Sheriff from 1887 - 1888

Commodore Perry Owens helped clean up early years of Apache County

By Jack A. Becker

     "Old accounts say the Westbrooks (remnants of the Butch Cassidy gang of Utah and Colorado), known mostly for their land jumping activities, murdered James Hale in the streets of Springerville, giving as their only excuse, "They wanted to see if a bullet would go through a Mormon."

     "Commodore Owens was elected sheriff of Apache County in September 1886.  Soon after the murder of James Hale, this newly-elected sheriff, a man well-fitted for the job (well trained in the use of both the six-gun and rifle), was handed indictments against 16 of the most notorious out-laws by a grand jury impaneled for this purpose at Prescott, the Territorial Capitol.  Commodore set about serving them."

     "More than half of the 16 were found with the indictments weighed down with a rock on their breasts after they were killed."

     Is this true or did any of the above really happen?   Let's look into the first 7 months of his 2-year term and the fate of 16 of these notorious outlaws.

     Although Owens was denied a second term, the legendary sheriff represented law and order at a time when it was most needed.

     On Jan. 1, 1887, Owens began his duties as sheriff of Apache County which covered 20,000 square miles and included all of present-day Navajo County.  Single at age 34, he became the sixth sheriff to occupy the office since its creation on Feb. 24, 1879.  The county seat, jail and courthouse were located in St. Johns.

     He was a native of Tennessee and had been a resident of Apache County for six years.  He had started a livestock ranch and guarded horses for the National Mail and Transportation Company.  His ranch was 13 miles from James D. Houck's place near Navajo Springs.

     It was during these years that he achieved fame as a dead shot with both rifle and pistol in his disputes with the Navajos.  Lewis Lynch, who with his brother ran a nearby trading store, filed a complaint on Sept. 19, 1883 against Owens for killing a man known as the "Pox-marked Indian."

     A warrant was issued by Justice of the Peace F.M. Zuck at Holbrook which stated "that the crime of murder has been committed and accusing C. P. Owens thereof."

     Owens was arrested by Constable F. H. Middleton but was taken into custody, according to Owens, by "Lt. C. G. Gilman, against my wishes and earnest protest to Fort Wingate, New Mexico."

     From there he was escorted by soldiers to Albuquerque where charges were filed against him in the U.S. District Court.  The judge discharged him for lack of jurisdiction, sending the case back to Holbrook.  Owens was cleared, mostly because of testimony given by Beatrice Houck.  Navajo Indian Agent D.M. Riordan protested, saying "Owens and Houck were dangerous to the peace and good order around Navajo Springs."

     Cattlemen who suffered staggering losses to rustlers persuaded Owens to run for sheriff in the Nov. 2, 1886 election.

     The St. Johns Herald reported, "God pity this unfortunate country and save the people" when Juan Lorenzo Hubbell announced that he was running on his record.

     Owens, who campaigned on a platform of "cleaning out the rustlers" and "putting the fear of God in them" defeated Hubbell by a vote of 499 to 419.

     The Herald mentioned that George Lee, while in a saloon in Holbrook celebrating Owens' victory, "accidentally shot himself upon the index finger of the left hand, and was subsequently shot through the foot by the careless or accidental discharge of a friend's pistol."

     The United States intended to enforce provisions of the 1868 treaty which ended 20 years of hostilities between the U.S. and the Navajos.  Encroachment by whites was becoming troublesome to the military and the Navajo Agency at Fort Defiance.

     Deputy Sheriff George Lockhart at Navajo Springs had obtained a warrant for the arrest of one "Hostine Chee," a Navajo who had stolen a mare from John King.  In order to serve the warrant and get back the mare, Lockhart had to travel 25 miles onto the reservation.  This he foolishly did, taking John King and E.L. Palmer with him as deputies.

     On Feb. 5, 1887, the three arrived at Bennet's Ranch, staying there that night. The next morning they found the hogan where Chee lived.

     They didn't come back.

