Monday, February 12, 2024

The Death of George Leihy & Henry Everts 1866

It might sound strange, but there were people in the Old West who didn't feel they needed to carry a gun. As strange as that sounds, there were those back in the day who were against carrying a gun for one reason or another. It's true, there were. In fact, an example of such an individual was Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy. 

As odd as it sounds for a lawman, especially for one in the 1800s, he felt that he didn't need a gun way back in 1866. And for unknown reasons, he didn't carry a gun.

Can anyone imagine a law enforcement officer of any sort going unarmed today? I can't. But that's what Marshal Leihy did in 1866. For reasons that I'm sure wouldn't make much sense for a person in his position, George Leihy was unarmed and vulnerable while working as a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Superintendent (Indian Agent) in La Paz, Arizona. As unbelievable as that sounds, it's a true story.

George W. Leihy was born in New York. Before arriving in Arizona, he was in Petaluma, California. In 1863, he left his wife and children to go to Arizona for mining opportunities. By 1865, he become the Superintendent of Indian Affairs (Indian Agent) at the La Paz, Arizona, reservation. I read that he took the position of Deputy U.S. Marshal to supplement his pay as Indian Agent. As for wearing a badge but not carrying a gun as a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Indian Agent, the reason that he didn't carry a gun may have had something to do with his religious beliefs. 

Quakers, also called "Friends," are a Christian denomination known formally as the "Religious Society of Friends" or "Friends Church." In 1851, Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act which authorized the creation of Indian reservations. In 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant reorganized the Indian Service. Part of that reorganization called for the replacement of government officials by religious men, nominated by churches. Religious groups were to oversee the Indian agencies on reservations and teach Christianity to the native tribes. This was all about the assimilation of the Indian tribes into the world of American whites.

Quakers had already been involved in that effort on reservations for a couple of years prior to the 1868 reorganization. In fact, in the mid-1860s Quakers and other Christian groups were being put in charge of many of the agencies in an effort to introduce some honesty into the Indian service. Let's be honest here, many of the government officials who were Indian agents were as crooked as a dog's hind leg.

Many agents were also said to be also cruel as the day is long. This was probably due to the fact that many were military officers who were appointed as agents on reservations after they left the Army. It's said that some agents took out their personal hatred for Indians while in their official capacity as Indian agents. In many cases, it was a situation of having put people in place to care for those they hate.

I read that Indian Agent and Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy was a Quaker who didn't believe in carrying a gun for self-protection. While I hate to speculate simply because I don't like to speculate as to why someone did something way back when, and yes I really like only going with facts, there is speculation that he didn't want shooting another person on his conscience if it came to that. Of course, the hard truth is that you have to be alive to have your conscience bother you. 

Sources say he was advised on several occasions that he should arm himself since he was the Indian Agent in La Paz. When he volunteered to become a Deputy U.S. Marshal, he was told by local military commanders that he should be armed because he needed to escort prisoners. Some of those prisoners were bad hombres who would do anything to get loose and disappear.

The first U.S. Marshal ever killed in the line of duty was on January 11, 1794. The fact is only five Deputy U.S. Marshals had been killed in the line of duty up to 1860. Knowing those facts, one can only wonder if he felt a sense of complacency. No one will ever really know if he felt the odds were in his favor, and being unarmed was a safe bet.

We know he was told to be on guard before his last assignment, simply because it was well-known that there were Indians in his charge at La Paz who were not happy with him. Even after being told that, he is said to have disregarded the wise advice of others and still went about unarmed. This would catch up to him during a return trip from Prescott when he was escorting a killer.

On that trip from Prescott, Deputy US Marshal Leihy had with him a La Paz Indian who was captured in the Skull Valley fight and was being held as a prisoner at Fort Whipple. Skull Valley was known for ages of troubles and death. Among those age-old wars was that between the Pima and Yavapai Indians.

