A Deadly Day in Holbrook Andy Cooper Blevins and Graham partisans' Holbrook ambush.

sheriff commodore perry owens holbrook true west magazine
Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens.

September 4, 1887, two days the siege at the Tewksbury Ranch when John Blevins, Andy Cooper Blevins and Graham partisans ambushed John Tewksbury and Bill Jacobs, leaving their bodies to be devoured by feral hogs, Andy and John were in Holbrook. Andy was boasting that he had “killed one of the Tewksbury’s and another man whom he didn’t know.”

Holbrook in 1887 had a dozen or so frame shacks lined up along the railroad tracks on Center Street. The Little Colorado River ran just south of town. A half-dozen saloons, two or three stores, and a post office lined the south side of the tracks. On the north side was a blacksmith shop, livery stable and several small houses. One of those had been recently occupied by the Blevins family.

Sheriff Owens rode in from the south, pausing on a small hill outside of town to plan his next move. He rode into town and put his horse up at the livery stable, then walked over to the drug store owned by Deputy Sheriff Frank Wattron. Owens asked if Cooper was in town and when told he was, Owens said calmly, “I am going to take him in.”

He then cradled his Winchester and started for the Blevins house about a hundred yards away. He noticed a saddled dun tied to a cottonwood tree a few feet in front of the house.

John Blevins was at the stable when the sheriff arrived. He slipped away to warn Andy, who told him to get his horse from the stable and bring it to the house. He fetched the horse and tied it to a cottonwood tree in front. Andy came out and was throwing a saddle on the animal when he looked up and saw Owens approaching. He turned quickly and went back into the house.

As Owens approached he saw a man watching him from an open door. As he drew closer, the door slammed shut. It was now about four o’clock in the afternoon.

Inside the house were Andy, John Blevins, and an accomplice, Mote Roberts along with young Sam Houston Blevins. Also present were the widow Mary Blevins, her nine-year-old daughter Artemisia; Eva Blevins, John’s wife and their infant son; and Amanda Gladden, along with her infant baby and nine-year-old daughter.

Owens stepped up on the porch and said, “Andy, I have a warrant for you, and I want you to come along with me.”

“Give me a few minutes,” Andy replied, as he tried to slam the door shut. Owens quickly jammed his boot in the opening as Andy raised his six gun to fire.

Owens, still holding his Winchester in the crock of his arm, fired through the door, sending a fatal bullet into Andy’s stomach. He quickly jacked in another shell, covering the windows and doors.

John Blevins opened a door slightly and fired his revolver, just missing the sheriff and hitting Andy’s horse. Owens fired again, hitting Blevins in the shoulder.

Just then Owens saw Andy on his knees trying to fire again. Owens fired again, hitting him in the hip.

Sheriff Owens stepped back off the porch, his rifle still covering the house.

Just then he saw Mote Roberts crawling out of a window, pistol in hand. Owens fired again mortally wounding him.

Then fifteen-year-old Sam Houston Blevins came out the door with Andy’s pistol and advanced towards Owens.

The youth aimed his pistol at Owens, but before he could fire the lawman fired his rifle once more hitting the boy squarely in the chest.

When it was clear no one else was coming out of the house, Owens turned and walked back towards the livery stable. The gunfight lasted just three minutes. As Owens walked back up the street several townspeople suddenly appeared and a bystander asked,

“Have you finished the job?”

“I think I have,” he grimly replied.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu.

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