     A search party reached the scene on Feb. 9. Mote B. Roberts found Lockhart "lying about four or five feet from the door of the hogan, inside of which was a dead Navajo who had been shot in the head." Lockhart had been struck in the back of the head by an ax "three times and shot in the breast."

     Next to the hogan were two dead horses which had been shot. Lewis Lynch found Palmer and King four miles north of the hogan. Tracks in the snow showed they were barefoot. They were also unarmed and had been forced to run until they dropped.

     "King was killed by having a muzzle of a gun placed against his head while lying down, Palmer was shot through the head after he was dead.  His hair was powder burned and had two other wounds through his body."

     The St. Johns Herald reported, "The killing of Deputy Sheriff Lockhart, Palmer and King by the Navajo Indians is another instance of their heinous and dastardly outrages.  A company of troops came up from Fort Wingate, being well mounted, they made the distance of 45 miles in three days.  They spent two days at Bennet's ranch, 10 miles from where these men were murdered, then returned to Wingate, having performed excellent and meritorious services."

     The Cincinnati Inquirer disagreed, reporting, "The killing of Deputy Sheriff Lockhart, Palmer and King on the 6th inst. by Navajo Indians was brought upon themselves by their abusive and threatening attitude. Col. Ben Grierson stated that the peace officers were drunk at the time and 'were clearly and grossly the aggressors.'  The Navajo Indian Agency took the position that 'the killing of the officers was justified."

     According to Capt. J. B. Kerr, Owens "threatened to invade the Reservation with a large posse without the approval of the Agent."

     Kerr informed Owens, "You cannot without permission of the Agent legally enter the Reservation with a posse to arrest Indians."  Further, "I have orders to use U.S. forces to prevent an invasion by an Apache County Posse."

     Kerr described Owens as a "desperate, determined and ignorant man."

     Harris Baldwin, 35, newly elected district attorney, had a grand jury impaneled at St. Johns on Feb. 21, 1887 to secure indictments against cattle and horse thieves, notorious gunmen who had committed senseless killings and corrupt county officials.  Some crimes were two years old.

     The Apache County Critic reported "25 indictments were found by the Grand Jury against evil doers in this County.  Several of the parties accused of crime have been arrested and are now in jail, while others, ascertaining their warrants had been issued for their arrest, have left the County for parts unknown.  It is said that in Springerville alone, there are a dozen or more of these individuals who have changed their Post-office."

     The Herald, however, reported, "There is a state of affairs, at present, existing in Springerville, bordering on anarchy.  Horse stealing in that vicinity has been on the increase lately, to an alarming extent.  The Grahams are now walking the streets of that town threatening vengeance on all who took part in following the thieves, and afterward in having them arrested.  Trinkhaus, Red Murphy and the Brown Boys, are being held by the authorities at St. Johns."

     Owens faced his next disaster on the night of March 29 when he left the jail to eat supper around 8 p.m.

     "Some few minutes after he left, someone went into the jail, unlocked every door in the building and bade the prisoners who were waiting to walk out."

     According to the Herald, when Owens returned around 11 p.m., he saw "five doors unlocked - all having different locks requiring different keys - all unlocked in the dark.  The matter is involved in considerable mystery, and no clue has been found."

     The case remained unsolved but after a heated argument, popular under-sheriff Joe T. McKinney was replaced by Art McDonald from Phoenix Park.

     Sheriff Russell of Socorro County, New Mexico, overtook the Browns near La Joya a few days later, after they had stolen three horses near Magdalena.

     "Upon coming in speaking distance of the Browns, the Sheriff ordered them to halt. Billy Brown answered by opening fire on the pursuing party, without any effect.  One of the Sheriff's posse proved to be a better marksman as Brown rolled from his saddle to the ground almost at the crack of the rifle.  Mr. Russell found the Winchester they took with them and says he will send it back.  Three prisoners did not gain much by escaping jail.  The Grand Jury of Socorro County has found four indictments against John Brown, one of the prisoners that made his escape from our jail for horse stealing, and one against Fred Denton, whom many of our citizens will remember for the same offense," the Herald reported.

