Old West Lifestyle & Stories


One of the codes of the Old West was that women were not to be hurt.  In an incident that took place near Yuma, Arizona on February 7, 1901, that code was broken.

The ownership of a ranch occupied by Joseph and Mary Burns was under dispute.  Constable Marian Alexander went to the ranch to serve papers on the Burns.  With Joseph Burns away, Mary Burns met Constable Alexander with a rifle.  Unarmed and unprepared for a confrontation, Alexander left.

Alexander returned with two other men and a shotgun.  Mrs. Burns still had her rifle.  The two men stayed on their horses while Constable Alexander walked over to Mary Burns.  An argument ensued, and Alexander pulled the triggers on both barrels…killing Mary Burns.

The news spread across the area like wildfire.  Constable Alexander surrendered, and was placed in the Yuma Territorial Prison…more for his protection.  The papers editorialized that “the jail was not deemed strong enough to save the murderer from the anger of the citizens.”

Mary Burns’ brother Frank King, and father, Samuel King, arrived in town.  Alexander and the other two men were indicted by a grand jury, which, incidentally contained Samuel King, Mary Burns’ father.  Alexander was sentenced to life in prison.

As Alexander was leaving the courthouse in the company of police, a sniper fatally shot him.  The police hurried to the shooter’s location, and found both Frank and Samuel King nearby.  Neither was armed, and no one identified them as the shooter, they were released.

For years, a rumor circulated that after the shooting of Alexander, a rifle belonging to Samuel King was found in a nearby bale of hay, but in the spirit of frontier justice, it disappeared.

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