The commanding officer of Fort Whipple, Col. Lovell, released the La Paz Indian to Leihy on his authority as the Indian Agent. As the Indian Agent, Leighy superseded Col. Lovell's authority over the Indians. Even though that was the case, at one point Lovell out and out refused to release the La Paz Indian to Leihy until he called in a second marshal for that assignment. While Col. Lovell was said to be extremely reluctant to release him because Leihy was unarmed, he had no choice.

The reason for Col. Lovell's reluctance had to do with the local reputation of that prisoner, and the fact that Lovell saw that Marshal Leihy was at a disadvantage against that killer. Col. Lovell is said to have made it very clear to Leihy that the La Paz Indian in his custody was a known killer. None of that mattered to Deputy US Marshal Leihy.

Newspapers later reported that George Leihy and two Indians arrived at Eble's Station in Skull Valley on their way to the Bell Ranch where they were to be joined by the Indian agency clerk. He was listed in the papers only as "Mr. Evarts" who reportedly arrived at the Bell Ranch in a buggy pulled by two horses. He met Leihy there and traveled with Leihy who was in charge of the detail.

As for his clerk, Henry Everts? He was born in 1832 in Indiana. That means that he was either 33 or 34 years of age when he was killed. Other than knowing that Henry was one of eleven children of Timothy Chittenden Everts and Maria L Everts, I haven't been able to find out if he too was a Quaker, if he was "deputized" by Leihy to help him transport the prisoners, or if Everts was armed in any way. 

Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy disregarded great advice and went about the country alone and unarmed. During his return trip from Prescott, about ten miles below Skull Valley where the road passes through Bell's Canyon, Marshal Leihy and his agency clerk were waylaid and killed. Actually, they weren't just killed. 

The Weekly Journal-Miner, Prescott, Arizona, on Friday, November 30, 1866, reported what they believed happened. According to that newspaper, it was only an hour after they left Bell Canyon that the mule that Everts had with him trailing behind his buggy had returned to Bell's Ranch with arrows in it. With that, soldiers were notified and soon they were on their way to search for Leihy and his companion Everts. The newspaper mistakenly misspelled Everts name as "Evarts" in the article.

As stated in the article, when the soldiers found their bodies, both had been tortured alive. Henry Everts was "beheaded and filled with arrows." Near him was the body of George Leihy. He had been beaten in the head with a rock to the point that his head was "flattened," his arms and legs were broken in many places, and his heart was cut out. Yes, he was found without a heart. The report said that a "pair of bullet molds were found in its place." 

As for Everts' buggy, it was burned save for a wheel. One of his horses was killed and cooked and partially eaten. The other horse and the Indians that Leihy was escorting were gone. It is believed that the Indians that he was escorting must have been joined by a war party of anywhere between 40 to 70 warriors. Both Leihy and Everts were killed, dismembered, and mutilated. 

As for the Indians with Leihy, most believe they simply joined the party that killed Leihy and Everts. Both Leihy and Everts were buried where they were killed. 

We have the freedom to decide for ourselves whether to arm ourselves or not. Not carrying a gun is a personal choice, no different than carrying one is. Yes, there have always been folks who simply don't believe a gun of any sort is needed. And, contrary to what we are told by Hollywood and fiction writers, people were able to make that same choice back in the Old West. 

In reality, there have always been folks who refuse to believe the real-world wisdom that says, "It's better to have a gun and not need it -- than to need a gun and not have it." While we don't know all of the circumstances of his death, many believe that on that Sunday, November 18, 1866, Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy learned one of life's lessons the hard way. A gun would have come in handy. 

George W. Leihy was said to be 49 years old when he was killed in 1866. And while there will never be a way of knowing how much difference being armed would have made when he and Everts were attacked by a war party of 40 to 70 warriors, I believe that he should have been armed. 

For what, you ask. What difference would a single gun or even two guns have made against 40 to 70 warriors? Well, it could have been used, as guns had been used in many similar cases when people were in such dire straits so that he and his companion wouldn't have had to live through being tortured alive.

Tom Correa



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