     By April 1, Harris Baldwin had exceeded all expectations by indicting individuals that this predecessor, C. L. Gutterson, had failed to prosecute.  He issued warrants and Owens made the arrests.

     Owens and Baldwin had the support of the publishers of the two weekly newspapers in the county. The editors were influential and powerful in swaying public opinion in local and county affairs.  Frank Reed, editor of the Apache County Critic based in Holbrook, didn't approve of Baldwin's method of collecting taxes from the Railroad - namely, the payment of county taxes to his relatives.  In one of his issues, Reed insinuated that Baldwin was an "itinerant shyster."  Frank Reed told what happened next:

Holbrook, Arizona April 18, 1887
Dastardly attempt to Assassinate Frank Reed, Editor of Apache County Critic

     He attacks the Editor of this paper with Brass Knuckles and is seconded in his murderous assault by Wm. T. Dalby, Clerk, Board of Supervisors.  An article criticizing his action in the Railroad suit alleged to be the reason for the cowardly attack.  District Attorney Harris Baldwin threatens to kill Mr. Reed.

     Reed said that he received a summons to appear before the grand jury in session at St. Johns.  He had "partially recovered from a 'very severe attack of rheumatic fever" which had confined him to his room for the past two months.  Against the advice of his physician he "obeyed the summons."

     He arrived on Monday and waited until the jury had finished its business.  Mr. Baldwin "accosted him and demanded to know if he was responsible for the statements made by the Critic, about the business of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad."

     Without waiting for a reply, Baldwin started striking Reed with 'metalshielding knuckles.'   Four blows were dealt on the head and face before Mr. McKinney intervened.  Baldwin yelled, "That man does not know me yet. If he ever uses my name in his paper again, I'll blow his brains out."

     "This whole matter," reported the Critic, "with all its serious aspects, is most respectfully referred to C. Meyer Zulick, Governor of the Territory, who alone has the power to prevent a recurrence of the lawlessness."

     Wallace and Mathews of the St. Johns Herald laughed.  "We have failed to find one who will say that Mr. Baldwin's knuckles were protected by any metal covering of whatever nature, and the assault was made on a bright, sunshiny day."

     On May 12 the Critic called Baldwin a "self announced killer and brain-blower, and a peace officer posing as a jackal and hyena."

     Newspapers throughout the southwest carried the story.  The El Paso Sun reported, "Harris Baldwin, District Attorney of Apache County, attacked Frank Reed, editor of the Holbrook Critic, and gave him a severe pounding with brass knuckles which was very cowardly, to say the least."

     The Tucson Citizen reported, "A dastardly attempt was made at St. Johns recently, to assassinate Mr. Frank Reed, by District Attorney, Mr. Harris Baldwin.  Mr. Reed was just out of a sick bed and was unable to make the slightest defense."

     The Globe Silver Belt reported, "The use of brass knuckles itself explains the character of the man who uses them."

     And the Mojave County Miner reported, "Mr. Baldwin's resignation as District Attorney would seem to be in order at once."

     Patrick Mullen from Show Low also had been summoned to St. Johns in April, as a trial juror.  On Sunday evening, April 24, he was drinking in Walter Darling's Saloon.  Around 9 p.m. a dispute arose between him and the bartender, Frank Clark, over change from a $20 gold piece.  There was no one in the saloon but the two men at the time. Frank Clark said that the $20 gold piece was his.

     Mullen, according to Clark, "went back as though going for his pistol with a bad expression on his face and gritting his teeth, and I commenced shooting."

     Mullen was found with two .45 caliber bullet holes in his back and one in the right breast, fired from a distance of three feet.  Robert Morrison, county judge, testified, "In searching the clothes and body, no deadly weapon was found and no weapon of any description, not even a knife was found."

