King Woolsey and Mary Taylor Elopement. Illustration by Jack Graham True West
King Woolsey and Mary Taylor Elopement. Illustration by Jack Graham

King Woolsey, was one of Arizona’s best-known pioneers during the 1860s. He prospected for gold in Arizona before the Walker Party arrived in 1863. He also earned a formidable reputation as an Indian fighter, rancher, businessman and politician. He owned a flour mill at Agua Caliente on the Gila River and one day in 1869, he rode over to the stage station at Gila Bend arriving about the same time as a wagon train.

A woman named Mary was a member of a group of emigrants bound for California. She was traveling with a man named Nash whom she wasn’t married; however, as was custom at the time her fellow travelers discretely referred to her as “Mrs. Nash.” Apparently the pair weren’t getting along too well for she’d written in her journal: “I was tard of the trip, my husband and I had been fussin’.”

At Gila Bend a handsome, dark, rugged-looking man caught her eye. In a soft Southern drawl he introduced himself as King Woolsey.

Their courtship was brief, Woolsey didn’t even take time to get down off his horse. After a few words Mary climbed up behind him and the two rode off into the sunset.

During her years with Woolsey Mary had a number of adventures, including the time when she single-handedly captured a notorious outlaw. The two remained together until his death ten years later at the age of forty-seven. Mary went on to have a successful business outliving two more husbands, making career investing in ranches and real estate. She accumulated a fortune of more than two million dollars and when she died in 1928, the Arizona State flags flew at half-mast.

Like this story? Try: Jack Swilling’s Arizona Adventures: Part I

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