Durable Douglas and Resistant Rangersby John Scott on Aug. 30, 2012, under Uncategorized
Douglas, Arizona, a sleepy little border town close to Bisbee, has quite an interesting history.
The Spanish first settled the area in the 1600’s. Around the time of the American Revolution, a fort named Presidio de San Bernadino was built in not far from the present townsite. Even though it was abandoned shortly after, it helped to establish a small community that continued to survive. The late 19th century spurred a re-building of a fort in the vicinity, aptly named Camp Douglas.
When Bisbee became a mining star, Douglas was its smelter town. In 1901 the town was named after a pioneer in the industry, James Douglas, and four years later it was incorporated. The mining companies employed hundreds of workers, which helped the town thrive.
Not only did it cater to the miners, there were ranches around the area that called Douglas their town. Sheriff John Slaughter, who helped clean up Cochise County’s lawless element in the late 1800’s, owned the San Bernadino Ranch, not far from the city. As mentioned in an earlier entry, Douglas is the home of an exquisite hotel named the Gadsden. Sporting an ornate lobby with Italian marble and Tiffany stained glass, it was all the rage in Southern Arizona Territory.
Okay, what of the shootouts and Old West lore we’ve come to expect from your blog?
I thought you’d never ask. Yes, Douglas had its share of the rough frontier. On February 8, 1903, two Arizona Rangers, William W. Webb, and J. Porter MacDonald walked into the Cowboys Home Saloon. One owner, Lorenzo “Lon” Bass, did not like having lawmen in his place, and had a particular beef with Ranger Webb. The words “I’ll kill him if he comes in here” were thrown about to warn the Rangers. Well, the Arizona Rangers were a tough lot. They did not threaten easily. They also weren’t keen on being banned from saloons.
So, in moseyed Webb and MacDonald and brazenly ordered drinks. Bass ran over and hit Ranger Webb in the face with the butt of his pistol. Now, what lamebrain Lon should have done was use the other end of his gun to follow through on his threat.
Webb, being trained in the correct use of firearms, pulled his Peacemaker and added a peephole to Bass’ torso. Unfortunately, that same bullet, after passing through Lon, entered Ranger J. Porter MacDonald. Old MacDonald wasn’t wounded fatally (he also didn’t have a farm), but Lorenzo Bass had seen his last sunrise.
Douglas was pretty quiet after that incident. Apparently, Pancho VIlla threatened to attack it in 1916, but that never came to pass.
Today Douglas is definitely worth a visit, if you want to explore another tidbit of Cochise County history. Tour the Southern Pacific Railroad Museum and the Slaughter Ranch. Stay overnight in the Gadsden Hotel and get the feel of the grandest comforts the ranchers of the area experienced. Unfortunately, the Cowboys Home Saloon was lost to a fire. It is said the owner was able to rescue all the liquor and cigars, though. Phew!