Greetings from Holbrook vintage
In 1881, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid its tracks
through an area that was known as Horsehead Crossing. The following year a
railroad station was built and the small settlement was called
Holbrook in honor of H.R.
Holbrook, the first chief engineer of the
railroad. A year later, when the first post office opened, James H.
Wilson became its first postmaster.
Primarily called home
cowboys, cattle ranchers and railroaders, the settlement soon took
on all the vices of a typical
West town, complete with a
called the Bucket of Blood. Law and order were non-existent,
gambling was popular, and
ladies far outnumbered "proper women.”
In 1883, four
men by the names of Baca, Pedro Montano, F. W. Smith and H.H. Scorse
owned the land around the depot and filed a plat map laying out the
streets of Holbrook, which remain
essentially unchanged today.
Before long, Holbrook became a trade
center for northern
Arizona, where cattle,
sheep and wool were shipped out on the railroad. On May 17,
1884, the first issue of the Holbrook Times was published,
which contained advertisements for clothing, hotels,
saloons, grocery stores and
several other businesses.
In 1884, the
and Cattle Company, better known as the
Outfit, began operations in Holbrook. The second
largest cattle ranch in the U.S., the cattle company had some 60,000
head of cattle, and employed hundreds of cowboys.
initially welcomed the money of the cattle company and its
until they saw what they were in for.
of the outfit quickly
gained the unsavory reputation of being the "thievinist, fightinest bunch of cowboys” in the United States. Many of the
cowboys working for the
Hashknife Outfit were wanted men and on two occasions, they
were linked to train robberies at
The sudden presence of so many
cowboys also gave rise to rustling, robbery and gunfights. Much of the rustling was done against the
Hashknife Outfit itself.
such story has it, that a cowboy took off with a bunch of the outfit’s
cattle and headed to
Colorado. There, he set up a
his profits. However, he was soon without money again and rejoined
the outfit once more.
Stagecoach and train robberies became an almost recreational pastime for
and drifters in the area. And, when the cowboys came off the range,
with money in their pockets and whiskey on their minds, it was time for Holbrook to "look-out!" In
1886 alone, there were twenty-six shooting deaths on the streets of Holbrook, which was called home to only about
250 people at the time.
It was somewhere along this time that the St. Johns
Herald reported: "The Salvation Army is going to visit Holbrook. A good field for operation."
There was obviously a need for law enforcement
in the settlement and
Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens
is credited with bringing it to the wild and crusty town in 1887. It
all started when a warrant against a man named Andy Cooper was issued for
cattle rustling. In actuality, Cooper was one Andy Blevins, who had
changed his name when he came to Arizona because of an
outstanding warrant for murder in
When Owens went to the Blevins family home on September 4, 1887, the
family was in the midst of Sunday dinner and Cooper, a/k/a Blevins,
refused to come out. Within moments, Andy’s half brother, John,
opened the door and took a shot at the sheriff, who quickly drew both of
his six-guns, sending bullets into both John and Andy. A gunfight
inevitably ensued and Sam Blevins, just 15 years-old, ran out the
door firing at Owen, who returned the shots. A friend of the Blevin
family named Mose Roberts also fired upon the Sheriff.