(The following article, Days of Destiny, is a fair representation of the activities of the Smith Gang).
Author: Unknown
     Bill Smith and his three brothers trekked across the New Mexico border into eastern Arizona in the late 1890s and settled near Springerville in the White Mountains.
     The community of St. Johns had its first encounter with him in 1898. Charges of cattle rustling landed him in the local jail, but his stay was short.
     Brother Al smuggled a pistol into Bill's cell, and the gang leader was soon free to continue what had made him infamous in New Mexico-holdups, cattle and horse thievery, and killings.
     Former Apache County Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens, who had killed three men and wounded another in a gunfight, described the Smith gang as the "toughest bunch to ever drink water from the Hassayampa (River)."
     These thugs certainly weren't alone in the realm of lawbreaking in Arizona at that time. But Bill Smith, along with brothers Al, Floyd, and George, seems to have taken particular hold of the public's imagination.
     Descriptions of Bill Smith, said to be a handsome, gap-toothed cowpuncher, drip with images of a man who lived the romance of the West.
     Even Burt Mossman, the first captain of the Arizona Rangers, described Smith as a person who lived by strict code of honor.
     Writers spoke of Smith in wildly inflated, flowery terms. The Arizona Daily Star in 1910 had this to say about the notorious New Mexican: An accurate description of the man's deeds and characteristics would make of him, in the eyes of the average romantically inclined maiden, an intensely interesting personage, endowed with the most heroic qualities.
     Standing 6 feet in his socks, with a figure slender but straight as an arrow, firm and regular features, black eyes that flashed with fire and thick black hair, he was almost 35 years of age when he went on the 'scout' back in 1900.
     Whatever his reason for doing so may have been, he succeeded quickly in gathering about him a band of seven other desperate characters, including three brothers, all of whom would have followed him into the jaws of purgatory.
     Such grandiose attitudes obscured the cold facts, making it difficult to clearly track the Smith Gang's many vile deeds. But reasonable observers, recognizing the incompleteness of the record and the necessity for informed supposition, have attributed to the gang at least five killings, including a member of the newly-formed Arizona Rangers.
     The prolonged chase of the Smith gang began March 26, 1900, with the arrival in St. Johns of a mail driver bearing the news that five men had been seen butchering a beef on the road to Springerville. Sheriff Ed Beeler quickly organized a posse and engaged the outlaws at the county bridge three miles west of town.
     Although no one in the law party was injured, more than 50 shots were fired and the hunt was on. 
     By the next morning, Apache County rancher Dick Gibbons was leading a second posse to back up Beeler. Gibbons divided his men into two groups. He headed one of them and told the second group to stay on the rustlers' trail and drive them into his bunch.
     The second group - consisting of Dick's nephew, Gus Gibbons, 24, Frank Lesueur, 21 and Antonio Armijo and Frank Ruiz - planned to stay on the rustlers' trail and meet up with Dick Gibbons on the following morning.
     The four young men didn't show up for the meeting. Later, Dick Gibbons met Armijo and Ruiz on the trail. The two explained they had quit the hunt the night before, leaving the younger Gibbons and Lesueur alone.
     A short time later, Dick Gibbons came to the crest of a gorge covered with boulders and cedar brush. His diary contains a powerful description of what he saw:
     "It looked like the body of a man, but I would not admit it to myself. I was still too far away to be able to identify it, and while I was thinking about it I saw another object that looked like a quilt had been thrown away by the outlaws and had been rolled up by the wind and lodged in the wash where it now laid, but as we drew nearer, I saw that it was the body of my nephew Gus Gibbons.
     It was lying in the bottom of a little draw with head down hill and face upwards, with three ghastly bullet holes through the head. One of them had entered his mouth and had come out the back of his neck. One had gone in at the left ear and had come out below the mouth, breaking the lower jaw and disfiguring the face awfully.
     We well knew what the other object was that we had noticed lying on the hillside. The sight was horrifying to the senses. To see the two boys lying there, boys I had known since they were in the cradle and had watched them grow up. They were just in the pink of manhood and for them to be ambushed and shot down like dogs, without even a chance to fight for their lives, made me sick.
     It was murder in its worst form and there is not another crime beneath the roof of heaven that can stain the soul of man with a more infernal hue than an assassination such as this."
     The scene was easy to reconstruct. The young men were on foot, leading their horses up the ridge, when the rifles, hidden in ambush barely 30 feet off, opened up. Adding outrage to the horror, the two were robbed of all possessions, including their hats.
     Words were inadequate to convey the feelings that gripped St. Johns. As the St. Johns Herald wrote:
     "Our town is overwhelmed with sadness and two homes are bursting full of grief. Two noble, manly youths have fallen, victims of fiends in human shape."
     In Reserve, New Mexico, the next night, the Smith gang stole seven horses and rode off in the direction of the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona.
     Posses were now in pursuit, but the bad fortune of catching up to them fell to U.S. Marshall George Scarborough and Deputy Walter Birchfield. A fatal joust occurred April 3 in a remote Chiricahua Mountain spot called Triangle Springs.
     According to the Santa Fe New Mexican of April 5, 1900, Scarborough and Birchfield were victimized in the same fashion as Gibbons and Lesueur—ambushed by rifle fire. The first volley shattered Marshal Scarborough's leg. Another round struck Birchfield, the deputy, in the arm, but he was still able to build a crude rock wall to protect his wounded comrade
     As soon as darkness cloaked his movements, Birchfield mounted a horse and galloped away in search of assistance. He returned at daybreak to find Scarborough suffering mightily from pain and exposure to overnight rain and snow.
