King Woolsey Sometimes they really did ride off into the sunset.

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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Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at