William “Billy” Larkin Stiles, also known as William Larkin, was a gunfighter, lawman, and outlaw who, with Burton Alvord established the Alvord-Stiles Gang who operated in Arizona at the turn of the century.
Stiles was born in September 1871 in Casa Grande, Arizona and little is known about his early life except that he allegedly killed his father when he was just 12 years old. When he grew up he worked as a prospector and ranch hand in the Superstition Mountains. He later became a lawman working under Jeff Milton and John Slaughter, gaining a reputation as an expert tracker.
In about 1899, he went to work for Deputy Marshal Burt Alvord in Willcox, Arizona. However, the two weren’t dedicated to law enforcement, rather, they formed a gang of train robbers that included George and Louis Owns, Three Fingered Jack” Dunlap, Bravo Juan Yoas, and Bob Brown. Under the guise of deputy sheriffs, they were able to interfere with investigations by local authorities.
On September 9, 1899, the Alvord-Stiles Gang robbed a train in Cochise, Arizona, making off with several thousand dollars in gold coins and bills. They were unsuccessfully pursued by a posse under Sheriff Scott White and George Scarborough.
The gang then committed several armed robberies in Cochise County, but Alvord and Stiles were apprehended after attempting to rob the Southern Pacific Railroad. A short time later, however, they were able to escape.
On February 15, 1900, they attempted to rob a Fairbank, Arizona train and had a run-in with tough lawman Jeff Milton, who killed “Three Fingers Jack” and wounded Juan Yoas. A short time later, Alvord was captured and taken to the Cochise County Jail in Tombstone, Arizona. On April 7, 1900, Billy Stiles went to visit Alvord, then held a gun on deputy marshal for George Bravin demanding the release of all of the prisoners. When Bravin didn’t immediately comply, Stiles shot the lawman in the foot, taking off two of his toes. Twenty-five prisoners, including Alvord, then escaped.
Arizona Rangers finally tracked both men down in Mexico in February 1904. When the outlaws resisted, Alvord was hit twice and surrendered, but Stiles, despite a bullet in the arm, managed to escape. Alvord then spent two years in the Yuma Arizona Territorial Prison.
In the meantime, Stiles made his way to the Orient for several years before he returned to the United States and made his way to Nevada. There, he became a deputy sheriff in Humboldt County, under the name William Larkin. On December 5, 1908, while trying to arrest a man named Charlie Barr, the man resisted and Larkin shot him. The victim’s 12-year-old son then shot and killed Stiles.
He was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Winnemucca, Nevada in an unmarked grave.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, December 2018.