Upton County, Texas
 
OUTLAWS

WILLIAM ' CURLEY' BROCIUS

 

William "Curly Bill" Brocius or Brocious (c. 1845-March 24, 1882) was an American Old West outlaw, gunman and member of "The Cowboys" outlaw gang of the Tombstone and southern Arizona region during the early 1880s.  Born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, with his date of birth unknown, Brocius' birth name is known to be William Graham Brocius.

Brocius is described by contemporary Billy Breakenridge, in his book Helldorado: Bringing the Law to the Mesquite[1] as being the most deadly pistol shot of the Cowboys, able to hit running jackrabbits, shoot out candle flames without breaking the candles or lantern holders, and able to shoot quarters from between the fingers of "volunteers." When drunk, Brocius was also known for a mean sense of humor, and for such "practical jokes" as using gunfire to make a preacher "dance" during a sermon, or forcing Mexicans at a community dance take off their clothes and dance naked. (Both incidents were reported by Wells Fargo agent Fred Dodge in his memoirs, and both incidents are alluded to in the newspapers of the time).

Following the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October 1881, Brocius may have participated in an attempt to kill Virgil Earp and the assassination of Morgan Earp. Brocius was not charged, since there were no eyewitnesses to either crime.

After the killing of Frank Stilwell by the Earp party in Tucson on March 20, 1882, during the Earp vendetta ride, Brocius was deputized, given a warrant issued for Wyatt Earp by Sheriff Johnny Behan, and sent to bring back Earp, who was in the Whetstone Mountains outside town.

Earp, who was also looking for Brocius in revenge for the death of his brother Morgan, encountered Curly Bill on March 24, 1882, at Iron Springs (present day Mescal Springs). Brocius was camping outside his tent near the springs and was surprised while in the act of cooking at a campfire. In the gunfight that followed, Wyatt killed Brocius with a double shotgun blast to the chest from a range of about 50 feet (15 m). Brocius narrowly missed his own shot, hitting only Wyatt's long duster coat.

Some sources say this fight never occurred, and that Curly Bill heard about it years later. He is reported to have recounted it to a rancher, urging him to forget the sobriquet Curly Bill.

After Brocius' death, his friends were, said John Flood, to have buried the body on the nearby Frank Patterson ranch on the Babocomari River. This land, close to the original McLaury ranch site (before the McLaurys moved to the Sulphur Springs Valley in late 1880) originally is believed to have previously belonged to Frank Stilwell, and is located on the river about five miles (8 km) west of the ghost-town Fairbank. If Brocius' body is there, in a still-wild section of country, the gravesite has been lost. Some claimed that Curly Bill escaped, changed his name, and went back to Texas. Whichever, he was never seen again in Tombstone after March 24, 1882, despite a $2,000 reward later put up by the Tombstone Epitaph for an authentic interview and sighting of him alive.

Tombstone historian Ben Traywick has argued that this was too much money for a man like Brocius to turn down, especially since he was not wanted by the law in Arizona for any crime and had no reason to disappear when he did (and certainly no reason to go back to Texas, where he probably was a wanted man). In any case, the money offered by the Tombstone Epitaph was never claimed. Source Wikipedia, 1850 census records - submitted by Janice Rice

 


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