Who was Indian fighter Clay Beauford?

Tom Todd
Show Low, Arizona

First, Clay Beauford was born Welford C. Bridwell in Maryland in 1846, but he changed his name when he ran away from home at the age of 14 to join the Confederate Army. After the war, he enlisted in the regular army, serving as a scout during the Indian Wars, including the 1872-73 Winter Campaign in Arizona, for which he earned the Medal of Honor. On one expedition, he captured a youngster later known as the Apache Kid.

In 1874, John Clum hired Beauford as the chief of Indian police at the San Carlos Reservation where he played a role in the dramatic capture of Geronimo and Victorio at Ojo Caliente.  Beauford resigned in 1877, not long after Clum left.

In 1879 he formally changed his name back to Bridwell.  He was elected to the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1885. During his term, he was drinking in a Prescott saloon when a Frenchman hurled an insult at him for denying his French heritage. Known for his quick and violent temper, Bridwell knocked the man to the floor and was challenged to a duel. Bridwell chose Colt’s revolvers, while the Frenchman insisted on French sabers, fully knowing none could be found for hundreds of miles around. The resulting stalemate caused the duel to be called off; the boys settled for drinks instead.

Bridwell/Beauford was one of Arizona’s most famous pioneers. He ranched and mined in the territory until about 1895 when he moved his family to Los Angeles. He died there in 1905.

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