The Banta/Barth Fracas
September 26, 1884,
Page 4, co1. 4

     At St. Johns Fracas. -- Not many days ago, as C. A. Franklin (or Banta) was sitting in front of a hotel at St. Johns, Apache County, Sol Barth, it is said, attempted to wipe out an old grudge by choking Charley, who straightway set to carving Sol with a pen-knife, inflicting cuts upon Sol's face and ear.  Nathan Barth, brother of Sol, then took a hand, with a pistol.  Result, a bullet hole in Franklin's neck and a shortened thumb on his brother Sol.  People who saw the fracas say that Franklin pulled his gun and but for the interference of bystanders would have killed the Barths.  The Courier is sorry to have to chronicle such outrageous proceedings on the part of old timers, who, until a short time ago, were the best of friends.

of the



     The said NATHAN BARTH is accused by the Grand Jury of the County of Apache, Territory of Arizona, by this indictment, found this seventh day of February A.D. one thousand, eight hundred and eighty five, of the crime of an assault with an intent and an attempt to commit MURDER, committed as follows: The said NATHAN BARTH on or about the fourteenth day of September 1884, before the finding of this indictment, at the County of Apache, Territory of Arizona, the said NATHAN BARTH, then and there being, in and upon the body of a human being named ALBERT F. BANTA, then and there in the peace of the Territory of Arizona being, did unlawfully, willfully, maliciously, feloniously and of his own malice aforethought make and commit an assault, and the said NATHAN BARTH, then and there, a certain pistol commonly called a six shooter, which said six shooter was, then and there loaded and charged with gun powder and leaden bullets and which said six shooter so loaded and charged as aforesaid was, then and there a deadly weapon and capable of inflicting death upon the said ALBERT F. BANTA, and which said six shooter, he, the said NATHAN BARTH did, then and there, unlawfully, willfully, deliberately, maliciously, feloniously and of his own malice aforethought aim, point and direct at, toward and upon the body of him, the said ALBERT F. BANTA and the content and bullets of lead to wit; One leaden bullet of and from one of the chambers and barrel of said six shooter, aim, then and there, unlawfully, willfully, maliciously, deliberately, feloniously and of his own malice aforethought shoot, explode, fire off into the body, and at and into the neck of him, the said ALBERT F. BANTA, then and there, being within range and shooting distance of said six shooter, with the attempt and the intent, him, the said ALBERT F. BANTA, thereby and by means thereof, to then and there, kill and murder, contrary to the form, force and effect of the Statute, in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona.

(signed) T.C. Gutterson, District Attorney

The Banta/Barth Fracas

Banta's account is as follows:

     In September, 1884, I had a little dispute with Sol Barth; he became much excited and grabbed (me) by the throat with both hands; I carried a little penknife in my vest pocket, which I used to clean my finger nails; this knife I happened to have in my hand at the time, and to force Sol to release his hold, I began jabbing him about the head with the penknife.  At the same time I had a Colt's, 44 double action pistol, this double action was new to me.  I had no thought of hurting Sol, nor could I with so little knife, so had no idea of using my gun. A number of persons were present.  Sol's younger brother was present, and he too became unduly excited over the little matter, and coming up behind me, fired a forty-four bullet through my neck.  The ball also passed through Sol's thumb.  Immediately I pulled my gun and wheeled about to see who had shot me-did not know that his brother Nathan was present.  Pulling gun with right hand I caught my neck with my left hand to stay the flow of blood until I could shoot.  My first thought was, my neck is not broken; my second was that the jugglar vein had been cut-was bleeding freely and I could not hope to last but a few seconds, so caught my neck with left hand to stay the flow of blood until I could bring my gun into action.

     One's thoughts are quicker than lightning in emergencies, I know this is true from experience.  In a "double-action "Colt the trigger sets well forward leaving much space back of the trigger and between it and the guard; this fact is what deceived me, not being used to one of that kind-never carried one since.  Seeing Nathan Barth with a gun in his hand making off, I attempted to fire at him but the gun would not work.  Not thing (knowing) about the d-med double action, I thought some one had been tampering with my gun.  Releasing my throat with my left hand, now all bloody, I threw my pistol down into left hand and cocked it with my thumb, I now knew it would go.  All this was done in less time than it takes to tell it.  I raised my gun to fire but at the same instant the Sheriff and Ramon Lopez knocked the gun so that the ball struck about twenty feet away in the direction of Nathan.

    Tom Perez was Sheriff and he put me under arrest; paid no attention to the other parties, and did not arrest either one of the Barths.  I asked Tom what he meant by this and he said, "There was no danger from those other fellows, so I took you in charge."  I refused to prosecute the case, but C.L. Gutterson, then District Attorney of the county and who was present at the time of the shooting, had him indicted.

     The jugglar vein was not severed, but was laid bare by the bullet; Dr. Dalby pulled a rag thru my neck and sewed up the rents, but I refused to be put under the influence of chloroform.  After the Doctor had gotten thru with his job, I asked him if I could smoke my pipe; he laughed and said I see no reason why you should not, and I smoked my pipe right along.  Was in the house about ten days but would not stay there any longer and was up about town with my neck tied up.  It took about six months for the wound to heal up, but to this day I cannot bear to have any pressure on my windpipe as it was cut pretty badly by the shot.

     Dr. Dalby was on the point of going to Omaha, so I went with him as far as Albuquerque, where I remained under the treatment of Dr. Easterday.  As soon as the Doctor would permit I left for El Paso.  Here I remained over the winter of 1884-5.  From El Paso I went to New Orleans where I remained nearly three months taking in the Exposition, and then returned to El Paso in May, 1885.  I returned to St. Johns the same year.  1887 found me in Holbrook acting (as) Justice of the Peace and Notary Public.  Since leaving St. Johns in the fall of 1885, I had been over many parts of the Territory.

Reeves, Frank D. ALBERT FRANKLIN BANTA ARIZONA PIONEER University of New Mexico Press

From the files of Jack A. Becker, local historian.