Cochise County, Arizona

The Bisbee Massacre

    On a winter night late in 1883 five men rode into Bisbee and robbed the Goldwater and Castaneda store, the largest in town, to which the payroll for the Copper Queen Mine invariably was consigned. After Joseph Goldwater handed over the little money in the drawer and opened the safe, the robbers forced his partner, Jose Maria Castaneda, from a sickbed and found a sack of money and a watch under his pillow. As two robbers left the store, their three companions outside indiscriminately and excitedly began firing at everybody on the street.
    Three men and a woman were wantonly killed. The robbers rode into the night. Posses were organized to hunt them down. In the process a local saloonkeeper, John Heath, was revealed as an accomplice as he tried to lead the posse on a false trail. He had helped the killer plan the holdup. The five men were rounded up: two in Mexico, one in a Deming, New Mexico, barber shop, and two more at Clifton, where one had given the watch taken in the holdup to a lady-friend.
Brought to trial, the five who actively participated in the crime were sentenced to death. Their associate, who had cowered behind the bar in his own saloon during the shooting, was given a long prison term. The county seat and jail were at Tombstone, across the mountains from Bisbee. The following morning a crowd converged at the jail, took Heath from his jailers and hanged him to a telephone pole. Dr. George E. Goodfellow gave as his legal medical opinion that Heath had died of emphysema of the lungs (lack of oxygen) "self induced or otherwise."
Source:  Arizona Pageant - A Short History of the 48th State, by Madeline Ferrin Pare with the Collaboration of Bert M. Fireman. Arizona Historical Foundation Tempe, 1875, pages 231-231

John Wesley Heath was born on December 15, 1844 in Ohio but moved to Terrell,  Texas  with his family at a young age. There, he got involved in rustling and robbery. He also married twice, first to Mary Ann Redman in October, 1867. What became of her is unknown. He married again in March, 1869 and was known to have had three children – Myrtle, Kittie and John.
    However, by the early 1880’s he was living in Arizona, where he served as a deputy sheriff in Cochise County for a brief time. However, he soon found that the pay was not nearly as good as thievery, resigned and went back to his outlaw ways. Living in Bisbee, Arizona, Heath opened a saloon and dancehall. In no time, it quickly became known as a hangout for area outlaws and other shiftless characters.
    On December 8, 1883, five men held up the Goldwater and Castenada Store in Bisbee, leaving behind four people dead, including a pregnant woman. The vicious robbers included Daniel "Big Dan” Dowd, Comer W. "Red” Sample, Daniel "York” Kelly, William "Billy” Delaney and James "Tex” Howard.
    Having heard that a $7,000 payroll for the Copper Queen Mine was held for safekeeping in the store, two of the men charged inside  demanding the money, while the other three waited outside. However, to their disappointment, they discovered that the payroll had not yet arrived. Angered, they then took what money was in the safe (reports vary from $900 to $3,000) and robbed the staff and customers of any valuables.
    In the meantime, the three outlaws waiting outside began a shooting spree, first aiming through the window and killing a customer named J.C. Tappenier. Hearing the shot, Deputy Sheriff Tom Smith cam running, and was immediately shot down by the bandits. A bullet gone wild entered a boarding house, killing a pregnant Annie Roberts. Another shot hit a man named J.A. Nolly as he stood outside his office. Yet another unknown man took a bullet in the leg as he was trying to run away from the shooting spree.
    The whole affair lasted less than five minutes and with cash in hand and seemingly unperturbed, the outlaws left the town at a leisurely pace, evidently unworried about capture.
The town leaders wasted no time notifying Sheriff J.L. Ward in Tombstone by telegraph. Ward soon formed two posses, with himself leading one, and Deputy Sheriff William Daniels, leading another. When Daniels arrived in Bisbee he began to question its citizens, including John Heath, whose saloon was just down the street from the Goldwater-Castaneda Mercantile. Heath told Daniels that he knew the men involved and could probably help to lead then to outlaws. Though Daniels was apprehensive of Heath, due to his already having a reputation as an unsavory character, he also hoped to quickly apprehend the outlaws. With Heath at the lead, the posse found nothing and soon accused Heath of leading them     on a false trail.