     Clark ran over to Harris Baldwin's house asking to be placed in jail, and he was.

     Owens had left early that morning for Yuma, taking Sol Barth with him.  Sheriff John Slaughter of Cochise County had notified Owens that he held Red Murphy in jail at Tombstone.  When Owens arrived there he discovered that Slaughter held the wrong man.  Red Murphy and George West were in Tucson where they "purchased new belts, cartridges, and then hit the road hard and fast for Old Mexico."

     The Graham boys, George and William, were seen at Solomonville, Graham County, heading east, but Owens couldn't catch them either.

     In April 1887, three lawmen resided in Springerville.  Albert Miller, 36, was a cattleman who was appointed deputy sheriff by Owens.  He had previous experience as a deputy when Tom Perez was sheriff and had arrested Juan Carrillo on Dec. 29, 1884 in Springerville for killing Jose Rafael Aragon over a gambling dispute.

     George Powell, 34, a cattleman and rustler who had a ranch near Vernon, was the other deputy. Baldwin still held three warrants for Powell's arrest for stealing horses in Springerville in January.  By agreement, these charges would be dropped for his cooperation in securing indictments against the Clantons.

     The third lawman was Jonas V. Brighton, 40, a detective who arrived in 1885 from Wichita, Kan. at the request of Henry Smith, president of the Apache County Stock Growers Association.  In 1886, Brighton ran a blacksmith shop and saloon in Springerville where he obtained valuable information regarding the activities of the outlaws.

     The Clantons, Isaac, 39, and Phineas, 42, had long been suspected of running a rustling operation, taking stolen livestock from the Springerville area to Clifton and southern Arizona by way of the Blue River down to Eagle Creek.  Tired of being hunted by Wyatt Earp and his posse after the famous O.K. Corral gunfight in Tombstone Oct. 26, 1881, they had secluded themselves on a ranch owned by their sister Mary near Nutrioso.  Phin arrived in June and Ike in August 1882.  By 1885, each had a 160-acre ranch 10 miles east of Springerville near the New Mexico border.  Congressional Medal of Honor winner Ebin Stanley, 43, who was married to Mary, also had a ranch there.

     The "Clanton-Stanley Outfit" was targeted by Owens and the Stock Association as a priority.  On March 1, 1887, George Powell testified before the grand jury, giving names, dates and locations of stolen livestock which implicated Charles Gray, Robert Gray, Ike, Phin, Ebin and Lee Renfro.

     A warrant for the arrest of Lee Renfro had already been issued on Feb. 26, accusing him of murder in the shooting death of Isaac Ellenger which occurred at Phin's Cienega Amarilla ranch the previous November.  Springerville citizens were outraged at the unprovoked incident.  The Critic reported, "Mr. Ellinger lived several days in great agony, suffering a thousand deaths, and died on the tenth of November.  Renfro, seeing that his victim had received a mortal wound asked for a horse, which was at once provided by the Clantons, and Lee Renfro rode away."

     Ebin Stanley was arrested on March 1 and locked in jail.  Because of poor health, certified by the county physician, Stanley's bonds were reduced and he was released.  Phin Clanton was arrested and jailed on April 30 by George Powell and Albert Miller.  Charles Gray was arrested on May 1, jailed and charged with grand larceny.

     Around May, St. George Creaghe reported, "Some parties had appropriated, stolen and driven off almost every saddle horse he had, some eight or ten."   John C. Wahl also had his horses "appropriated from his range near Nutrioso."   Mr. Horton had a mule stolen at the same time and "followed the trail on foot for three or four days" to the Blue in the direction of Eagle Creek.

     On May 14, deputies Albert Millet, George Powell and J.V. Brighton left Springerville for the Horton brothers' camp on the Black River.  Upon their arrival, tracks were found from the band of horses stolen from Mr. Wahl.  One of the Hortons, who was acquainted with the mountains, accompanied the deputies, following the trail to Solomonville.

