|Battleground Gunfight - from
The Battleground Gunfight, also known as the Battleground
Shootout, was a gunfight between a posse of American lawmen and the Smith
Gang. It was fought on October 9, 1901, within Arizona's Fort Apache Indian
Reservation, at a clearing in the forest known today as the "Battleground".
Nine Arizona Rangers and deputies caught up with the cattle rustler Bill
Smith and his gang. During a long exchange of gunfire that followed, the
ranger Carlos Tofolla and Deputy Bill Maxwell were killed and one or two
of the outlaws may have been wounded. In the end, the Smith Gang escaped
the posse and fled into Mexico.
The Arizona Rangers was established in 1901 and the Battleground
Gunfight became the first major shootout to involve the new police force.
The Smith Gang was one of the first targets for the rangers. In northeastern
Graham County, Bill Smith owned a ranch on the Blue River, where he lived
with his mother and his younger brothers and sisters. The ranch house served
as a base for rustling cattle from nearby settlers, such as Henry Barrett,
a former Rough Rider. In 1898, the Smith brothers were arrested for stealing
unbranded calves from Barrett and Bill Phelps. Bill Smith assumed full
responsibility so he was sent to jail at St. Johns. Because of this, Bill
was said to have developed a grudge against Henry Barrett. During the first
week of October 1901, the Smith Gang was spotted at Pat Knoll, near Springerville,
heading south with a herd of fifteen or twenty stolen horses. Police informants
said the gang was one their way from Utah, where they robbed a train. A
few days later, Bill and his brother Al came across Henry Barrett and another
cowboy in the Big Cienega range. During the confrontation, Bill threatened
to kill Barrett so the latter informed the sheriff of Apache County, who
organized a posse.
The posse was led by the sheriff's deputy, Hank Sharp,
and included Henry Barett and two other locals named Pete Peterson and
Elijah Holgate. Meanwhile, the Arizona Rangers Carlos Tofolla and Duane
Hamblin were assigned to search for the Smith Gang. At Greer, the rangers
and the posse met and they decided to work together in tracking and capturing
the outlaws. The rangers then deputized Barrett, Peterson and Holgate and
they picked up and began following the outlaws' trail to the Little Colorado
River, where they forded it at a place known as Sheep's Crossing. From
there the posse went to the ranch of Lorenzo Crosby to enlist his services
and that of the brothers Arch and William "Bill" Maxwell, both of whom
were described as being excellent scouts. These three men were deputized
as well, making the posse a force of nine men altogether. After that, the
posse continued along the trail south to Big Lake and then to Dead Man's
Crossing on the Black River. On October 7, at a ranch belonging to Pete
Slaughter, the posse found an abandoned camp that was believed to have
been recently occupied by the outlaws. The rangers decided to camp at the
same location for the night and then proceed down the west side of the
river bank on the following morning.
On the morning of Tuesday, October 8, the posse awoke,
had breakfeast, and then saddled to continue down the river. Along the
way they passed the Pair-O'Dice Ranch. The area is part of the White Mountains
and thus heavily forested and difficult to traverse. It was also very cold
and snow covered the ground. That day the Smith Gang was camped at Reservation
Creek, just inside the western border of the Fort Apache reservation, in
a canyon 200 yards wide and 100 feet deep, near the source of the Black
River. Today the location is near the shoreline of Reservation Lake. The
Smith gang was in need of food so that afternoon they killed a bear and
the shots were heard by the posse a half a mile away. Eventually, the Maxwell
brothers found the location of the bear shooting and blood trails in the
snow led back to the Smiths' camp, which was six miles from where the posse
camped. By then it was almost night. As the posse approached the canyon,
the Smiths' guard dog began barking. This alerted Bill, who went up to
the canyon's rim to have a better look. There he saw the posse coming towards
the camp so he ran back to tell the others.
Bill's gang included his brothers Al, George and Floyd,
a brother in law named Adam Slagger, and two other unidentified men. Of
the nine man posse, only Henry Barrett had any combat experience, having
fought with Theodore Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill in 1898.