Heath returned to his saloon and the posse continued to search for the outlaws. Though it took several weeks, all five were found, two in Mexico, one in New Mexico, and the other two in Clifton, Arizona.
When questioned, some of the outlaws began to indicate that John Heath knew more about the crime than he should have. Soon, the authorities brought Heath in and began to question him. Under pressure, Heath "fessed” up to having prior knowledge of the crime and many believed that he probably master-minded the whole affair.
    All were scheduled to be tried, but Heath requested a separate trial and was given it. Furious Bisbee citizens awaited the outcome of the outlaws involved in what had become known as the "Bisbee Massacre.” On Feburary 17th, the trial began for the five killers and two days later they were all sentenced to be hanged on March 8, 1884.
    Heath’s trial began on February 20th, where he admitted to being the mastermind of the robbery, indicating that the others lacked the intelligence. However, he adamantly insisted that the killings were never a part of the plan and that he was in no way responsible for the actions of the other five men. A coward at heart, he even admitted that when he heard the shots being fired, he hid behind the bar of his own saloon. The next day, Heath was convicted of second degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery, and sentenced to life in the Yuma prison.
    Though Heath was obviously relieved, the citizens of Bisbee were furious and determined to do something about it. Early on the morning of February 22nd, a mob of some 50 men, led by Mike Shaughnessy, descended upon the Tombstone jail and dragged Heath from his cell into the dusty street.
    At the corner of First and Toughnut Streets, they looped a rope over the crossbeam of a telegraph pole, as Heath continually claimed his innocence. The vigilantes were not listening. In his last moments, he said:  "I have faced death too many times to be disturbed when it actually comes." As the rope began to pull him skyward, he cried out one last request, "Don't mutilate my body or shoot me full of holes!"  Public approval of the hanging was 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."
Though there is a marked grave today in Tombstone's Boot Hill  for John Heath, records actually indicate that he was returned to Terrell, Texas and buried in the Oakland Cemetery by his family in an unmarked grave.
The other five killers' scheduled hanging for March 8th remained unchanged, soon taking on a carnival like atmosphere. Free tickets were issued for the event, but when Sheriff Ward ran out of them, an  enterprising business man built bleachers around the gallows and began selling yet more tickets.
    However, famous business woman, gold prospector, and spiritual caretaker, Nellie Cashman, objected adamantly to the circus that was surrounding the event. Outraged at the citizens’ behavior and feeling that no death should be "celebrated,” she soon befriended the five convicts, visiting them often and providing them with spiritual guidance. She pleaded with Sheriff Ward to place a curfew on the town during the time that the hangings were to take place. Ward conceded and the vast majority of interested onlookers were not allowed to watch the "event.” In the meantime, she and some friends had destroyed the bleachers that had been built. When the five men were standing on the gallows, reportedly Dan Dowd remarked that the multi-gallows were a "regular choking machine.” Unfortunately, he was right, because of the five men, only one died of a broken neck, the other four dying slowly of strangulation.
After they were executed, the men were buried in Tombstone's Boot Hill cemetery. Cashman also found out that there was a plan to rob the bodies from their graves for a medical school study. This, too, outraged the woman and she hired two prospectors to guard the graves for ten days, which were left undisturbed and remain at Boot Hill today.


Bisbee Massacre Aftermath

Taking turns, five men stood and looked nervously from between the bars of the cell's one tiny window in Tombstone's small jail. Their feelings were far from being at ease as their attention invariably focused on the activity centered around a structure being erected across and down the street a few yards in a vacant lot. Every blow of a hammer and every thrust of a saw made them wince.
Everything possible was being done to make the surroundings comfortable for the expected audience. A record crowd was anticipated and everything possible was being done to make the show a success. For this was the first show of its kind ever staged in Tombstone. True, there had been others nearly like it but this one had the law on its side.
When completed, the structure was a grandstand. Directly opposite, across the street, behind the jail and out of sight of the five men, was another recently completed structure—a gallows. Not of the usual size but long enough to accommodate five persons simultaneously.
