Cooley, Caveness, and the Little Coloradoby John Scott on Jan. 17, 2013, under Uncategorized
When one thinks of frontier justice, hanged or shot come to mind. Sometimes, it was both.
In 1877, the area around the Little Colorado river was cursed with an outlaw gang run by William Snyder, alias Bill Caveness. It appears that this gang was stealing horses, raiding ranches, and creating general disarray from Yavapai County up to southern Colorado. They headquartered in Springerville, much to the dismay of the local populace. At one point a band of citizens went to the Camp Apache military post and requested guns and ammunition to defend themselves from Caveness’ gang. They were denied, and not long after Bill’s gang killed a couple of locals. This act got the attention of Governor, who decided to do something about it.
In November of that year, a Deputy U.S. Marshal named Corydon E. Cooley and a swarm of soldiers captured Bill and an accomplice named E. M. Overstreet and threw them in jail to await trial.
It would appear that the good citizens were angrier than they let on. Shortly after Cooley and his military escort left, a mob took Caveness and Overstreet out of jail and down to Becker Lake where they were hanged, or shot. Judging from how angry locals were, it may have even been both. Tough place, Springerville.
In December the people publicly thanked Cooley and his colleagues “for the gentlemanly, careful and impartial manner in which they conducted their investigations and established peace in the eastern portion of Yavapai County.” In other words, thanks for sweeping up the trash, but we got it from here.
Remember that back in those days, lawmen were not in abundance. It took incidents like this to spur action in the legislature and get folks the law they required.
Corydon E. Cooley went on to become Apache County’s Supervisor. With a name straight out of Dr. Seuss, it’s no wonder he rose to power. Springerville went on to excel in the cattle and sheep industry, and had no further trouble with outlaw gangs. I guess the word got out to leave the citizens there alone!