Upton County, Texas


A sketch of the life of C L  Maxwell, better known as "Gunplay" Maxwell, outlaw. ex convict, deputy sheriff, and mine guard for the Utah Fuel Co., killded at Price Utah August 25, 1909.

In June 1900 Maxwell and two of his gang held up and robbed the bank at Springville, Utah, killing the cashier. In the pursuit that followed one of the bank robbers was killed, and Maxwell and a companion named Warner were captured. They were sentenced to a term In prison at Salt Lake City. Maxwell, being of good address and having a good education, soon gained the confidence and good will of the warden, who gave Maxwell unusual liberties. On account of the liberties afforded him Maxwell had opportunities to communicate with other prisoners, and he planned to break jail and take a number of the most desperate ones with him, among them being Warner, his pal.

The governor of Utah and the prison trustees had arranged to visit the prison on a tour of inspection, and Maxwell, knowing this, planned the break for that day. Now, here is where Maxwell's true character is shown. He went to the warden of the prison and told him that the prisoners were plotting to escape, and that his old pal, Warner, was the leader of the gang. After giving the warden the details of the plot as he had planned it, the warden concluded to let the plan go on, as if he was not aware of it, but he took extra precaution to prevent the plan from succeeding. The governor and the board arrived as per their program, and when Warner and the others made their break for freedom they were promptly overpowered. Maxwell was brought before the governor, and for his loyalty and good conduct In exposing the plot he was pardoned. Maxwell then went to Helper, where he engaged in gambling, and being a bad man in general, in 1903 and 1904 he was hired by the Utah Fuel Co. as a mine guard and held a commission as a deputy sheriff for some time.

In 1907 he shot L. C. Reidel. a coal miner, at Helper. He was never prosecuted for this.

In 1906 Tom Kelter, a conductor on the Denver & Hio Grande Railroad, was elected sheriff of Carbon County, and he made up his mind to get rid of " Gunplay " Maxwell. Maxwell had organized a gang and was hanging around Helper. Sheriff Kelter learned of a plan of Maxwell's to rob the bank at Green River on July 9, and work on his counterplot began at once. He came to Salt Lake and engaged Ed Johnson as deputy, and also engaged John MacQuarrie, another deputy, of unquestioned courage and skillful with a gun.

In his plan to rub the bank Maxwell had enlisted the aid of five men, four of whom were known to the officers. The plans of Sheriff Kelter and his deputies to capture the gang were spoiled by an accomplice of Maxwell's now living in Green River, who warned Maxwell that a close watch was being kept, and that their plans were probably known.

Maxwell left for Ogden, where he remained with his second wife, Mrs. W. H. Seman, as she calls herself. Funds were apparently low, as Maxwell pawned the woman's jewels, on which he realized nearly $400, before starting for Carbon County again. This time he planned to hold up the paymaster of the Kenilworth mine.

On Saturday afternoon, when the paymaster rode through Spring Glen on his way to Kenilworth, he was accompanied by a strong guard under the leadership of MacQuarrie and Johnson. Maxwell and a partner were provided with horses and hidden behind a shack along the road near the water tank halfway to Kenilworth when the paymaster and his guards passed. They sized up the party and evidently concluded that it was too big for them, allowing the men to pass, believing they had not been seen. Maxwell's partner on this occasion was a heavy built man who is not known in the vicinity of Price.

About ten days ago C E. Davies, who has been implicated with Maxwell in a number of "expeditions," and who was ordered to leave the country for his connection with Maxwell when the bandit shot L. C. Reidel at Helper two years ago, appeared at Price and began making inquiries concerning Sheriff Kelter and his "gunmen" deputies, naming MacQuarrie and Johnson. Davies remarked that he had heard that both MacQuarrie and Johnson were bad men with guns, but that Maxwell would be in Price on Thursday and make short work of Kelter and his gunmen.

 On Monday morning, the day he met his death, Maxwell appeared In Price, saying he had walked in from a sheep camp. He immediately began to load up on Price whisky, telling what a bad man he was with a gun. To demonstrate his fierceness, he accosted two traveling men, and at the point of his revolver he compelled them to enter a saloon and buy drinks. Sheriff Kelter ordered his deputies to arrest Maxwell, and when the deputies approached him Maxwell said to Johnson: "You are the____ _____ I'm after," at the same time pulling his gun. Johnson and MacQuarrie fired at the same time, the balls from their guns entering Maxwell's breast and going clear through his body. The ball from Maxwell's gun went through the lapel of Johnson's coat. Men who were watching the affair from across the railroad track saw the dust fly from his coat and saw the tear in his back as the bullets passed through his body, and also the spatter of dust as the spent balls were embedded in the ground.

Source: Industrial Relations: Final Report and Testimony by Francis Patrick Walsh - 1916


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