Holbrook, Arizona    APACHE COUNTY CRITIC    July 30, 1887

Dies With His Boots on

The Cowardly Murder of Poor Ike Ellinger Avenged,
Lee Renfro Bites the Dust.

Another one of the Notorious "Clanton Gang"
of Outlaws and Desperados Crosses Over
the River Styx. A Detailed Account

Correspondence of the Critic.

  Springerville, Ariz. July 27th - The readers of the CRITIC will begin to think that the tragic carnival of death is holding daily sessions in the mountains on the border of Apache and Graham counties, but be that as it may, this seems to be a cold year for outlaws and murderers in this vicinity.

     By way of preface to the detailed report of the killing of that dastardly murderer Lee Renfro, which occurred on the 8th day of this month in the White Mountains, in Graham County.  I will briefly recount the circumstances under which Renfro murdered Isaac N. Ellinger, well known in this community, a young man of strict integrity, temperate habits and possessing all the qualities that are required to make a good man.

     Sometime last fall, while Ellinger was temporarily absent from his ranch, which was situated just across the territorial line in New Mexico and known as the Cottonwood ranch, one Craig, at the instigation of Renfro, "jumped" the property.

     Mr. Ellinger had purchased the place more than a year previous and had made it his home and headquarters.

    On or about the 6th of November last, he in company with Wilds P. Plummer went to Cieniga Amarilla, the Clanton ranch, and it being about noon Ellinger and his friend Plummer, upon the invitation of the Clanton's, dismounted and took dinner.  Besides these two gentlemen there was present at the table, Ike and Phin Clanton, Lee Renfro and Bill Jackson.

     While dining the subject of the jumping of the ranch came up, but no hard words were passed. The first to finish eating were Mr. Ellinger, Ike Clanton and Lee Renfro, who arose and passed to Phin Clanton's cabin, some ten or twelve steps distant.  They had but entered the room when Renfro commenced to abuse Ellinger for something that it was reported had been said about the jumping of the ranch, at the same time picking up his six-shooter from the table and walking toward Ellinger.

     At this junction Ike Clanton stepped in between them, but Renfro suddenly threw his pistol around Ike and shot Ellinger in the breast.  Mr. Ellinger lived several days in great agony, suffering a thousand deaths, and died on or about the tenth day of November last.

     Renfro seeing that his victum had received a mortal wound asked for a horse, which was at once furnished by the Clanton's and Lee Renfro rode away and has been skulking in the mountains of Arizona the most of the time since, a fugitive from justice, with no other company than outlaws and beasts.

     It is strange how these kind of characters, in spite of all their precautions, meet their doom.  Renfro, with some of his kind made a camp.  He camped in a canon, opening out on the Rio Bonito, in the mountains on the Apache Indian Reservation, on the 8th day of this month.  On this same date a secret service officer, accompanied by three men, furnished him by the agent of the San Carlos Indians, by a singular chance, happened to be hunting for stolen cattle belonging to the San Carlos Agency, in the neighborhood where Renfro and his party were camped.

     As the officer and posse were riding across a plateau they observed a man come out of a canon about one hundred and fifty yards distant, on foot and. in his shirt-sleeves.  The officer said to two of his men "you fellows ride over to that man and tell him that we are from the southern country and if possible get him to come over here as I want to question him about the trails.”   The two men rode over to the man in his shirt sleeves and conversing with him a few moments, they together returned to where they had left the officer and his remaining companions, who in the mean time had dismounted and were pretending to be fixing their saddles.

     When the approaching party were within ten or fifteen paces, the secret service officer, who had his horse between him and the approaching party, recognized Renfro.  He quickly stepped in front of his horse and called out, "Lee Renfro, throw up your hands", repeating the order twice.  Renfro instead of obeying the command attempted to pull his six-shooter, when the officer fired shooting him through the upper part of the heart and left lung.

     Renfro calling him by name, asked, "Did you shoot me for money?"  The officer replied, “No, I shot you because you resisted arrest."  Renfro then said, "I suppose it is all up with me," and asked the officer to take his watch and other effects he had on his person and send them to his brother, in Cowboy Texas, and without speaking another word he breathed his last.

     This man, Renfro, abject and servile tool of Ike Clanton, who met the same fate but a few weeks before, and they both occupy untimely graves within twenty miles of each other in the wilds of the White Mountains. It is remarkable the swift and terrible retribution which has followed every man closely connected with the jumping of the cottonwood ranch and the murder of Ike Ellinger.

    Craig the man who jumped the ranch, was shot and killed at Fairview, New Mexico, in a drunken wrangle over a horse race.  Ike Clanton, who was present when Ellinger was shot down, followed closely in Craig's trail, leading into the dark valley of death, and now comes, on the same, ghostly trail, the quaking, cringing, murderous soul of Lee Renfro, all crimson with the blood of an honored citizen, rushing headlong in quest of the two kindred spirits, who have so shortly proceeded him into the 'great unknown,’ that 'undiscovered country from whence no traveler returns."

     Thus ends the forth act in this bloody tragedy of the murder of Isaac Ellinger.  The secret service officer, who is at present in the employ of Apache and Graham counties, is giving the outlaw element no time to rest, but is hunting them down like wild beasts, he should receive the hearty support of all the law abiding citizens of the two counties.

From Jack Becker's Collection