Death by Shakespeare

bob-dutch-martin_outlaw-old-mexicoNovember 22, 1880

Attacking during the night, four rustlers run off 22 head of stock from the Turner and Lindeman ranch near San Simon, Arizona.

In the morning, six “settlers” trail the outlaws—Bill Leonard, Luther King, Bill?Stiles and Bill Smith—down into the Cloverdale district (a 60-mile run from the scene of the crime, see second map on the opposite page).

The posse gets into a running gunfight with the thieves. Firing from horseback, the two sides bang away “from daylight to three o’clock in the afternoon,” with the posse ultimately retrieving all of the stolen stock.

An initial report states that the posse members killed an outlaw named “King and wounded Bill Smith,” but a later report confirms that no outlaws were hit by gunfire in the protracted fight.

The victorious posse returns to the Turner and Lindeman ranch with the stolen stock. From there, two of the posse members, George Turner and Bob “Dutch” Martin, hit the trail to return an additional four head of stock recovered in the fight. These belong to a Mr. Fitzgerald of Shakespeare, New Mexico, and no doubt the posse men are received as heroes when they ride up to the ranch corrals.

After Martin and Turner drop off their bounty, they head for home. While they traverse the Animas Valley and make their way through Stein’s Pass, they are ambushed by unseen assailants, who shoot the posse men’s horses out from under them.

The Arizona Daily Star later reports: “The outlaws evidently dogged the party back to the ranch, and from their eyrie in the hills observed the return of the stock. As Messers. Turner and Martin returned from Shakespeare, they were ambushed in Stein Peak Pass by the outlaws, who were concealed in the rocks.

“At first fire the horses of the two men were killed under them, and at the second round Martin was killed by a bullet through the head.

“Mr. Turner then fled from the road and concealed himself, and observing the horses of the outlaws at some little distance where they had been picketed, he commenced firing at them, hoping to dismount his assailants and thus stand a better chance of escaping from what he conceived to be his last ditch.

“He succeeded in killing one of the horses, when the fight got too hot for him and he again made off. The broken formation of the country aided his escape, and waiting till [sic] night, under cover of the friendly darkness he succeeded in reaching home, some ten miles distant. It was a close call, as there were several bullet holes through his clothes.”

Aftermath: Odds & Ends

The irony of Bob “Dutch” Martin’s demise, occurring while the former rustler leader was riding for the law, begs the questions: Did the four outlaws know Martin? Were they once fellow rustlers? Probably. This angle is rarely included in the story of the Gunfight Behind the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

In March 1881, Bill Leonard, Luther King, Jim Crane and Harry Head attempted to rob the Benson stage, killing driver Bud Philpot and passenger Peter Roerig. Although a posse that included Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson arrested King, the outlaw escaped from the Tombstone jail.

Earp asked Ike Clanton, Frank McLaury and Joe Hill to put him on the track of the robbers. They could have the reward; he wanted the publicity from capturing or killing the bandits in hopes that he’d be elected sheriff of Cochise County.

In June, after hearing that Leonard and Head were trying to take over their ranch, the Heslet (also styled as Haslett) brothers, Ike and Bill, ambushed and killed the two outside the general store in Hachita, New Mexico. A few days later, the Heslets were killed by outlaw cowboys, allegedly including Curly Bill Brocius and John Ringo.

Recommended: Paul Cool’s “Gang Warfare, Arizona Cow-Boy Style,” from his forthcoming book (PaulCoolBooks.com)

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