     Scarborough, a former Texas Ranger who had once captured famed stage robber Pearl Hart after her escape from a Tucson jail, died at Deming, New Mexico, after surgery to amputate his leg.
     For some observers, the identity of the quarry has always been in doubt. Newspapers of the day published the names of numerous suspects, the numbers undoubtedly inflated by the common use of aliases. An outlaw's alias also was not always unique. A rookie would often adopt the alias of whichever notorious outlaw he wanted to emulate. Or a seasoned robber on the run might deliberately use the real name of someone he knew to confuse the trail.
     Rustlers George Stevenson and James Brooks, recent escapees from jail, were two of this crowd of suspects. They were captured in Sonora, Mexico, and taken to jail in Silver City, New Mexico. But they escaped on May 28 and were never retaken, leaving forever unanswered the question of their guilt or innocence in Scarborough's death.
     Stevenson and Brooks were said to have been associates of Butch Cassidy's famed Wild Bunch, as was a desperado named Todd Carver. He, too, was named in Scarborough's death.
     As always, however, the Smith gang seemed the most likely perpetrators, and Sheriff Beeler evidently agreed. He traveled to New Mexico to dredge up whatever information he could on the notorious family.
     The press pointed a finger at the Smiths , too.
     The Tombstone Prospector and the Phoenix Herald reported that the same men had committed both attacks. The Prospector named them, misidentifying Bill Smith as Dick Smith:
     "The five men whose names are John Hunter, alias Dick smith; Bob Johnson; Wilson, alias Smith; Kid Carver and one man unknown.. .
The newspapers wrote of the $2,000 in reward money offered by Apache County and proudly reported that the outlaws would shortly be intercepted by lawmen.
     But capture never came and that didn't sit with Dick Gibbons. His outrage at the killings prompted him to run for the Territorial Legislature in the elections of September, 1900. Gibbons won the seat by campaigning on the need to form the Arizona Rangers, and the Rangers came into existence in March, 1901.
     Not surprisingly, the Arizona Rangers had their first and deadliest fight with Bill Smith.
     The action started in early October, 1901, when Bill Smith's gang was spotted south of Springerville with a herd of stolen horses.
     Lawmen organized a posse that included Carlos Tafolla (Tafoya), a Ranger stationed in the area for the sole purpose of keeping watch over the Smiths.
     On October 8, after tracking the gang along the Black River in northern Graham County, the posse came to the Smiths' camp, located at the bottom of a draw about 100 feet deep and 200 yards wide.
     At dusk the lawmen made their move, crawling to the western peak of the draw.  That decision - which put the setting sun at their backs, illuminating them as targets - proved deadly.
     Posse member, Bill Maxwell, a one-time friend of Bill Smith's, called out: "Bill Smith, we arrest you in the name of the law and the name of the Territory of Arizona, and call upon you and your companions to lay down your arms."
     But the gang would have none of that.
     In a 1947 interview, former Ranger Joe Pearce, chief of the Apache tribal police at the time of the shoot-out, told what happened next:
     "The guns opened up - mostly 30-30s, but Bill Smith was using a new Savage rifle that shot a .303 bullet. When you got hit with one of them, you stayed hit.
     "Well, the fight was soon over, but it was plenty hot while it lasted. When the smoke settled, the Smiths were high-tailing for the timber.
     "Ranger Tafolla (Tafoya) was on his back, shot twice through the middle and calling for water. Bill Maxwell was dead, the crown of his big hat shot out. . . "
     Separated from their horses, the Smiths made another escape, dashing away on foot through the mountain snow.
     A Ranger posse led by Mossman hurried to the scene and a massive manhunt followed. Among the pursuers was George Scarborough Jr., son of the recently murdered marshal, who boldly told reporters: "If necessary, I will devote the rest of my life to the capture of the Smith outlaws, one of whom is the slayer of my father."
     But with snow obscuring their tracks, the Smiths eluded the Rangers and crossed the border into Mexico. They never again were known to set foot in Arizona, although conflicting tales abounded.
     The only evidence of their later whereabouts came from the boys' mother. She told Pearce that they hopped a boat at Galveston, Texas and sailed to Argentina.
     The Smith saga has two strange postscripts. The first involves the crown of Bill Maxwell's big hat, which remained on the ground for several years, a cloth monument that cowboys were afraid to touch in a place they called the Battle Ground.
     The other concerns the legend of Bill Smith.
     Numerous reports state that he grieved at killing Maxwell, and that his gang's intention had been to shoot another posse member with whom they'd been feuding.
     According to these stories, Smith insisted that his heartfelt apologies reach Maxwell's mother.
     Smith also wrote a letter to Mossman, explaining in great detail what happened in the fight at the deep draw.
     These two actions played a large role in furthering Bill Smith's image for chivalry and honor.
     But his most enduring legacy was ruthlessness - and the resulting creation of the Arizona Rangers, who operated until 1909, when peace settled over Arizona.
Becker Note: The members of the posse at the October 8,1901 gunfight with the Smith gang included Apache County Deputy ,Sheriff C.H Sharp, Pete Peterson, Elijah Holgate, Lorenzo Crosby, Carlos Tafolla (Tafoya) Bill Maxwell, Henry Barrettand, and Duane Hamblin (Arizona Ranger).

From Jack Becker's Collection