"Buckskin Frank" Leslie - A
Scout and prospector,
Leslie was best known for having killed
Billy Claibourne, one of the infamous
Clanton Gang, who feuded with the
Allegedly born in Nashville, Tennessee,
though at various points in his life he listed other places, Leslie migrated west somewhere along the line and was working as a
scout for the U.S. Army in
and the Dakotas during the 1870’s. By the time he arrived in Tombstone
in1880, the town was teeming with outlaws and other shiftless characters
Earps were attempting to tame the lawless settlement.
Leslie, though standing just 5 feet 7 inches and weighing 135 pounds,
had already earned a reputation as a
gunfighter. He earned the moniker of
"Buckskin Frank” because of the buckskin fringed jacket that he wore
all of the time.
With a matched pair of six-shooters on his hips,
and shooting skills that
would later describe as being comparable to
Holliday’s, Leslie fit right in with the rest of Tombstone's
rowdy crowd. Quick to show off his skills, Leslie was known to frequently demonstrate his shooting abilities,
often on the ceilings of the many Allen Street saloons.
Leslie was also an ill-tempered and violent man, especially when
he drank. Even among the notorious rabble in Tombstone
at the time of Leslie's arrival, he stood out for his quick temper and swiftness
with his gun.
Upon his arrival, he worked some at the Cosmopolitan
Hotel on Allen Street and later filed a number of mining claims in the
area. However, history tells us that he spent more time in the
gambling halls than he ever spent working. Almost immediately began to
have an affair with a married woman by the name of Mae Killeen. Though
the dark-haired beauty was separated from her husband Mike, that
didn’t stop the estranged husband’s jealousy, as he told everyone
that he would shoot any man that he caught her with. Not long
after, that’s exactly what happened when he found
Buckskin Frank with "his" Mae on the porch of the Cosmopolitan
Hotel. Mike made the mistake of confronting
Leslie and wound up dead on June 22, 1880. The killing was
officially ruled to have been self-defense. Just one week later,
Leslie and the "aggrieved” widow Killeen were married.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, the
Earps, who were allegedly friends with
Leslie, moved into the Cosmopolitan Hotel feeling they were safer
there than in their homes.
Some time later,
Leslie badly pistol-whipped a man outside the Oriental Saloon, at
which time the Tombstone
residents really began to think that
Buckskin Frank was a dangerous man, even in the midst of the rest
of the notorious rabble of Tombstone.
When the famous Tombstone
John Ringo was found murdered, suspicions focused on Leslie, even
though law officers were unable to prove his guilt.
After the Earps had left Tombstone,
Leslie became involved in an argument with Billy Claiborne, a survivor of the
O.K. Corral gunfight.
William Bonney, had been claiming that he had killed three men who had
ridiculed him. In actuality, records indicate that he had only killed one
man prior to his confrontation with Leslie. Ridicule had evidently become
a part of Billy's life as his reputation suffered when the details of his
fleeing the scene of the O.K. Corral gunfight made their rounds.
On November 14, 1882,
Leslie, when the gunfighter refused to refer to him as "Billy the
Kid.” Later that night,
Buckskin Frank was in the Oriental Saloon when a drunken Billy Claiborne staggered in and continued his argument with the
The Cosmopolitan Hotel in
Leslie escorted him to the door and threw him out of the saloon. However,
Claiborne was determined and soon returned with a
Winchester. Outside the saloon, he began to brag to anyone who would
listen that he would kill Leslie on sight. When word of this reached
Frank, he took up the challenge, exited the saloon and the inevitable gun
In the melee,
Claiborne's shots missed, but
Billy several times. While Claiborne lay in the dusty street,
Leslie walked up to him and the wounded man said, "Don't shoot me
anymore I'm killed." His friends took him to the doctor where he died
six hours later. Allegedly, his last words were: "Frank
John Ringo. I saw him do it."
Claiborne's epitaph read: "Billy the Kid takes shot at
Buckskin Frank. The latter promptly replied and the former quickly
turns up his toes to the daisies." (See historical testimony of
uprisings began in the mid-1880’s
Leslie again worked for the U.S. Army as an
scout on at least two separate occasions.
things were not looking well on the home front, as, after seven years of
marriage, he and Mae divorced in 1887. Mae claimed that one of the reasons
for the divorce was Leslie's habit of wanting to shoot her silhouette in
the wall as she stood there, proving yet again, his excellent shooting
By this time, Leslie was working as a bartender in the Oriental Saloon, but
preferred to spend much of his free time at the Bird Cage Theater. There,
he met a young singer and
by the name of Mollie Williams and before long, the two were living
together. The "lady” also went by the names of Blonde Mollie and Mollie
Bradshaw. Her promoter’s name was Bradshaw, though he was not her husband.
However, sometime later he turned up dead and
Leslie was automatically suspected. Though he never admitted to
killing the man, he never denied it, either.
From the beginning
Frank and Mollie’s relationship was based on their mutual love of
whiskey which led to frequent and violent quarrels. On July 10, 1889, the
violence escalated and
Leslie shot Mollie in the head. The murder was witnessed by another
man named James Neil, who had the nickname of "Six-Shooter Jim".
Leslie then turned on him and shot him as well. Though Mollie died,
Jim survived and would later testify against
Buckskin Frank was sentenced to 25 years in the Yuma prison. The town
was glad to be rid of the gunfighter who had confessed to having killed 14
However, after serving just seven years,
Leslie won parole with the help of a young divorcee named Belle
Stowell. Once he was released, the two traveled to
California, where they
were married in Stockton on December 1, 1896. The
pair then went on a lavish honeymoon to China before returning to the
United States and settling down to a more peaceful life.
Reportedly, Leslie traveled to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush before moving on to San Francisco,
in 1904. In 1913, he was running a pool hall in Oakland, California.
The 1920 census has him living in a lodging house in Sausalito, California.
He is listed as 77 years old, unemployed, and single.
By 1922, he had disappeared from public records. Though the
manner of his death remains unconfirmed, some believe that he may have
been a broke and homeless man by the same name who died in San Francisco
of America, updated April, 2017.
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