     After resting several days there, Brighton and Miller arrived at "Peg-leg" Jim Wilson's ranch on Eagle Creek the evening of May 31.

     "Early the next morning and just as they were sitting down to breakfast, they heard someone approaching the cabin on horseback.  Mr. Brighton jumped up and stepped to the door.  As he did so, Ike Clanton rode up and spoke to him.  Mr. Miller then stepped to the side of the door, so as to be in a position to render aid to Mr. Brighton should it be necessary, but being curious, looked over the shoulders of Brighton.  Just as he did so, Clanton saw and recognized him, and immediately wheeled his horse to make for the bushes, at the same time drawing his Winchester from its scabbard.  Clanton threw his rifle over his left arm, attempting to fire.  At this instance, Brighton fired and Ike reeled in his saddle and fell to the right side of his horse, his rifle falling on the left.  Before the fall, Brighton fired a second shot which passed through the cantle of the saddle and grazed Ike's right leg.  When Brighton and Miller walked up to where Ike lay they found he was dead."

     On June 7, Owens and Powell returned from Alma, N.M., with Juan Carrillo, taking him to St. Johns. Owens, according to the Herald, arrested John Payne on June 9, and charged him with assault to do great bodily harm.  "Payne had the western portion of the county in perfect dread of him, that he whipped one man with a quirt, rapped another over the head with his six shooter and threatened others."

     On June 11, according to the Critic, "Two more of the most desperate and daring outlaws who have infested the borders of Arizona and New Mexico for years past, were killed at the mouth of Blue Creek, where it empties into the San Francisco.  These two desperados sported many aliases.  The most dangerous of the two was known most generally by the names Joe Williams, Sprague and Long Hair.  His right name is not known.

     "His companion, Billy Evans, (which is his right name) generally went by the name of Jack Diamond or Jack Timberline."   He was wounded in Springerville on Dec. 26 while trying to escape a posse that had arrested him for killing James Hale at West and Brighton's Saloon on Christmas Day.

     He was taken to jail in St. Johns but was released on Jan. 18 due to insufficient evidence.  Evans often boasted that "the rewards had increased to such an extent on his head that the man who took him could afford to wear diamonds."

    On the evening of June 9, they stole three horses from Charlie Thomas, a prominent rancher, and two belonging to Jack Cooper and Mr. Eaddy who were visiting Thomas at the time.  Cooper, an early riser, discovered the missing horses the next morning.  The three followed the tracks and on the evening of June 11, saw smoke "rising from a canyon about a mile from the mouth of the Blue."

     They dismounted, approached the canyon on foot and spotted thieves who "had just finished their supper and were taking a smoke around the fire."  The pursuing party fired on them, killing Evans and Williams, while a third man got away.

     On July 8 Brighton was hunting stolen cattle belonging to the San Carlos Indian Agency.  Three of the agency 's men were with him, and by chance, were near a canyon where Lee Renfro had camped.

     Brighton and the "posse were riding across a plateau when they observed a man coming out of the canyon 150 yards distant, on foot and in shirt-sleeves."   Brighton told two of the 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 rode over and talked with Renfro for a few minutes.   In the meantime Brighton and the other man dismounted and were "pretending to be fixing their saddles."

     When Renfro approached, Brighton was between him and his horse.   Brighton recognized him immediately and "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. Brighton then fired, hitting him near the heart."

     Renfro, calling Brighton by name, asked, "Did you shoot me for money?"

     Brighton said, "No, I shot you because you resisted arrest."   Renfro gave his watch and other effects he had on his person to Brighton, asking that they be sent "to his brother in Cowboy, Texas," and he died.

     On August 11, "Rawhide Jake" Brighton was arrested by Graham County authorities, taken to Solomonville and jailed.   A stockman named Cunningham had filed a complaint charging him with murder in connection with the killing of Ike Clanton.   However, U. S. Deputy Marshall Will Smith from Yuma had a warrant for Cunningham's arrest for stealing government. cattle.

