Old West Lifestyle & Stories

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

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