospital of Detroit.  The young doctor treated a variety of ailments from accidents and injuries to the hopeless mental conditions of patients at the Wayne County Insane Asylum.

Soon McGillycuddy’s own physical and mental conditions began to fail, and by 1870 he took some engineering courses and joined the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers.  He headed Out West into the great outdoors to recover his health.  Soon he became a cartographer and surveyor as well as physician.  Tall and thin, McGillycuddy had a short beard and sharp eyes.  He became a rugged outdoors man, good with fractious horses and able to withstand harsh weather conditions as he worked with various surveying crews, and to “keep warm” he became a hard drinker.

A member of the Boundary Commission in 1874, he entered the Northern Plains Indian Territory.  From here it was on to the Black Hills where he met eccentric characters such as Calamity Jane tagging along with the Black Hills Expedition.  In later years McGillycuddy wrote about Jane’s involvement with the expedition and we see how her imaginative legend was perpetrated as she told many whoppers to anyone who would listen.

McGillycuddy’s adventures led him deeper and deeper into the Territories where he would eventually meet Chief Red Cloud and many of the other important Indian leaders.  His had dealings with General George Crook, including events swirling around the days of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  In time he was federally appointed Indian Agent to the Sioux

For a while this book concentrates mostly on all the politics surrounding the Sioux wars, military people, harangues between the generals and politicians in Washington D.C., treaties made and promises broken.  All of this information is found in books written with greater detail than found here, but this one gives a quick and easy to understand evaluation of the Indian Wars problems.  We wish this were told from McGillycuddy’s point of view, since many pages sometimes go by when he is not mentioned, thus he drifts into the background.

McGillycuddy had a wife named Fanny Hoyt whom he met early in his career, and who traipsed along with him as much as possible keeping a diary about army life and loneliness for a woman in the wilderness.  She seemed to be a good sport however, learning to ride horseback and keeping the home fires burning.  Rough housing, few female companions and harsh living conditions could not have been easy.

McGillycuddy was present at Camp Robinson the day Crazy Horse was murdered at the fort, where he demanding the dying chief be put into the adjutant’s office rather than the guardhouse.

After Fanny’s death from stroke, McGillycuddy married a second time to a woman much younger than himself who had a daughter with him and wrote his biography.  McGillycuddy died in 1939.  His cremated remains are buried on Harvey Peak in the Black Hills.  He is much to be admired for his hard work, gumption, and straightforward dealings with those around him.  He was a good husband and father.

This is a good, well-written book about a fascinating character who has been mostly overlooked by historians until now.  Kudos to Candy Moulton for bringing this man to our attention. You can grab this book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including The Apache Kid, published by Westernlore Press, P.O. Box 35305, Tucson, Arizona 85740.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

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