     Upon his arrival Brighton was released because Cunningham failed to show up at the hearing. Brighton and Smith "recovered 50 head of cattle belonging to the San Carlos Indians on Cunningham's ranch" but failed to find him.   Smith held various warrants for others for the same offense.   He was impressed and Brighton was made a Deputy U.S. Marshal.

     The Critic wasn't impressed. Its Aug. 13 editorial read:

     "We ask the people of Apache County, whether they are willing to submit themselves to be ruled over by the Apache County Stock Association or by the laws of the United States and of this Territory? Have the so called 'Association' the right to send out a hired assassin, to shoot down whomsoever he may please?"

     "J.V. Brighton, by his own admission, has committed several murders in this and Graham county. Murder, says the law, is the unlawful killing of a human being, and it is not a sufficient excuse to say the person killed, was a refugee from justice or that the person was accused of a crime.  The law does not justify a Sheriff or other officer to kill another human being unless he has used all reasonable efforts to take the accused without success."

     "The fellow known as J.V. Brighton claims to be the secret service detective of the Apache County Stock Association, and under such a flimsy pretext, the authority to kill whomsoever the 'Association', now have, or spotted.   Any red-handed murderer and assassin could hire himself to an 'Association' by murdering all who he personally disliked."

     The Herald on Aug. 11, was more practical:

     There seems to be no doubt of the killing of Lee Renfro.  Unlawful killings are to be regretted, but in this case the County enjoys a happy riddance without the expense of a prosecution."

     Owens could now turn his attention to the western portion of the county.   Stolen livestock from Show Low, Taylor, Holbrook and the Navajo Reservation were taken down to the Tonto Basin and into Yavapai County.   Canyon Creek, 50 miles southwest of Holbrook, was the headquarters of the Martin Blevins family.   In 1886, the Herald accused the family of stealing livestock and referred to them as the `Canyon Creek gang," pointing out Andy Blevins (Cooper) as the leader.

     Owens was trying to remain neutral in the bloody Pleasant Valley War between the Tewksbury and Graham factions.   But chaotic conditions there were causing problems in his jurisdiction while hired gunmen were committing acts of robbery and rustling in Apache County.

     Deputy Sheriff J.H. Benbrook sent Owens a letter from Globe in August giving an account of the killing of Marion Bagsley, Canyon Creek rustler.   "I had occasion to interview Mr. Bagsley on the first of August, having a warrant for his arrest from Maricopa County, on a charge of grand larceny.   Instead of throwing up when I ordered him, he pulled and turned loose, the ball grazing my left thumb, but breaking no bones.   I returned the fire and he died."   The Herald mentioned that "two years ago Bagsley was arrested by our present Sheriff, for mistaking a brand on a horse and brought to St. Johns; but at that time it was next to impossible to convict a man charged with any crime."

     Andy Cooper was "openly boasting that the officers of the law were afraid of him."   At the Aug. 9 and 10 board of supervisors meeting, Owens was told to arrest Cooper "within 10 days" or they would "yank his badge."    The foreman of the "Hashknife" assembled his men in Holbrook on Aug. 18, telling them he "planned to take an active part in trying to stop the stealing.   Any unwilling to assist were free to leave."

     The Critic was accusing Owens of having informed Cooper to his face that he "had no warrants for his arrest," while the Herald reported, "Owens may have assured Mr. Cooper and the bystanders that he had no warrant for his arrest; and if there was one in existence he was ignorant on the subject."

     On Sept. 1, the Herald found one. "We find a warrant was issued for the arrest of Mr. Cooper from the county court of Apache on the twenty-fifth day of March, 1886, and that Mr. Owens received the warrant from his predecessor."