At a place 300 yards away from camp, the posse dismounted their horses
and tied them up to some trees in order to confront the outlaws on foot.
The posse then headed to the camp from the west, which meant that the lawmen
would have to fire into the sunlight if a firefight began. The deep canyon
was shadowed and it provided a good defensive position for the Smith Gang.
When the posse reached the camp, Tofolla, Hamblin and Bill Maxwell continued
forward into a clearing to demand the outlaws' surrender while Barrett
and the five others remained behind the cover or a ridge. After Bill Maxwell
called out the demand, Bill Smith replied: "All right, which way do you
want us to come out?" Maxwell responded: "Come right out this way." About
this time, Barrett, who could see what was going on from the ridge, yelled
out for Tofolla and the two others to lie down for cover, but only Hamblin
took the advice.
A moment later, Bill Smith appeared with a Savage Model
1895 .30 caliber rifle concealed behind his back. Then, suddenly, he revealed
his weapon and began firing it. It was at this time Bill Maxwell was hit
in the forehead and died instantly. Then Tofolla was shot twice through
the torso and fell to the ground. He did, however, manage to pull out his
revolver and returned the fire, which was followed by the others on both
sides. The skirmish lasted for at least a couple of hours and it was already
dark when it ended. During the fighting, Ranger Hamblin maneuvered around
the canyon where the outlaws were firing from to drive off their horses.
So that night, when the Smith Gang chose to make their escape, they had
to climb out of the canyon on foot, which they eventually succeeded in
doing. The posse captured the gang's camp, but they did not pursue the
criminals any further due to the wounded Tofolla, who was in need of a
After the Smith Gang made their escape, Hank Sharp and
Arch Maxwell left the scene for Nutrioso, twenty miles away, to summon
a doctor named Rudd and spread the news of the fight. The remainder of
the posse stayed at the camp with Tofolla and the body of Bill Maxwell.
Unfortunately, Tofolla died before the doctor could arrive. Before passing,
he gave Henry Barrett a silver dollar and said: "Give this to my wife.
It, and the month's wages coming to me will be all she will ever have."
The outlaws made their way out of the canyon and into what is now Bear
Wallow Wilderness. On the next evening they arrived at a cow camp on Beaver
Creek. The cowboys there were held hostage and ordered to prepare food
for the gang. Bill Smith recognized one of the hostages, Marion Lee, who
made dinner for the gang members and informed them that they had killed
Bill Maxwell. Bill Smith did not realize that one of the men he had shot
at was his friend so he told Lee: "When he stood up that way we thought
he was Barrett. Barrett was the man we wanted. We feel mighty sorry over
killing Will [Bill] Maxwell, he was a good friend of ours. Tell his mother
for us that we're very sorry we killed him."
After taking a few horses, the gang headed into the Blue
River Wilderness for the ranch of Hugh McKean, where they hoped to trade
horses. When McKean refused to deal with the gang he was held at gunpoint
and robbed of his horses, food, and weapons. The Smith Gang then went east
and crossed the Arizona border with New Mexico before heading south into
Texas and across the Rio Grande into Mexico. When the captain of the Arizona
Rangers, Burton C. Mossman, was informed of the fight he sent three of
his men after the outlaws and the United States Army dispatched the Apache
Scouts Chicken and Josh. The scouts tracked the gang across New Mexico
before losing the trail at the banks of the Rio Grande. Ultimately, the
posse failed to capture the outlaws and bring them to justice, but they
were successful in running the Smith Gang out of Arizona Territory. Tofolla
and Maxwell were killed as result of the gunfight and one or two of the
outlaws may have been wounded by Barrett, who was armed with a souvenir
Spanish Mauser rifle, which could shoot right through the trees the gang
members were hiding behind.