The five men who were in jail knew who the principle actors in the drama were destined to be; the judge had made that point quite clear a month before. lie had distinctly decreed that Daniel Dowd, Omer W. "Red" Sample, James "Tex"Howard, William "Bill" DeLaney and Daniel Kelly should be hanged as just retribution for their careers of crime against the Territory of Arizona in general and Cochise County in particular.
Tombstone was readying for its first legal execution and not in a half-hearted manner. Most of the citizens had seen death by violence before in various forms but not with legal formality. They were anxious to see what improvement the forces of law and order might have over the summary justice dispensed out in the hills.
Law enforcement officers did not disapprove of all these preparations for the comfort of the crowd. They welcomed the prospect of an audience. A public hanging might impress some who were inclined to follow a career of crime to live a more upright life.
Those enterprising citizens who built the grandstand were not destined to use it for the show. They hadn't taken Nellie Cashman into consideration.
Nellie Cashman, often called Tombstone's Angel, was a friend of anyone who would allow her to be. Her self-imposed mission in life was to save the souls of men who were downtrodden and in trouble—a particularly difficult assignment in a town such as Tombstone. She owned and operated a small restaurant from which she eked out a living for herself and her sister's five orphaned children. When one was in trouble or sorrow, he always found a friend in Nellie Cashman, Tombstone's Angel.
Nellie Cashman was violently opposed to capital punishment. She had no personal interest in any of the five men; she just Aidn't want anyone's life to be taken. She tried, unsuccessfully, to have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Failing that, she visited the jail the day before the execution to inquire if there were any-thing further she might do for them.
It developed that they were not afraid to die, but none of them liked that idea of having a large crowd watch their untimely demise.
"Seems like we're goin' to be deader'n a mackerel whether a mob sees us go or not," one said. "But I'd rather not get hung in front of such a crowd as they're plannin' on havin'." He gazed significantly toward the grandstand.
"I don't aim to die but once," said another. "I'll agree to throw in a few extra kicks if they'll hang us quiet-like without a crowd watching.
Nellie Cashman promised them she would do what she could for them and left the jail.
Late that night, when the grandstand had been completed, she rallied a crew of men together. Armed with axes and heavy miner's sledges, they descended on the structure. When they left, the grandstand was a shambles of splintered wood and wreckage, beyond repair.
The hanging of the five men took place as scheduled on the next day, March 28, 1884. The crowd suffered the indignity and discomfort of having to stand to witness the execution, thanks to a lady who did all in her power to discourage the morbidly curious. But even she could not
save the lives of five murderers.
Those five men appreciated what she had done for them. Seeing the anger on the faces of some who had hoped to have a grandstand seat put the condemned men in better spirits. One of them, as they stood waiting for the trap to drop from under them, said, "I hope the sheriff don't hang the attending parson by mistake."
"He won't," said Sheriff Ward. And he sprung the trap.
Those five and one more had been found guilty by the court of having perpetrated a particularly vicious and needless triple-murder. Three persons had been slain in cold blood in the process of a store holdup in Bisbee. As retribution against the six perpetrators of the Bisbee Massacre, as that crime was later called, a mob demanded summary justice.
Only with difficulty, all six were spirited away from Bisbee and taken to Tombstone, county set of Cochise County. The mob was temporarily thwarted.
The citizens of Tombstone, unlike those in Bisbee, were willing to and did give the suspects a fair trial, though it probably would not be considered fair by present day standards.
On February 21st a jury of their peers handed down their decision. Guilty—all six defendants! Five were sentenced to death by hanging. The sixth, Jack Heath, a dancehall proprietor in Bisbee, received a life sentence for his part in the affair.
The sterling citizens of Tombstone and Bisbee—maybe some of them were not above reproach themselves—disagreed with the jury. On the following day they took Heath from the jail and hanged him to a convenient telegraph pole. The others, being already under a sentence of death, were left to await legal execution.