     Furthermore, "The Herald has repeatedly called the attention of our authorities to the state of affairs existing in that locality.   These outlaws exercise such a reign of terror over the inhabitants of that section, that parties who have lost stock and who know the parties that have taken them, are afraid to swear out warrants for their arrests.  They have driven settlers out of their houses, torn down their place of public worship, driven stock along the public highways in the broad glare of the noon-day sun and added murder to their long catalogue of crimes - how much longer these outlaws are to be allowed to ply their vocation with apparent impunity.   We hope it may be short lived."

     If Owens was avoiding Cooper, he could no longer do so.   Cooper had returned from Pleasant Valley Holbrook on Sept. 2, and was boasting that he had killed one of the Tewksburys and another man.   John Tewksbury and William Jacobs had indeed been murdered.

     On Sept. 4, 1887, Deputy Sheriff Frank Wattron had a conversation with Cooper around 2 p.m. Cooper assured him that "he would never give up to an officer having a warrant and didn't want any monkey business about it."

     Owens arrived in Holbrook later for the purpose of serving summonses to trial jurors for the September term of the district court to be held in St. Johns.   True, but that wasn't on his mind.   Andy Cooper was.

     Terrill's and Banta's saloons were doing a lively business as Owens rode by on his way to Brown and Kinder's livery stable.   He was met there by Sam Brown who took his horse.   Owens said, "I am going to take him in.   People have talked enough about me being afraid to arrest men.   I expect I have a warrant at the Post Office for him which I ordered sent from Taylor."

     After Owens cleaned his pistol in the dining room, he walked to the granary where he picked up his Winchester, making sure it was loaded and walked out.   On his way out he asked Justice of the Peace D.G. Harvey where Cooper lived.   Harvey replied, "Just beyond the adobe house and this side of the blacksmith shop."

     It was close to 4 p.m. when Owens walked over to the house.   It was "a frame structure containing four small rooms, north of the railroad tracks and fronted main street.   It had been recently rented by Andy Cooper and John Blevins for their widowed mother, Mary Blevins.

     Inside the house were John Blevins, his wife Eva, Mary Blevins and her 16 year old daughter.   A friend, Amanda Gladden; her infant; two girls, ages 7 and 10; Houston Blevins, barely 15; and Mote B. Roberts were also there.

     Andy Cooper, noticing Owens coming his way, went inside the house and gave the alarm, "Here comes the Sheriff!"

     Frank Reed heard shots, ran over to where a crowd had assembled and told his story in the Critic.

Holbrook, Arizona September 10, 1887

     "Several eye witnesses to the shooting say that Sheriff Owens went to the house armed with a Winchester rifle and six-shooter; knocked at the front door, whereupon Andy Cooper came to the door at the east front room, while John Blevins went to the door of the west front room.   Cooper and Owens saluted.   Owens said, "I have a warrant for you, and I want you to come with me."  Cooper replied, "What warrant is it Owens?"   The Sheriff answered, "The warrant for stealing horses."   Cooper wanted to think for a few moments and Owens said, "Are you ready?" and was answered by Cooper, "In a few minutes."   Owens said, "No, right away," then fired the ball from his Winchester striking Cooper in the center of abdomen, passing through the bowels and coming out near the spine.

     Owens then jumped back from the door throwing another cartridge into his rifle at the same time turning as he did, so as to face the door of the west front room, and fired the second shot, which passed through the right shoulder of John Blevins, thence through the door, striking a partition wall.   At this time, the Sheriff retreated diagonally back, to the corner of Armbruster's blacksmith shop.   The Sheriff thinking Cooper was not yet dead, fired the third shot, grazing Cooper's left arm.

     At the time of the shooting of Cooper, Mote B. Roberts was sitting at a table writing a letter.   On hearing the shot which killed Cooper, Roberts jumped up from the table and attempted to get away.   He crossed the east front room, passing into a bedroom.   In the bedroom is a window facing the east, and about five feet from the north-east corner of the building.

     Roberts, in trying to make his escape, jumped out this bedroom window, six-shooter in hand, and as he turned the north-east corner, Owens fired the forth shot, which took effect in M.B. Roberts shoulder, the ball entering from behind, passing through his left lung, carrying away a part of his left collar bone, and finally buried itself in a spoke of a wagon.

