Monday, September 19, 2016

Frank Stilwell -- Was He Murdered Or Executed 1882


The Denver Republican, May 14th, 1893, Wyatt Earp stated, "I went straight for Stilwell. He killed my brother. What a coward he was! He couldn’t shoot when I came up to him, but just stood there, helpless and trembling. As I rushed to him he put out his hands and clutched at my shotgun. I let go both barrels, and he fell dead and mangled at my feet. I started for Ike Clanton then, but he disappeared behind a moving train of cars."

If, as he said, Stilwell "couldn’t shoot when I came up to him, but just stood there, helpless and trembling," then why not arrest him for "lying in wait"?

Since he found Stilwell there "lying in wait," which is evidence of deliberation and intention to commit a crime, why not arrest him and turn him over to the local law? And if you were the law, why leave his bullet riddled body there until it was found the next morning?

Frank Stilwell was known to have killed at least two men in Cochise County between 1877 and 1882. Both killings were ruled self-defense. And yes, he was once a deputy sheriff in Cochise County under Sheriff Johnny Behan.

And while he and the Clantons were indeed cattle rustlers, folks should be a little surprised to learn that he and the "cow-boy" faction only stole Mexican cattle from across the border. They were not known to steal cattle from other American ranchers.

Of course, the irony behind that is that those cows were probably rustled from this side of the border first. Some even say that the cattle along the border were stolen so many times from both sides that they would actually walk themselves in the right direction simply because they knew the route.

Besides possibly taking part in a Bisbee stage hold-up, Frank Stilwell owned interests in several mines, a saloon, a wholesale liquor business, a stage line, livery stables in Charleston and Bisbee, as well as other businesses. It's said that he was a partner in a Bisbee area saloon with ex-Texas Ranger Pete Spence.

Morgan Earp was murdered on March 18th, 1882. When Morgan Earp was killed, both Spence and Stilwell were named as suspects in the murder.

The problem with naming Spence and Stilwell wasn't that it could have been true. The problem came from who was making the accusations. The two were implicated by Spence's wife, Marietta Duarte, at the coroner's inquest. She testified to the two were doing "suspicious activities" on the night of Morgan's murder. Her accusations and the attempted indictment of her husband Pete Spence and Frank Stilwell were dropped.

Some say her testimony was dropped on the basis of the fact that spouses cannot testify against each other, but she could have testified against Stilwell yet she didn't. Also, some say it was because her testimony was found to be completely unreliable and without merit.

The reason that her testimony was thought discredited was because it was shown that she was such an unhappy wife that she wanted Spence put away. Yes, and her implicating her husband's friend Stilwell was found to be just part of her story to make it sound credible.

But even though that was the case, with the testimonies of others, the coroner's jury concluded that Spence, Stilwell, along with Frederick Bode, and Florentino Cruz were the prime suspects in Morgan Earp's death.

Unreliable and without merit didn't stop Wyatt Earp from using his new badge to steer his gang to hunt down Spence, Stilwell, and others. As for Spence, he turned himself in to the law for protection. Stilwell wasn't as lucky. Of course, there is the fact that Earp didn't find out about Marietta Duarte until after he killed Stilwell, so what was his justification for killing him?

Common lure says that on Monday, March 20th, some unknown source informed Wyatt Earp that Ike Clanton, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, and another Cowboy were watching the passenger trains in Tucson.

Now that would make sense since Ike Clanton, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, were at the train station to meet another man there for the same reason. The reason was that Ike Clanton, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, and another individual were subpoenaed to testify in front of the Grand Jury.

While a couple of my readers have written to say that they are leary of what I've written pertaining to Frank Stillwell really being ordered to Tucson to appear in front of the Grand Jury there, that's the truth. He was not there to simply assassinate the Earps as shown in the movies.

But Wyatt Earp believed that they were there for the sole purpose of killing Virgil Earp. According to Wyatt Earp, supposedly Frank Stilwell and the other two specially went to Tucson to specifically kill Virgil Earp who was being escorted out of town. But that's not true. They were in fact in Tucson to testify in front of the Grand Jury the next day.

From what was reported, the Earps arrived in Tucson and were greeted at the train station by Deputy U.S. Marshal J. W. Evans. Later Virgil Earp and other witnesses reported that they saw Stilwell, Clanton, and another cow-boy at the train station.

Again, that's no surprise since Stilwell and others were there meeting someone. Besides, like it or not, even in the 1800s, mere presence does not mean a threat. If that were the case, Ike Clanton, Frank Stilwell, and others would have been killed in Tombstone long before the OK Corral.

