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Burton Alvord - Lawman Turned Outlaw

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Lawman turned outlaw, Alvord was born in Arizona Territory in 1866. The son of a justice of the peace, he often traveled with his father. When he was just 15 years old he was working as a stable hand at Tombstone's O.K. Corral, where he witnessed the famous gunfight. Three years later, he also was present when vigilantes lynched John Heath, a convicted thief and murderer.


In 1886, at the age of twenty, Alvord was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Cochise County by the newly-elected Sheriff, "Texas" John Slaughter. Within no time, Alvord earned a reputation as an excellent tracker as he brought in a number of cattle rustlers and other wanted fugitives.


For the next three years, Alvord served with Slaughter in many a shoot-out with outlaws, rustlers, and gunmen of all kinds. However, Alvord’s sterling reputation as an efficient lawman began to slip in 1889, when he began to drink heavily.


Frequenting the many saloons of Tombstone, Alvord started to socialize with some of the criminal elements and was known to get into frequent scuffles. As Slaughter began to chastise his actions, Alvord soured on both the Sheriff and the law.  



Burton Alvord, Outlaw

Burton Alvord served as a lawman until he changed

his ways and turned outlaw


Tombstone TodayAlvord moved to Fairbank, Arizona in the early 1890’s and became a town constable. Continuing to drink heavily and cavort with known outlaws, he was soon asked for his resignation and he moved once again, this time, to Pearce, Arizona. There, he worked briefly as a deputy marshal for George Bravin in 1896, who was looking for a "tough nut" to make sure his growing mining camp didn't get out of hand. However, after just six months, Bravin decided that there was no longer a need for the toughened lawman and Alvord moved on to Willcox. Little did Bravin know that the two would meet again under far different circumstances.


Again he obtained work as a town constable but commanded very little respect as by this time he had become a serious alcoholic. By the turn of the century, Alvord had given up on being a lawman and joined with the many outlaws he had befriended over the years. Starting with cattle rustling, he later formed a gang with Billy Stiles and began to commit armed robberies. After a foiled attempt to rob a Fairbank train and a run-in with tough lawman Jeff Milton, Alvord was arrested and taken to the Cochise County Jail. By that time, his former boss, George Bravin was working as a lawman in Tombstone and the two came face to face once again.


On April 7, 1900, as Bravin had some 25 prisoners housed in his jail, Billy Stiles went to visit Alvord and other gang members who were in the jail. He then held a gun to Bravin demanding the release of all of the prisoners and ended up shooting the lawman taking off two of his toes. The prisoners, including Alvord, then escaped.




The gang continued their criminal ways until both both Alvord and Stiles were arrested in December, 1903. Again they were incarcerated in the Tombstone Jail and again they escaped. Shortly later, Alvord got the idea that they would fake their deaths in order to get the law off their trail. The pair either killed two Mexicans or unearthed them from recent graves and sent them in sealed coffins to Tombstone. Spreading the word that the coffins contained their own outlaw bodies, the lawmen were suspicious and opened the coffins. Finding the moldering remains of the Mexicans, rather than the outlaws, they went after them again. 

The Rangers, pursued the men into Mexico in February, 1904 and trapped them near Naco. When Alvord and Stiles went for their guns, the Rangers returned fire hitting Alvord twice in the leg and Stiles in the arm. Though Stiles was somehow able to get away, Alvord was captured and sent to the Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma, where he served two years for robbery. Released in 1906, he then traveled to Central America. He was last seen in 1910 working as a canal employee in Panama.



Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April, 2017.



Also See:


The Cochise Train Robbery




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