Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Chandler Ranch Gunfight

The Chandler Ranch today
When it comes to the topic of Tombstone Arizona everyone knows of, or has at least heard of, The Gunfight At The OK Corral.

That being said, I would like to speak of another gun fight that took place in 1882 that many folks have never heard of before. This gunfight was just as deadly and it took place about eight to ten miles from Tombstone between one deputy sheriff, three deputized men, and two rustlers.

The sheriff's deputy was Billy Breakenridge and the three deputized posse members were, Jack Young, E.H. Allen, and John Gillespie. The two rustlers were Zwing Hunt and Billy Grounds who also went by the alias of "Billy the Kid."

Johnny Behan, being the actual sheriff was out of town at the time so E.A. Harley was the sheriff's deputy in charge when word came that two notorious rustlers and criminals, Billy Grounds and Zwing Hunt would be in the area.

Mr. Harley dispatched the above posse members to arrest the two as he had warrants on both men. The posse left around ten o'clock that night as to be there in the early morning to make the arrests.

In the aftermath of the fight, the Tombstone Epitaph reported on the battle at the Chandler Ranch with the headline:

Desperate Fight 

At or around 6:30 the following morning a messenger arrived in Tombstone and reported to police chief Nagle that a desperate fight had taken place at the Chandler Ranch and that one man was dead and several others wounded.

Mr. Nagle then acquired an ambulance, and with Dr. Goodfellow headed to the scene. About 7:00 another messenger arrived in Tombstone with a note for deputy sheriff Harley that read, "Harley, send coroner to Jack Chandlers Ranch; one of our men is dead, Billy Grounds dying and Zwing Hunt also."

About half past 11:00 o'clock that morning police chief Nagle returned to Tombstone bringing Mr. Young, who was not seriously wounded and also brought news of what had actually taken place.

Mr. Nagle said that he arrived at the Chandler Ranch about 8:oo that morning and found deputy Gillespie dead on the ground and Zwing Hunt shot through the breast, which the ball went through and came out of his back, the wound he supposed was mortal.

Billy Grounds had been hit with a round of buckshot full in the face and upper part of his head. Life was slowly but surely ebbing away.

Mr Young had been shot through the front of the thigh, the ball entered the right side about six inches below the waistband, ranging downward across the groin area but not actually injuring the groin.

Mr. Allen had a slight flesh wound on the right side of the neck and Mr. Breakenridge had escaped with no serious damage or injury what so ever.

The Fight

The fight began when a man by the name of Lewis, a teamster who had stayed over night at the ranch, had stepped out of the door from the house followed by Hunt who commenced firing, two or three shots had been fired before Gillespie was killed, shot through the left temple. Hunt then shot at Mr. Young slightly creasing him on the right side of his neck.

Allen then returned fire and shot Hunt through the breast.

Just a few seconds later Grounds came out and Breakenridge blazed away at him and put a full load of buckshot from his shotgun into Ground's face and head which laid him out. Deputy Young was hit in the thigh with a shot from deputy Allen's gun which passed through the two board partition of the house striking him. Just in case there may have been others Mr. Allen had went around the back of the house to stop any attempt by the rustlers to escape through a door or window.

Somehow Zwing Hunt had survived his injuries and was taken to the hospital in Tombstone, where with the help of his brother Hugh, had escaped in some sort of conveyance. As it turned out, they took two horses and headed into the Dragoon Mountains where the very sick and wounded Zwing Hunt had been vomiting and could go no further. Hugh told the story that he had heard a shot and was thinking it would be a posse, but as it turned out it was apache's. He stated that Zwing hollered to him to commence firing and those would be his last words on earth for he had been shot to death.

Hugh Hunt had somehow escaped and headed to Camp Price. Once there he reported the incident to the commanding officer. Escorted by Lieutenant Clark and ten others Hugh led them back to the site of his brothers death where they interred Zwing's remains.

The fight at the Chandler Ranch was every bit as desperate as the gun fight at the OK Corral, and in the end, three men had perished from it. Zwing Hunt met his fate just a short time later, but still his death came as a result of the gunfight putting him somewhere he would not have been otherwise and in a very weakened state.

The number of men killed and wounded was very close to the number of men who had perished and been wounded in the Earp, Holliday, Clanton and McClowry battle in the empty lot next to Fly's photo gallery on Freemont street near third within the city limits of Tombstone in 1881, but this fight has went unheralded in history unlike the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.


By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/Historian
The American Cowboy Chronicles

Terry McGahey has studied Old West history for most of his life. For many years, he lived in Tombstone where he became extremely knowledgeable about the history of that area.

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