A witness, J. W. Evans, reported that he saw Holliday deposit two shotguns at the railroad station office. The entire group then proceeded to have dinner at Porter's Hotel near the station and returned to the train. After dinner, Holliday asked someone to get his shotguns. And since the shotgun used by Doc Holliday at the OK Corral shootout was actually borrowed from the Wells Fargo stage office, I have no idea where these shotguns came from.

Supposedly Wyatt escorted Virgil and company back aboard the train, and that was when a passenger told them that he saw a few men lying on a flatcar near the engine. At this time Wyatt said that he saw them too and supposedly slipped between the tracks to look for the men. 

According to witnesses, as the train pulled away from the Tucson station at about 7:15 pm, a number of people reported that they could hear six or seven shots in the distance. Witnesses gave differing accounts, but Frank Stilwell's body was found the next morning about 100 yards from the Porter Hotel alongside the tracks riddled with two buckshot and three gunshot wounds.

The coroner, Dr. Dexter Lyford, reported that he found a single bullet wound that passed through his body under the his armpits, a wound from a rifle through the upper left arm, a buckshot wound that passed through the liver, abdomen, and stomach, and another buckshot wound that fractured his left leg. There was also a rifle wound through the right leg.

The Tombstone Epitaph reported the next day that Stilwell had been shot six times which included a round of buckshot in his chest that struck him at such close range that six buckshot left powder burns on his coat and holes were measured to be within a 3 inch radius of each other. 

While the Tombstone Epitaph reported that Stilwell had been shot six times, the official Coroner report stated Wyatt Earp and his men killed Stilwell with five different caliber weapons. Sounds like more than one bad actor decided to take their turn killing someone already dead.

Frank Stilwell was already dead but Earp and his men, all supposed lawmen, kept shooting him even after he was dead? They sound more like executioners than lawmen, doesn't it?

Later, Ike Clanton correctly stated in a newspaper interview that he and Stilwell had been in Tucson to respond to a federal subpoena from the Grand Jury. It was over interfering with a U.S. mail carrier when they "allegedly" robbed the Sandy Bob line of the Bisbee stage on September 8th, 1881.

In fact, the federal charges that took them in front of the Grand Jury had been filed by then Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp after Frank Stilwell was acquitted for lack of evidence on the state charges of robbery.  

Clanton said he had heard that the Earps were coming in on a train to kill Stilwell after hearing the testimony from Pete Spence wife. According to Clanton, Stilwell left the hotel and was last seen walking down the railroad tracks away from the Porter Hotel. It is believed that Stilwell was on his way to meet another "cow boy" also subpoenaed testify but was possibly coming in on a later train since he hadn't arrived earlier when they checked the station. Stilwell's body was later found on the tracks.  

For me, there are so many questions as to why would he have wanted to kill Virgil unless of course it was still just a matter of revenge over the shootout at the lot near the OK Corral? Other than an eye for an eye, what reason would he and others have had for trying to ambush Virgil and his wife and Morgan's wife at the Tucson train station? Remember, Virgil had lost his job as the law in Tombstone and Arizona in general and was headed to California? I have found that no one can answer those questions.

Yes, common lure says Frank Stilwell was at the Tucson train station to ambush and assassinate the Earps, but in reality that's not true. I believe that two days after Morgan was murdered, Wyatt and Warren Earp, along with Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson, saw Stilwell at the train station and ambushed Stilwell.

I believe they all took turns shooting him. And further more, I believe Stilwell was a target of opportunity and was murdered at the Tucson train station simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and Wyatt Earp and his men wanted to kill him.

For those who say that Wyatt Earp and his men were lawmen. Lawmen, even back in those days, didn't kill someone and flee the scene of a shooting. Which they did.

A reader recently wrote to ask why a Deputy U.S. Marshal and his posse simply fled the scene after shooting Stillwell in self-defense, especially since they had a warrant in their pocket? But fact is, that's what they did. They killed Stilwell and actually left as fast as possible to flee the scene. Is that the action of lawmen? No, it's not. No, not even in the 1800s. Unless of course, you crossed the line from lawman to outlaw.

After killing Stilwell in Tucson and verifying that the train was on its way to California, Wyatt Earp and his men were afoot and fled the area. In fact, they actually walked 9 miles along the Southern Pacific tracks out of Tucson to the Papago freight stop.

