Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Fatal Garment Killing 1880

The article below is straight out of the Tombstone Epitaph:
July 25, 1880

About 7 o'clock last evening the pistol was used with fatal effect on Allen Street, resulting in the death of T.J. Waters from gunshot wounds from a weapon in the hand of E.L. Bradshaw. The causes which led to this unfortunate tragedy are brief.

Waters was what is considered a sporting man, and has been in Tombstone several months. He was about forty years of age, powerful build, stood over six feet in height and weighed about 190 pounds. When sober he was a clever sort of man but quite the opposite when under the influence of liquor.

Yesterday he won considerable money and had been drinking a great deal, hence was in a mood to be easily irritated.

Bradshaw was an intimate friend of Waters but a very different character, being a man of medium size, over fifty years of age and very reserved and peaceable in his disposition. We understand that these two men had prospected together and when Waters first came to Tombstone he lived in Bradshaw's cabin.

Yesterday morning Waters purchased a blue and black plaid shirt, little dreaming that the fated garment would hurl his soul into eternity before the sun had set. It so happened that several good natured remarks were made about the new shirt during the day until Waters had taken sufficient liquor to make the joking obnoxious to him, and he began to show an ugly resentment and was very abusive, concluding with, "Now, if anyone don't like what I've said let him get up, G-d d-n him. I'm chief. I'm boss. I'll knock the first s--- of a b--- down that says anything about my shirt again."

This happened in the back room at Corrigan's saloon and as Waters stepped into the front room Bradshaw happened in, and seeing what his friend was wearing made some pleasant remark about it, whereupon Waters, without a word, struck Bradshaw a powerful blow over the left eye which sent him senseless to the floor.

Waters then walked over to Vogan & Flynn's, to see, as he said, "if any s--- of a b--- there didn't like this shirt."

He had just entered the street when Ed Ferris made some remark about the new shirt, which Waters promptly resented in his pugilistic style. After some more rowing Waters went back to Corrigan's saloon.

As soon as Bradshaw recovered from the knockdown he went into the back room, washed off the blood, went down to his cabin, put a bandage on his eye and his pistol in his pocket. He then came up to Allen Street and took his seat in front of Vogan & Flynn's saloon.

Seeing Waters in Corrigan's door, Bradshaw crossed towards the Eagle Brewery, and walking down the sidewalk until within a few feet of Waters, said: "Why did you do that?"

Waters said something whereupon Bradshaw drew his pistol and fired four shots, all taking effect, one under the left arm probably pierced the heart, two entered above the center of the back between the shoulders and one in the top of the head ranged downward toward the neck, any one of which would probably have resulted fatally.

Waters fell at the second shot and soon expired. Bradshaw was promptly arrested and examination will be had in the morning before Justice Gray.

-- end of article.

Tom Waters didn't like being the brunt of jokes. On July 22, 1880, Waters was being made the brunt of jokes over the blue and black plaid shirt that he wore that day. Later, while drinking in Corrigan's Saloon, the crowd heard Waters say, "I'll knock down any man who opens his mouth about my shirt again!"

He supposedly said that just as his supposed friend Edward Bradshaw entered the saloon. Bradshaw must have taken that as a sort of silly challenge and did, in fact comment on Waters's colorful new shirt. In response, Tom knocked him down and then left Corrigan's with his friend Bradshaw out cold on the floor.

Their friendship was short-lived, if anything because it's said Bradshaw went in search of a gun when he came to. Angry and humiliated at what Waters did, an armed Bradshaw found Waters outside Vogan's Alley on Allen Street and asked, "Why did you hit me?"

Waters, who is said to have been quite drunk by then, simply responded by yelling at Bradshaw about what he said about his shirt. Bradshaw responded by opening fire on Waters. Waters was hit once in the heart, once in the head, and two rounds struck his back. It's not known if he turned to run to get shot in the back. 

I appreciate Jim from The Tarnished West website for sending me the following information. 

Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona, Fri, Jul 23, 1880, Page 2

Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona, Fri, Jul 23, 1880, Page 2

Diarist George Parsons wrote in his journal on Saturday, July 24th, 1880, "Another man killed the night before last. Too much pistol play. Bradshaw killed Waters because Waters resented with his fists being
teased about a shirt." 

Tom Waters is buried in the Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona. As for what happened to Edward Bradshaw, well, as strange as it might sound, though Tom Waters was killed by Edward L. Bradshaw on Allen Street, he was acquitted. It's true. Though Waters was unarmed at the time, Bradshaw stood trial for the shooting in September and was acquitted. Imagine that.

As to whatever became of Bradshaw, he died four years later. His death was reported in the May 17, 1884 issue of the Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper:

E. L. Bradshaw, who was run over by a freight train near Casa Grande some time since, died in the Tucson hospital last week, his system not being able to stand the amputation of an arm. The deceased was for a long time a resident of this camp, and will be remembered as the slayer of Tom Waters in front of the Arcade Saloon about three years ago. He was an old timer on the Pacific coast and a resident of most of the mining camps that have sprung up during the past thirty years.

Patient Register confirms that an E.L. Bradshaw (Edward Lyter Bradshaw) was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital on May 6, 1884, and treated by Dr. Handy for "amputated arm." His place of birth is given as Kentucky. He died on May 7, 1884. His age listed as 52 yrs old. 

-- end of Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper article.

As for his killing Waters in 1880 over a black and blue plaid shirt, I have a hard time believing that. To me, it was about being humiliated and attacked. Maybe, just maybe, that's why he was acquitted by a jury of his peers. 

Tom Correa


  1. I never thought I'd read an Old West article about a man who got killed over a shirt. Can you imagine that? Yeah, I could understand if the guy didn't like your hat, or your spurs, or even your gun, but your shirt? Come on, now that's too much. Then he has the nerve to say that he'll kill the next man that says anything else about his shirt. And this is T.J. Waters we're talking about. Then a man named E.L. Bradshaw or E.P. Bradshaw or E.J. Bradshaw or Eli Bradshaw I can't remember which says, "Damn, T.J. Where'd you ever get that ugly looking shirt?" Waters says something along the lines of, "If you don't like my shirt, then you don't like me". That's the closest thing to saying, "If they don't like my shirt, they can kiss my ass." Bradshaw then orders Waters to calm down, but Waters is too upset and is demanding an apology from Bradshaw. Bradshaw then says, "I got a better idea. Why don't I just puut three holes in your brand new shirt?" Waters draws his gun but before he can pull the trigger, Bradshaw fires and kills him instantly. There are three things you never do in the Old West. Well, actually, three out of ten. You don't steal another man's horse, you don't steal another man's cattle, and you don't make fun of another man's appearance. You especially don't make fun of another man's shirt. And I would hate to think that T.J. Waters lost his life over a brand new shirt he just got. "But my wife loves it!" Yeah, sure, pal. But hey, at least he didn't end up like Lester Moore. No Les No More. Haha. Thanks, Tom.

  2. All that over a shirt? That's not fair! I happened to like that shirt. Haha.


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