The body of Tofolla was laid to rest at St. Johns and
Bill Maxwell was buried in his family's cemetery at Nutrioso. Maxwell's
hat was left behind at the scene because the men of the posse thought it
would be bad luck to touch it. For years afterwards, cowboys claimed they
had seen the hat while working in the area.
|Gleeson Gunfight - from Wikipedia
The Gleeson gunfight, or the Gleeson shootout, was one
of the last gunfights in the Old West, having occurred during the transition
period between the "Old" and the "New." On March 5, 1917, the sheriff of
Cochise County, Harry C. Wheeler, and his deputy, Lafe Gibson, were ambushed
by a gang of Mexican alcohol smugglers near the town of Gleeson, Arizona.
During the battle that followed, Wheeler and Gibson fought off the attackers
and confiscated their alcohol, wounding at least one man in the process.
At the turn of the century, smuggling across the international
border with Mexico was a serious problem. Arizona became a "dry" state
with the banning of alcohol on January 1, 1915. But because Cochise County
was bordered by "wet" Mexico and New Mexico, it quickly became a conduit
for both American and Mexican alcohol smugglers.
Harry Wheeler, a former Captain of the Arizona Rangers
and the Sheriff of Cochise County was an enthusiastic enforcer of the state's
ban on the sale and manufacture of liquor. Throughout his tenure in office,
Wheeler and his deputies arrested dozens of violators and routinely patrolled
the border with New Mexico and the International Boundary with Mexico for
smugglers. Several of Wheeler's deputies engaged bootleggers in shootouts
throughout Cochise County.
On the night of March 5, 1917, Sheriff Wheeler and Deputy
Gibson were returning to the latter's home at Gleeson in an Oldsmobile
Touring Car after a day of searching the Chiricahua Mountains for smugglers.
But, because they were exhausted and could not safely drive in the dark,
at sunset the two lawmen decided to stop and make camp for the night. The
location was about two miles east of Gleeson, along the Southern Pacific
Railroad tracks. However, not long after they had rolled out their blankets
and laid down next to the car, a salvo of fire came in from some Mexican
outlaws positioned behind some rocks about 200 yards away from the railroad
tracks. The first shot smashed the front window out of the car.
Wheeler immediately grabbed a box of ammunition and his
rifle to begin returning the fire while Gibson had only his revolver and
the ammunition on his gun belt. After climbing up to the top of the railroad
berm to get a look at their attackers, the two lawmen could hear the outlaws
shouting insults to them in Spanish, saying: "We'll fix you gringos!" and
"Come and get us now!" They were also able to determine that there were
at least four attackers, by counting where the muzzle flashes were coming
For nearly an hour the two sides exchanged fire ineffectively;
over 100 rounds of ammunition was expended. The Moon was behind the lawmen
and low on the horizon, which made them easy targets, so they decided to
lie prone and wait until the Moon went down to make a charge towards the
outlaws. Meanwhile, the outlaws were advancing under covering fire. Finally,
when they were about fifty yards from the railroad, one of the outlaws
fired at Wheeler and just barely missed him. Wheeler, who was a champion
marksman, then steadied his rifle on one of the rails and rapidly fired
six shots at the Mexican's muzzle flash. A second later, Wheeler heard
the sounds of groans so he knew he had hit his target.
Although the fighting continued, Wheeler's successful
hit stopped the outlaws' advance and sent them back towards cover. Then,
when the Moon disappeared below the horizon, the lawmen made their charge
and found the outlaws' camp hastily abandoned, the Mexicans having slipped
away into the desert. Ten cases of whiskey were found attached to four
donkeys and, on the following morning, horse tracks were observed heading
towards the Chiricahua Mountains. Wheeler also discovered a large pool
of blood and tracks made by a man's knees and elbows. No body was found
though so it remains uncertain if anyone was actually killed as result
of the shootout.
Sheriff Wheeler and Deputy Gibson decided against chasing
the outlaws right away, since their car was damaged by incoming fire. Instead
they went to Courtland, where Wheeler telephoned his chief deputy, Guy
Welch, who was in Tombstone. Welch then brought some more guns and ammunition
to Courtland, as well as another deputy, to help in the pursuit.