At the Papago stop, they flagged down the night-freight train back to the terminal in Benson. Once in Benson they hired a wagon back to Contention where they picked up their stabled horses. According to witnesses, they all rode into Tombstone around 11:00 a.m. on that Tuesday, March 21st. 

By the way, it was then while there in Tombstone on March 21st that Wyatt found out about Marietta Duarte's testimony during the coroner's inquest into Morgan's death and the names of the accused Cowboys. For those who say he was going by what she said, they are wrong. He and the others executed Stilwell before ever finding out what witnesses had to say.

Once in Tombstone, they returned to the Cosmopolitan Hotel where they had lived since the first attack on Virgil in December. They were now wanted men because the Coroner's Jury in Tucson reported that Stilwell had been killed by Wyatt and Warren Earp, J.H. Holliday, Texas Jack, "Turkey Creek" Johnson, and Sherman McMasters. Tucson Justice of the Peace Charles Meyer issued arrest warrants for all five of them -- badges or no badges. 

Since Stilwell was killed in Tucson in Pima County, friends of the Earps, Sheriff Bob Paul Earps and District Attorney Alex Campbell sent a telegram to Behan in Tombstone asking him to arrest the Earps. The telegraph office manager was also a friend of the Earps and showed the message to Wyatt instead of delivering it to Sheriff Behan. The operator delayed delivering the message to Behan long enough to allow the Earps and their associates to escape. 

Does Earp's behavior sound like the actions of a law enforcement officer with nothing to hide? His fleeing the scene after killing Stilwell, then escaping Tombstone before being arrested sounds like criminal behavior and not the way innocent men act, nevertheless men with badges and a pocket full of warrants sworn to uphold the law.

He would kill three more men that he thought were associated with Morgan's death. Of course before he killed those three, arrest warrants were issued for Earp and four others in his gang suspected of murdering Stilwell. Murder indictments were issued at Pima County for Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Sherman McMaster and John Johnson. 

Wyatt Earp being the man of his word that we are lead to believe, agreed to turn himself in to the law but instead fled Arizona Territory for Colorado. Once in Colorado he looked up his friend Bat Masterson who was a lawman in Colorado by then. Masterson was friends with the Colorado Governor.

Earp fought extradition by asking Masterson to get his friend the Governor to stop his being forced to return to Arizona. Yes, there is a reason that the infamous Wyatt Earp never ever returned to Arizona. It was to keep his neck out of a hangman's noose.

The following is a transcript of the Murder Indictment that was returned as a True Bill by the foreman of the Grand Jury John S. Carr on March 25th, 1882:

In the District Court of the First Judicial District of the Territory of Arizona in and for the County of Pima, Territory of Arizona

    against

    Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson.

    Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson are accused by the Grand Jury of the County of Pima and Territory of Arizona on their oath by this indictment of the crime of murder committed as follows: That the said Doc Holliday at the City of Tucson in the said County of Pima on or about the 20th day of March, A.D. 1882 with force and arms in and upon the body of one Frank Stillwell then and there being, then and there feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Doc Holliday a certain gun charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets which he the said Doc Holliday in his hands then and there feloneously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died. And the said Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, sherman McMasters and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present standing by, aiding, abetting assisting and maintaining the said Doc Holliday the felony and murder as aforesaid set forth, in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ, and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid do say that the said Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warrren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson, the said frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid felonously, wilfully and of their mailice aforethought did Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona

    Second Count

    and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said Wyatt Earp on or about the said 20th day of March A.D. 1882 at said City of Tucson in said County of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of the said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Wyatt Earp a certain gun charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets which he the said Wyatt Earp in his hands then and there had and held, then and there feloneously, wilfully, and of malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off, giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died. And said Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, sherman McMasters and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present standing by, aiding abetting assisting and maintaining the said Wyatt Earp the felony and Murder as aforesaid set forth in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ. and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the said Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloneously, wilfully and of their mailice aforethought did Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona.

    Third Count

    and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said Warren Earp on or about the said 20th day of March A.D. 1882 at said City of Tucson in said County of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of the said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Warren Earp a certain gun charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets which he the said Warren Earp in his hands, then and there had and held, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died. And the said Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present, standing by, aiding, abetting assiting and maintaining the said Warren Earp the felony and murder as aforesaid set forth in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ. and so the Jurors aforesaid upon the oaths aforesaid do say that the said Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought did Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of Statute in such case made as provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona.

