Sure-Shootin’ Sheriffs and Scary Societiesby John Scott on Jul. 06, 2012, under Uncategorized
I was sitting in this restaurant with my lovely wife attacking a particularly massive calzone, when in walked a pod of policemen. Maybe it was a pace of policemen. Let’s just say it was a lot. My first thought was, Oh no, they are after me for calzone carnage. After I realized that they were there to eat, I relaxed and took a break from the battle.
It got me thinking about an 1880’s sheriff coming in after his rounds to grab a bite before heading back to the jail, where some nefarious outlaw was undoubtedly locked behind bars.
This territory was pretty lawless back in those days. Many baddies got away with their heinous crimes; only to commit more until the legislature just couldn’t deal with it anymore and had to have them stopped. Enter the lawmen.
By 1864, Tucson was really starting to grow. However, to grow, you need law. On January 1, 1865, (Berry) Hill deArmitt was appointed Sheriff of Pima County. Tucson finally had its first real peace officer (even though his name was Berry). Early Tucson had no jails, so they locked prisoners up in a guardhouse located where the 1928 courthouse stands. Records indicate that mild offenders were whipped as punishment for their crimes. Since there wasn’t a legal hanging until 1881, I imagine most hardened criminals were sent to Yuma or fell prey to a lynch mob. We know the lynch mobs existed in Tucson and various other towns in Arizona. One vigilance committee actually named themselves the “Law and Order Society.” Vigilance committees were difficult because they didn’t respect the decisions or timing of the law. It was easy for these “societies” to gain support based on the wicked crimes of the criminals.
By the 1880’s, the world of criminal activity opened up. There we trains to rob, cattle to steal, and banks were starting to pop up everywhere. Lawmen such as Bob Paul definitely had their work cut out for them in southern Arizona. Sheriff Paul, known for his tough-as-nails demeanor and steadfast courage, was often seen carrying a shotgun. In the Old West, a shotgun was a feared weapon. If you were on it’s business end, you were going to come out of the introduction looking like a screen door. During his term, Paul had more than a few instances to use it. He was a friend to the Earps, and a well-respected lawdog. In 1883, he single-handedly held back a lynch mob breaking into the jail. After his stint as sheriff, he was appointed US Marshall of the whole Arizona territory.
The next time you see an officer of the law, think about their job. Ponder on the job of their predecessors. These are brave men, fighting to keep us all safe. After all, in southern Arizona, they’ve been doing just that since the 1860′s.
I lost the battle with the calzone. There was a point at which I was going to enlist the help of the pack of policemen, but my wife stopped me. I locked it away in a carryout box and won the war at dinnertime.