Wheeler knew that since the outlaws were in the Chiricahuas
and most-likely heading south to cross the border, they would have to go
through Apache Pass in order to enter Mexico. Accordingly, Wheeler and
his men abandoned the pursuit and went to Tombstone on April 7, 1917, to
drop off the confiscated whiskey, and on the next day they went to Apache
Pass and succeeded in capturing two of the outlaws, who were then put in
the Gleeson Jail. One of the prisoners was the gang's leader, Santiago
Garcia. When asked why he opened fire on Wheeler and Gibson, Garcia said
that he thought the lawmen were rival bootleggers and he was afraid that
his cargo would be hijacked. According to Garcia, he and his men retreated
only when they found out that Wheeler and Gibson were lawmen.
Ultimately, Wheeler and his men failed to capture the
remaining outlaws, who escaped into Mexico, and they were immediately tasked
with investigating a murder in Douglas and the finding of a dead body near
Bisbee, the latter having died from a gunshot to the head. The Gleeson
gunfight was Wheeler's last, although he later resigned his post to join
the United States Army and went on to fight in World War I. After returning,
Wheeler attempted to get his old job back, but he was defeated in the election.
In 2008, the Gleeson Jail was purchased and restored by
Tina Miller and John Wiest.
|Florence - from Wikipedia
Florence (O'odham: S-auppag) is a town, 61 miles (98 km)
southeast of Phoenix, in Pinal County of Arizona, United States. Florence,
which is the county seat of Pinal County, is one of the oldest towns in
that county and is regarded as a National Historic District with over 25
buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The population
of Florence was 30,770 at the 2015 census.
The area where the current town of Florence is located
was once inhabited by the members of the Athabascans, ancestors of the
San Carlos Apache tribe. Prior to the establishment of the town, the Gila
River served as a part of the border between the United States and Mexico.
In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase extended American territory well south of
Levi Ruggles, a veteran of the American Civil War, founded
the town of Florence on the south bank of the Gila River. He came to Arizona
Territory in 1866 as a U.S. Indian Agent. Recognizing the agricultural
potential of the valley, he found an easily fordable crossing on the Gila
River and surveyed a townsite there. With the aid of Governor R.C. McCormick,
he secured a post office in August of the same year. Ruggles held numerous
public offices including that of Territorial Legislator. Florence became
the county seat in the newly formed Pinal County. Silver was discovered
in 1875 in the nearby mountains which led to the creation of the famous
Silver King Mine.
In 1870, Fred Adams founded a farming community two miles
west of the original Florence townsite. The farming town had stores, homes,
a post office, a flour mill, and water tanks, It was named Adamsville.
In the 1900s (decade), the Gila River overflowed after a storm and ran
over its banks. Most of the small town was wiped out and the residents
moved to Florence. The area where the town was established is now a ghost
town and is currently within the boundaries of Florence. At the junction
of Highway 79 and 287 there is a historical marker about Adamsville.
A canal was built in the 1880s which enabled water from
the Gila River to be diverted for irrigation. Farming and ranching then
played a major role in Florence’s economy. All of the federal land transactions
for Southern Arizona were conducted in Florence until 1881, when the Federal
Land Office was moved to Tucson.
Tunnel Saloon Gabriel-Phy shootout of 1888
One of the most notable gunfights in the Old Southwest
occurred in Florence. Sheriff Pete Gabriel hired thirty-nine year old Joseph
(Joe) Phy as his deputy in 1883. Gabriel decided to not run for sheriff
in 1886 and supported his deputy Phy for the job. Later Gabriel withdrew
his support because of personal differences with Phy. The two friends became
bitter enemies and had a confrontation on May 31, 1888 in the Tunnel Saloon.
A gunfight ensued and spread to the street. Both men received gunshot wounds.
Phy died a few hours after the gunfight, but Gabriel survived the encounter
and died 10 years later.
Second Pinal County Courthouse
The second Pinal County Courthouse was built in 1891.