    Fourth Count

    and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said Sherman McMasters on or about the said 20th day of March A.D. 1882, at said City of Tucson in said County of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of the said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Sherman McMasters a certain gun charges with gun powder and leaden bullets which he the said Sherman McMasters in his hands then and there had held, then and there feloneously wilfully and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of there the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off, giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died. and the said Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Wyatt Earp and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their mailice aforethought were present standing by, aiding, abetting, assisting and maintaining the said Sherman McMasters the Felony and Murder as aforesaid set forth, in manner and form aforesaid, to do and committ. And so the Jurors aforesaid do say that the said Sherman McMasters, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp and John Johnson the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloneously wilfully and of their malice aforethought did Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona.

    Fifth Count

    and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said John Johnson on or about the said 20th day of march A. D. 1882 at said City of Tucson in said county of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault, and the said John Johnson a certain gun charged with gun powder and leaden bullets which he the said John Johnson in his hands then and there had and held, then and there feloneously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off, giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died, and the said Doc Holliday, Warran Earp, Wyatt Earp and Sherman McMasters then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present standing by, aiding, abetting, assisting, and maintaining the said John Johnson the Felony and Murder as aforesaid set forth, in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say that said John Johnson Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp and Sherman McMasters the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforsaid feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought di Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the dignity and peace of the Territory of Arizona

Hugh Farley District Attorney

of Pima County Arizona Territory

-- end of court document.


Today there are life-sized statues of both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday standing at the approximate site of where they murdered Frank Stilwell. The statues are located at the former Tucson Southern Pacific Depot.

A reader who has written to ask if Wyatt and Warren and the rest of the Earp group involved in the so-called "vendetta" were really wanted for murdering Stillwell, why didn't they stand trial for it?

Are these statues a tribute to lawmen or murderers? I believe murderers.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa 






4 comments:

  1. I believe Wyatt had his fill of the obeying law as it always worked against him. Every time he would bring in a Cowboy they were tried and set free because of support and alibis from their cohorts. Once he was told by one of the Judge Stilwell that it would be best if Wyatt left his charges out in the sagebrush where he found them would do no good.

    It's funny we look at Earp and say he was a cold blooded killer during the so called "Vendetta Ride", yet John Slaughter is hailed as the man who cleaned up Cochise County and he did exactly the same thing. Most of the suspected outlaws he dealt with were brought in dead. We seem to have a double set of standards on these two lawmen.

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    1. Hell Tom B., I agree with you but I do think the law worked for Earp and Holliday quite well when Judge Spicer gave them preferential treatment during the Spicer hearings after they were charged with murder because of what took place at the OK Corral. I think Earp used the lack of satisfaction from the courts to commit multiple murders. Thanks, Tom

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  2. I believe there lies guilt on both sides and as far as stilwell is concerned live by die by. If someone or their associates injured my brother, killed another brother of mine and "got over" everytime i arrested them for other crimes i believe i would do the same. It may be criminal but it would sure be justifiable. Would i turn myself in? No way. If you want me come do your job.

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    1. Hello Jim, Please understand where I'm coming from here. I've said this many times, it was all about revenge on both sides. After the OK Corral, the cowboys felt like they had to get revenge on the Earps. Why? If you remember right, Ike Clanton and the other McLaury brother later charged the Earps with murder. The Earps got off and the Cowboys felt they could not get justice in the courts. Sound familiar, it should. So the cowboys start bushwhacking the law in Tombstone. Not Wyatt, but Virgil and Morgan because there are the two lawmen in Tombstone. Wyatt and Doc were only deputized for that day. The cowboys wanted revenge against Virgil and Morgan. I honestly don't think Wyatt was that important to them. I think that also why Virgil and Morgan were shot at the OK Corral and not Wyatt, the cowboys saw the real threat from Virgil and Morgan who were the real law in town. After Morgan gets killed, Wyatt feels the same way as the Clantons as far as getting revenge goes because, like the Clantons, he doesn't think he can get justice in the courts. So he kills Frank Stilwell and Indian Charlie. I don't think there was a dime's worth of difference between the Earps and the Clantons as far as how they were acting. As for going after someone who killed my brother like say how Ike went after the Earps over the death of his brother Billy, what't the difference between what he did and what Wyatt did after Morgan was killed? Nothing. Would I have done the exact same thing? Yes. What I don't like is that people make it sound as though Wyatt Earp was some virtuous individual when in fact he acted in the same way that the Clantons were acting. It was all an eye for an eye. The big difference is that Wyatt tried using his badge to get away with murder. Thanks for visiting my site. Tom

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