An old man who died in San Diego in 1948 claimed on his deathbed to be gunman “Buckskin” Frank Leslie. Was he telling the truth?

Tom Dancik

Cleveland, Ohio

Probably not, but the circumstances concerning “Buckskin” Frank Leslie’s death remain shrouded in mystery.

Buckskin Frank worked during the 1870s as an Indian scout, but he is best known for killing the self-anointed “Billy the Kid” Claiborne in Tombstone, Arizona, after a confrontation in the Oriental Saloon on November 14, 1882.

Handsome, dashing Buckskin Frank was quite a ladies’ man, and that would eventually be his undoing. During the summer of 1880, a week after Frank shot her jealous husband Mike, Mae Killeen married Frank. They split the blanket in 1887 after she allegedly tired of him making her stand against a wall while he traced her silhouette with his six-shooter.

Then he took up with a prostitute named Mollie Williams (or Sawyer, or Bradshaw, or just plain Blonde Mollie). He may have killed her “benefactor,” a man named Bradshaw. What Buckskin Frank and Mollie had most in common was their love of whiskey, and it led to many an argument. On July 10, 1889, he killed her in a drunken fit of jealousy over her relationship with a guy known as “Six-Shooter” Jim. Buckskin Frank thought he had also killed Jim, but Jim lived to testify against Buckskin Frank for the murder of Blonde Mollie.

Sentenced to 25 years in the Yuma Territorial Prison, Buckskin Frank was pardoned seven years later and released in November 1896. He disappeared in 1922, and his death is still disputed. One source says he committed suicide in 1925, while another says he struck it rich in the Klondike and later died in California.

The best information indicates his last years were spent drunk and penniless, and working as a handyman at a San Francisco pool. He died in 1930. His birth year is guessed as 1848, which would make him 82 years old.

If the man you’re talking about was the gunman, he’d have been 100 years old. I don’t believe with Buckskin Frank’s lifestyle he would have lived that long.

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