OLD WEST LEGENDS
Fred White - Tombstone's First
first town marshal, was elected on January 6, 1880. In July,
was appointed as a deputy sheriff for the county and two formed an alliance to
protect the town, as well as a strong friendship. White quickly established
himself as a likable and professional lawman and contrary to many depictions of
him in western film, he was respected by
Cowboy faction. In fact, he had arrested "Cowboy”
members on a number of occasions, rarely having any problems when doing so. He
got along particularly well with "Curly Bill" Brocius,
often bantering and joking with the man. Overall, he was seen as an unbiased
man, uninvolved in the politics of Tombstone.
But for White, he had a massive
job on his hands, as the town of Tombstone,
filled with rowdy miners and
was a lawless place, where violence was a common occurrence.
The night of
October 27, 1880, was no exception, as several members of the "Cowboy”
faction, liquored up and having fun, were finding sport in firing their six-guns
recklessly in all directions on Allen Street.
image available for photographic prints
At around 12:30 in the morning
on October 28th, White responded to the sounds of gunshots, closely followed by
Deputy Sheriff Wyatt Earp.
He found Curly Bill Brocius
and several other cowboys
still shooting it up in an empty lot where the Birdcage Theatre now stands.
Ordering the men to surrender their weapons, each of them gave up their guns
voluntarily without incident until Curly Bill Brocius
presented his six-gun to the marshal, barrel first. As White grasped the barrel
of the gun the weapon discharged, shooting White in the groin. While no one
knows exactly what happened, it is thought that the pistol’s hammer was probably
"half-cocked” over a live round when White pulled it from Brocius’
Writhing in agony, White fell
to the ground. An enraged Wyatt Earp
then began to pistol whip Brocius
before arresting him and taking him to jail for the shooting.
also on hand, helped to bring in the other men who had caused the excitement,
charging them with violating city ordinances. Upon depositing Brocius
in a cell, Wyatt
swore out a complaint against Brocius
for assault with intent to murder. Though this incident is often portrayed
McLaury brothers, the
newspaper the next day does not support this.
In the meantime, Marshal White
was made comfortable and looked to by a doctor, who expected him to make a
recovery. But it was not to be.
When the new day dawned, the
rowdy makers went before the judge, were fined for violating city ordinances,
and released. Brocius;
however, asked for a postponement until he could get a lawyer. Later he appeared
with Judge Haynes of Tucson, as his counsel, and as a lynch mob was forming in
the camp to hang Brocius
for the shooting of the popular marshal, whose condition had worsened and looked
as if he might die, Brocius
was ordered to be taken to Tucson to be held in protective custody. As
and George Collins headed to Tucson with Brocius
in a buggy, they were escorted out of town by
In the meantime, Marshal Fred White, who had been steadily declining, lost his
battle on October 30th and died. He was buried at Boot Hill Cemetery in
was said to have terribly regretted the shooting of White, whom he apparently
liked, and maintained that the shooting was an accident, a fact that was
supported by testimony given by White before he died, as well as Wyatt Earp
was eventually acquitted of any any wrong-doing, with Judge Nuegass commenting
that the shooting was "Homocide by Misadventure" or, in other words, an
was released from custody and despite Wyatt's
statement that helped him to be freed, Brocius
could not forgive Wyatt
for the pistol whipping. This was just one more of the many incidents that
increased the ever mounting tension between the
Earps and the Cowboy faction.
After the death of
"Old Man" Newton Clanton in
Curly Bill became the leader of the
Clanton Gang. After the
Gunfight at the
O.K. Corral in October,
Brocius attempted to kill
Virgil Earp and succeeded in assassinating Morgan Earp. Brother
looking for revenge for Morgan's killing, reportedly caught up with
Brocius on March 24, 1882, and
killed him with a double shotgun blast to the chest.
updated March, 2017.
Hill Graveyard today is a tourist attraction in Tombstone,
Kathy Weiser, April, 2007.
This image available for photographic prints
Also see newspaper accounts of the event
Tombstone - The Town Too Tough to Die
Tombstone Photo Gallery
Wyatt Earp - Frontier Lawman of the American West