Queho – Renegade Indian Outlaw or Scapegoat?


Queho’s grave marker in Pahrump Valley, by Nevada Bob via Find A Grave.

The mystery and legend of renegade Indian, Queho (pronounced Key-Ho), continues to be debated today as to whether he was a scoundrel or a scapegoat. Was the Southern Nevada Indian a true outlaw killer or was he merely blamed by law officers for an abundance of unsolved crimes?

Thought to have been born around 1880 at Cottonwood Island near the town of Nelson, Nevada, Queho’s Cocopah mother died shortly after giving birth. Though the identity of his father remains a mystery, various theories have been presented including a Paiute brave from a neighboring tribe, a white soldier from Fort Mohave, or a Mexican miner. Though the answer to this question will never be known, Queho was an outcast from the start due to his “shameful” mixed blood. Adding to this, the boy was born with a club foot, which further caused the local tribes to reject him.

Raised on a reservation in Las Vegas, he worked from an early age as a ranch laborer and wood gatherer in several of the nearby mining camps. Always known to be sullen, moody, and quick-tempered, it came as no surprise when he began to have troubles with the law.

Southern Paiute in Las Vegas Valley

Southern Paiute in Las Vegas Valley

Some stories, though unconfirmed, tell of him being involved in the death of another Indian in 1897, but newspaper accounts of his exploits do not begin until November 1910. The first report tells of Queho being the main suspect in a slaying of another Indian during a brawl on the Las Vegas reservation. Allegedly, he and the other man, named Harry Bismark, were drinking when the dispute began. Queho went on the run and according to some accounts, murdered two Paiute Indians when he stole their horses in his escape.

On his flight, he stopped for supplies in Las Vegas and was confronted by a shopkeeper named Hy Von, which resulted in Queho breaking both the man’s arms and fracturing his skull with a pick handle. Fleeing south to Nelson, he took shelter in Eldorado Canyon.

Before long, word came from Searchlight that a Queho had beaten to death a woodcutter named J.M. Woodworth. According to the tale, he had beaten the man with a piece of timber after Woodworth refused to pay him after having helped him cutting timber.

Nelson Area

Nelson area in Eldorado Canyon by Dave Alexander.

Deputy Sheriff Howe formed a posse and group first went to the scene of Woodworth’s killing where they found a distinctive print left by Queho’s clubfoot. From there, they tracked the fugitive to Eldorado Canyon where they led to the Gold Bug mine. There, they found the body of the watchman, L.W. “Doc” Gilbert. Shot in the back, Gilbert’s special deputy badge No. 896, had been stolen. Continuing to track Queho to the Colorado River, they lost the trail. Though the lawmen had searched for Queho over a 200-mile area ranging from Crescent to Nipton, they found nothing but the trace footprints. Having thought that Queho would be easy to track and capture due to his clubfoot, they couldn’t have been more wrong. After some time, they finally gave up the chase.

However, Nevada State Police Sergeant Newgard soon picked up the search along with several Indian trackers and two experienced hunters. Though they also found signs of Queho’s presence, they too finally gave up the search when they ran short of supplies. The frustrated and exhausted lawmen returned to Las Vegas empty-handed in February 1911.

Over the next several years, the sightings of Queho continued and his legend began to grow. Up and down the length of the Colorado River, miners and settlers told of missing cattle, unexplained thefts, and mysterious murders. All were attributed to the phantom renegade, which served as a constant source of embarrassment to the local lawmen.

In 1913, local newspapers attributed the death of a 100-year-old blind Indian known as Canyon Charlie to Queho. Allegedly, Charlie’s few provisions were gone, which included little more than food, prompting everyone to believe that Queho would kill for almost anything. However, there were others that disputed the murder as being Queho’s responsibility, as the old Indian was known to be the fugitive’s friend and confidant.

Eldorado Canyon, Nevada by Amy Stark.

Eldorado Canyon, Nevada by Amy Stark.

A few months later when two more miners working claims at Jenny Springs were found shot in the back and their provisions were stolen, these murders, too, were blamed on the illustrious outlaw. An Indian woman found dead a short time later was also blamed on the renegade.

The hysteria continued to grow until rewards reaching $2,000 were offered for his capture, “Dead or Alive.” The Searchlight Bulletin was quick to remind its readers of the reward while screaming, “A good Indian is a dead Indian.”

Though the furor died down for several years, area settlers continued to worry anytime someone went missing for even an hour or two. Queho became the stuff of legends and the bogeyman to scare children into behaving.

In 1919, the murderous tales would begin again when two prospectors named William Hancock and Eather Taylor were found dead upstream from Eldorado Canyon. Both had been shot in the back and Taylor’s head had been smashed in with an ax handle.  With their supplies missing and Queho’s footprints allegedly being found at the site, he was immediately the prime suspect.

About a week later on January 21, 1919, Maude Douglas, the wife of an Eldorado Canyon miner, was awakened in the night by a commotion in the larder at the rear of the cabin. When her husband heard a shotgun blast, he found her shot in the chest and surrounded by canned goods. When authorities arrived at the cabin near the Techatticup Mine, they pronounced it to have been yet another crime committed by Queho as they allegedly found his footprints around the cabin. Though a four-year-old boy in Maude’s care said that the woman had been killed by her husband, no one listened, immediately resuming the chase for the elusive Indian renegade once again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *