In previous posts I’ve related stories of untamed Arizona in the mid to late 1800’s. By the turn of the century, progress and expansion helped cure many states and territories of their lawlessness. Arizona Territory, however, continued to be wild. Outlaws were still rustling cattle, robbing trains, and simply trying to get by in a free market economy.
An example comes to mind. In 1905, the railroad town of Canyon Diablo was the scene of a brief but deadly shootout. It all started with a holdup at a gambling table in Winslow by two bandits, John Shaw and William Evans. After stealing a hefty amount of silver coins, the pair scurried away to Canyon Diablo to blend in with other villains. A couple of lawmen tracked them there, and demanded to search them. Well, outlaws don’t like to be searched. They also don’t like to have demands made on them. Lawmen don’t like outlaws. All this dislike forced everybody to pull their firearms and throw lead. Three seconds later, over 20 shots were fired. John Shaw lay dead, and his cohort was wounded.
Shaw was placed in a pine box and promptly buried in Canyon Diablo’s cemetery. William Evans was escorted to Yuma Territorial Prison.
The following evening, 15 cowboys from the Hashknife outfit were drinking in the same Winslow saloon and decided to give departed John Shaw his final drink. They grabbed a bottle of whiskey and hopped a train to Canyon Diablo. The cowboys then proceeded to dig John up, and pour a shot of whiskey into his mouth. He was then reburied with the rest of the whiskey, and the cowboys took off their hats to him. Although it was meant as a joke, the act sobered up the Hashknife crew and left them thinking about their own renegade lives.
Aw, c’mon. That didn’t really happen!
Yes, my faithful readers, it did. There’s even photographic proof (see below). It appears as though recently deceased John Shaw had a smile on his face. Was it the whiskey? It might have been the fact that Canyon Diablo was a fitting town to be buried in. Fourteen saloons, ten gambling dens, four houses of prostitution, and no real law to speak of! Their first lawman pinned the badge on at 3 o’clock and was buried by 8 o’clock. It was known as being the most dangerous and wild town in the territory. A grand resting place for an owl hoot, I would say.
I wanna go see this place! Do they have an information center?
Sadly, no. Canyon Diablo existed to support the building of a railroad bridge. Once the bridge was completed, the inhabitants moved on. All that remains of this ghost town are a few foundations, and the smiling spirit of John Shaw, searching for more whiskey.