     Roberts re-entered at a rear door into the kitchen where he fell in a heap, and lay weltering in a pool of his own blood.

     After shooting Roberts, Sheriff Owens began filling the magazine of his rifle with cartridges in his belt; this once done he walked west from fifteen to twenty feet from the corner of the blacksmith shop.   The Sheriff had stood in his last position perhaps ten seconds, when Sam H. Blevins, a youth of fifteen or sixteen years, rushed out, his mother after him, through the same door in which Andy Cooper was killed, with Cooper's six-shooter in his hand.

     The boy and his mother were about four feet from the door; seeing the Sheriff, she screamed, grabbed hold of her son and rushed for the door, but too late to save the life of the foolish boy, as Owens' unerring rifle belched forth its fifth shot and the boy fell face downwards at his mother's feet, head and shoulders inside the door; the door through which he had stepped but a few moments before, but now a lifeless corpse - all within three minutes.

     After firing his fifth and last shot, Sheriff Owens coolly threw his rifle across his left arm and calmly walked past, at a distance of twenty-five feet, going to Brown and Kinder's livery stable where he had left his saddle horse.

     As soon as the firing ceased, several civilians went to the house, where a horrible sight met their gaze. Dead and wounded in every room, and blood over the floors, doors and walls.

     One little child, seven years of age, was literally bespattered with clots of human gore.

     The agonizing groans of the wounded, the death-rattle of the dying, mingled with hysterical screams of the females made a sight that no one would care to see the second time.   All this is simply a chapter of the Tonto Basin history, and no man can as yet foretell the end."

APACHE COUNTY Court Records, Clerks office, St. Johns
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. C.P. Owens - September 28, 1883
CORONERS INQUEST of George W. Lockhart - February 12, 1887
CORONERS INQUEST of John King and E. L. Palmer - February 15, 1887
CORONERS INQUEST of James Hale - December 25, 1886
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. J.W. Dimon Alias W.N Timberline -December 26, 1886
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs, Williams and Evans - February 14, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs George West and J.V. Brighton - February 14, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. George Powell - February 14, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. George West and George Powell - February 4, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. William Evans and Samuel Sprague - February 4, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. George and William Graham - February 13, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. George Powell - April 28, 1888
CORONERS INQUEST of Jose Rafael Aragon - December 31, 1884
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs, John Underwood and Ebin Stanley . August 26, 1882
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs J. Isaac Clanton - May 24, 1886
CORONERS INQUEST of Isaac N. Ellinger - November 18, 1886
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Phineas F. Clanton - September 27, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Phin Clanton and Ebin Stanley - September 12, 1887
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Lee Renfro - February 26, 1887 (Indictment)
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Phin Clanton, Ike Clanton and Robert Gray - April 20, 1887 (Indictment)
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Bill Jackson, Phin Clanton, and Ike Clanton - April 19, 1887 (Indictment)
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Ebin Stanley and Phin Clanton -March 1, 1887 (Indictment)
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. John Blevins - April 28, 1888
TERRITORY OF ARIZONA vs. Frank Clark - May 10, 1887
Testimony taken in the cause of the killing of Houston Blevins - September 5, 1887
Dying statement of M.B. Roberts -September 4, 1887
State of Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona
ST. JOHNS HERALD - 1885 -1886 - 1887
Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, Arizona
Commodore Perry Owens, The Man behind the Legend, Ball, Larry D. 1992
APACHE COUNTY, Recorder's Office
Apache County Great Register -1884
Apache County Great Register -1888

Commodore Perry Owens
The above article written by Jack Becker, local historian, was originally published in the White Mountain Independent on September 2, 1994, as a special for "Valle Redondo Days."
This picture accompanied the article.

In this picture he had cut his hair.

Click here to see another more well-known picture of Commodore Perry Owens.

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