It was the site where the trials of three notorious women were presented.
They were Pearl Heart, Eva Dugan and Winnie Ruth Judd, known as the "Trunk
Murderess". Pearl Heart (birth surname: Hart) was an outlaw of the American
Old West. She committed one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies in
the United States; her crime gained notoriety primarily because of her
gender. She was tried in 1899 and was acquitted, however the judge ordered
a second trial and she was found guilty and sentenced to five years in
In the 1930s Eva Dugan was convicted of murder. She was
sentenced to be executed by hanging. However, it resulted in her decapitation
and influenced the State of Arizona to replace hanging with the gas chamber
as a method of execution.
Winnie Ruth Judd was a Phoenix medical secretary who was
found guilty of murdering and dismembering her friends Agnes Anne LeRoi
and Hedvig Samuelson over the alleged affections of her lover Jack Halloran.
The jury found her guilty of first-degree murder on February 8, 1932. An
appeal was unsuccessful. Her trial was marked by sensationalized newspaper
coverage and suspicious circumstances. Judd was sentenced to be hanged
February 17, 1933, and sent to the Arizona State Prison in Florence. The
sentence she received raised debate about capital punishment. Her death
sentence was overturned after a ten-day hearing found her mentally incompetent;
she was then sent to Arizona State Asylum for the Insane on April 24, 1933.
Tom Mix Monument
In 1940, the cowboy movie star Tom Mix was killed when
he lost control of his speeding Cord Phaeton convertible and rolled into
a dry wash (now called the Tom Mix Wash) in Florence, Arizona. Mix, who
was a regular tenant in the Ross/Fryer-Cushman House, was returning to
Florence from Tucson. There is a 2-foot–tall iron statue of a riderless
horse with a plaque on the site of the accident.
As of 2016 Florence is home to multiple state, federal,
county and private prisons:
Arizona State Prison Complex – Florence,
run by the Arizona Department of Corrections, housing Arizona state prisoners,
Arizona State Prison, and location
of Arizona's execution chamber
Arizona State Prison Complex – Eyman,
run by the Arizona Department of Corrections, housing Arizona state prisoners
Arizona State Prison Florence-West,
operated by the GEO Group, housing Arizona state prisoners
Central Arizona Correctional Facility,
operated by the GEO Group, housing Arizona state prisoners
Central Arizona Detention Center, run
by Corrections Corporation of America, housing prisoners for the United
States Marshals Service,
TransCor America LLC, U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement, Pascua Yaqui Tribe government, and the United
States Air Force.
Florence Correctional Center, run by
CCA, houses inmates for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for the
Vermont Department of
Corrections, and for the United
States Marshals Service.
the Pinal County Adult Detention Center,
operated by the county, housing local prisoners
Located just north of Florence during World War II was
a large prisoner of war camp for German and Italian prisoners of war, mainly
captured during the North Africa campaign. Japanese Americans arrested
as "enemy aliens" after the U.S. entered the war, were also interned nearby
at the Gila River War Relocation Center. The prisoners were paid 50 cents
an hour to pick cotton. The men were not allowed to buy cigarettes with
their prison wages. However, they could buy tobacco which they rolled themselves.
McFarland State Historic Park on Ruggles Ave. has a display and information
on this period of Arizona history.
Florence is considered the hub of Pinal County filled
with historic buildings and rich history.
Florence is the location of the 2nd Anthem development
in the state of Arizona being built by Pulte and Del Webb. It is located
six miles to the northwest of downtown historic Florence.
The town's preserved Main Street and open desert scenery
were the setting of the major motion picture Murphy's Romance.
Florence is the host of the annual "Country Thunder"
The town is also the home of the Florence Jr. Parada
Rodeo, the oldest junior rodeo in the United States.
Florence is considered to be the hometown of Adolfo “Harpo”
Celaya, a World War II veteran who is one of the USS Indianapolis survivors.
Celaya was recently honored as the Florence Post Office
was dedicated in his name.
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