The 1886 Martin Family Massacre

stanton true west
The Stanton House

Arizona had a lot of loathsome cold-blooded killers but none worse than Charles Stanton. He arrived in Arizona in 1871 where he got his start by swindling a friend out of a gold claim. He became friendly with Vega, whose gang was responsible for most of the stage robberies, terrorizing and other mischief in the area. Stanton used Vega and his bravos to do his dirty work.

Barney Martin was a storekeeper in competition with Stanton. He finally grew tired of the terrorist acts and sold out. He loaded his family in a wagon in July, 1886 and headed for Maricopa to catch the train east. On the way they were supposed to meet the well-known Charles Genung on the way. The Vega gang ambushed the family south of Wickenburg and forced them to drive to a spot near today’s Morristown. Vega and Elano Hernandez dispatched Martin, his wife and their two boys with knives. Then, to make it look like the work of Indians, they scalped them, threw their bodies back in the wagon and set it afire.

Stanton had followed and watch the grisly scene from a nearby hilltop.

The usual suspects Stanton, Hernandez were arrested. For some mysterious reason Hernandez was released and Stanton was also released for lack of evidence. Vega escaped to Mexico and was never caught.

Stanton’s downfall finally came when he arrogantly hurled insults at the parents a beautiful young lady named Friolana Lucero and hinted that he’d had sex with her. Ms. Lucero also had a protective brother named Pete and on the night of November 13th, 1886 he and two companions entered Stanton’s store with rifles and shot him dead. Thus, without much ceremony, ended the life of one of Arizona’s most ruthless crime bosses.

Ironically it wasn’t the law that was able to put him out of business but a brother who was protecting his sister’s honor.

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