A coroner's investigation was called and a jury sworn to look into the circumstances surrounding the lynching and to render a verdict thereon. They retired to the nearest saloon to the scene of the lynching and after due deliberation opined, "deceased came to his death from lack of breath." It was surmised, but never proven, that most of the jurors had taken part in the lynching. But then, of course, the coroner was a busy man and couldn't be too particular in picking "six good men and true" for a jury.
This standard verdict of the West—-"came to his death from lack of breath"—did not stand. A few jurors, whose sobriety was perhaps several degrees above that of the others, reopened the issue.
"Why," said one, "supposing some people raise a howl about the verdict? We gotta have something' more dignified; this town is getting' civilized."
They should, they finally all agreed, be more original. They called in Dr. George Goodfellow and repaired to the morgue.
The doctor, when pressed by the jury, decided death was caused by strangulation. That still was not sufficient to satisfy all the jurors.
"Come on, Doc," the jury foreman urged, "you can think of something better than that—something that sounds more refined for the records."
"Well," the doctor pondered for a moment, "emphysema was the direct cause of death. That is a swelling caused by air in the cellular tissues, sometimes due to the effects of high altitude and sometimes due to strangulation."
The jury pondered that over for a short time and decided that emphysema was the ideal word they were searching for. One member suggested that although Heath had gained altitude rapidly at the end of the rope, the sudden altitude change, though a contributing factor in the death, was probably not the direct cause. The final verdict, still on record, of that august body of jurors was:
"We, the jury of inquest impaneled and sworn by the coroner of Cochise County, after viewing the body and hearing the testimony, find that the name of the deceased was John Heath, 32 years old, a native of Texas, and that he came to his death from emphysema of the lungs, which might have been, and probably was, caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise, as in accord with the medical evidence."
That lynching and subsequent hanging of the other five men brought to a close the careers of those involved in the Bisbee Massacre. The press of that day referred to those incidents as the first lynching and first legal hangings in Tombstone.
Though the store holdup netted the robbers but a small amount, indirectly they received something else from the store on the date of their execution.
Joe Goldwater was a co-owner of the establishment and was one of those held at bay at gunpoint in the process of the robbery. It was with considerable pleasure that Goldwater donated the rope for the executions from his store, a branch of which was in Tombstone.
A minor international incident later that year arose over one of those hanged. It happened that Dan Dowd headed for Mexico after the robbery-murder in Bisbee. Close on his trail was Billy Daniels, a deputy sheriff, who located Dowd in Chihuahua. With the aid of an American mining superintendent, Daniels kidnapped and spirited the prisoner across the border and to Tombstone.
The Mexican government protested vigorously to the United States State Department about the illegal seizure and removal of Dowd from Mexico. After the exchange of many formal, diplomatic notes of protest and apology between the two governments, the State Department put the matter in the hands of Arizona's Territorial Governor, F. A. Tritle.
Though the red tape indulged in by higher governmental circles had been necessary, it had also been time-consuming. Three months had elapsed from the time of the kidnapping before the matter was placed in the hands of Governor Tritle with a request to place Dowd immediately into the custody of Mexican authorities to await legal extradition.
Tritle would gladly accede to the demands, he wrote in his report, but first he would need funds to dig up the man in question.
"As for Dowd," he wrote, "I am certain there will be no resistance on his part. He was hanged and has been in his grave for several weeks."
The matter was promptly dropped.
When mention is made of Tombstone's Angel, Nellie Cashman, another woman worthy of mention is brought to mind. Dutch Annie was also an angel of sorts. She also lent a helping hand to those down on their luck. Miners were grubstaked through her generosity. Unlike Nellie Cashman, Dutch Annie was for several years the reigning queen of Tombstone's red light district. This did not daunt her role of humanitarian. She had a heart of gold and always aided those in need of charity.
The high esteem in which she was held may be attested by the fact that at her death in 1883 she was accorded the largest funeral ever given anyone in Tombstone. Tombstone never saw a more ornate casket. The cortege to her grave included many buckboards, buggies and other conveyances. One account said a thousand vehicles were in the procession. Rich and poor, businessmen, mining officials, rustlers and ranchers, all attended the funeral to pay homage to Dutch Annie.
Source: Frontier Arizona by Thomas Way 1960

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