Famous Cochise County Crimes

The Murders at Brunckow Cabin

Remains of Brunckow's cabin

Frederick Brunckow, a Prussian-born mining engineer was working a mine on the San Pedro with an assayer, machinist and a mine superintendent. They employed about a dozen Mexican peons as workers. One Monday morning the superintendent, W.M. Williams, left for Fort Buchanan to obtain supplies. When he returned to the mine on the following Thursday he found no one left alive. Brunckow, John C. Moss, the assayer, and James Williams, the machinist, were all found dead. They had been robbed, the workers were missing, and all the movable property of the mine had been stolen.

Some days later a German, who had just been hired on as a cook, turned himself in to Captain Ewell at Fort Buchanan. He claimed that the Mexican workers had robbed and killed the others, but had spared his life and taken him prisoner. Search was made for the murderers in Sonora, and several times they were reported to be in the custody of Mexican authorities but they were never brought to justice. Remains of the ill-fated cabin can still be seen. Ed Schieftelin used it years later when he made the discovery that made Tombstone famous.

Murders on the trail to the Mowry Mine
Within a period of less than two years three managers of the Mowry Mine were slain by Apaches on the trail between Santa Cruz and Patagonia. Ross Browne gives a full account of these events here.

Smuggling in Skeleton Canyon
Illegal traffic across the U.S. Mexican border flourished in the 1880s, with American "cow-boys" bringing stolen Mexican cattle north while Mexican smugglers came north for tobacco and alcohol. Some Arizona outlaws made a practice of waylaying these Mexicans when they were coming north carrying gold to make their purchases. The robberies were seldom reported since the victims were themselves operating outside the law.

The Lynching of John Heith (Feb 22, 1884)
Lynching of John Heith, NARA photoDespite its reputation for violence, Tombstone saw only one lynching--and that was conducted by miners from Bisbee under the leadership of Mike Shaughnessy. During the robbery of the Goldwater and Castenada store in Bisbee, four men and a pregnant woman were shot and killed. Five of the robbers were sentenced to be hanged while John Heith (or Heath) was found guilty of second-degree murder and given life imprisonment. This so enraged the people of Bisbee that a group went to Tombstone, removed Heith from the custody of the sheriff and lynched him from a telegraph pole at the corner of First and Toughnut streets.
That the general public approved of this action is reflected in the verdict of the coroner's jury: "We the undersigned, a jury of inquest, find that John Heath came to his death from emphysema of the lungs--a disease common in high altitudes--which might have been caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise." It is further stated that each member of the party who dispatched him ritually placed his hands on the noose around the victim's neck.

The Curley Bill Brocius Gang
It was claimed that the Curley Bill Brocius gang operating out of Galeyville took part in a famous encounter in Skeleton Canyon where fifteen Mexicans were killed for their gold and left for the buzzards and coyotes. As late as 1921 there were stories circulating of silver bars and gold coins being found in the canyon, scattered by the fleeing mules.

Cochise Train Robbery, Sept. 1899
It was not unusual in early Arizona for men to operate on both sides of the law. Sometime sheriff's deputy and Willcox constable Burt Alvord was one such. His position in the railroad town gave him inside knowledge of a gold shipment, and on Sept. 11,1899 Alvord and some of his cronies were involved in the robbery of the westbound train at Cochise Station.

Fairbank Train Robbery, Feb. 1900
The Alvord gang was also named in the attempted train robbery at the Fairbank Station in February 1900. Plucky Jeff Milton foiled the attempt by grabbing a shotgun and firing at the robbers, who took off into the hills. Milton was shot in the left arm, but recovered sufficiently to take up mining in the Ajo region. Members of the gang were jailed when one of them turned state's evidence, but Alvord escaped and was later heard of in Canada and in Central America.

The Oatman Massacre and the Captivity of the Oatman Sisters
This account by J. Ross Browne is based on his talks with Henry Grinnell, the rescuer of Olive Oatman; Browne met Grinnell at Fort Yuma. Browne also provides several sketches of the terrain where the events took place.

Inventing Wyatt Earp
Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends by Allen Barra
Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend
Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend by Casey Tefertiller
Wyatt Earp Starring Kevin Costner
Wyatt Earp
starring Kevin Costner
Tombstone with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer
Tombstone
Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer