Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Death Site of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds

Cross along the Florence-Kelvin Road
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Outside of Florence, there's a sandy dirt road that leads east. Called the Florence-Kelvin Road, it's still a rural drive, as yet uncluttered by subdivisions (although they're in the plans for the future) and untroubled by too much traffic or asphalt. You'll first drive by the Arizona State Prison in Florence and if you're lucky you'll get a glimpse of the mustangs and burros being trained by the inmates on the prison ground's edge.

The long, sandy grade where Sheriff Glenn Reynolds was killed.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller
There are no historical markers along this road, but here, on November 2, 1889, Sheriff Glenn Reynolds and his deputy, William H. "Hunky-dory" Holmes, were murdered by Apache convicts they were transporting from Globe to Yuma Territorial Prison. I've described the event in detail here:  The Death of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds

The Florence-Kelvin Road is an old stagecoach road connecting Globe to Florence. Take the road from the east and start at Ray Junction (formerly Kelvin) to re-create Sheriff Reynolds' final journey. Kelvin has since been devoured by the vast Ray Copper Mine, but the old historic Kelvin Bridge remains across the Gila. Soon, it will be closed to vehicular traffic and the much larger, much stronger new bridge will open. Take a few minutes to enjoy the bridge; it's historically significant as a bridge designed by Daniel Luten, constructed in 1916.  More on the bridge here: The Historic Bridges of Kelvin and Riverside

Old adobe at Riverside along the Gila
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The stagecoach carrying the Apache prisoners - including the notorious Apache Kid - stopped at Riverside in the late afternoon on November 1. There, they overnighted. William T. Branaman, a stagecoach driver himself, opted to guard the prisoners overnight for $5 rather than drive the stage in the morning.  Starting afresh at five the next morning, they left idyllic Riverside (and Branaman) behind, Eugene Middleton driving the stage while Holmes and Reynolds tended the prisoners. 

About four miles west of Riverside, the stagecoach reached Zellweger Wash, the low point at the base of a long, steep grade. The deep sand made the haul tougher on the horses. The prisoners were, according to Branaman's later account, numb with cold. Reynolds allowed six of the eight prisoners - one Mexican and seven Apache - to get out of the stage and walk up the hill, partly for their own warmth and partly to help the horses ease up the grade. The prisoners who got out were shackled; the Apache Kid remained in the coach with one other prisoner and the driver, Middleton, continued onward with them. He was to wait at the top of the hill until the rest caught up.

The prisoners on foot had planned their escape. As the coach got well ahead, two of them attacked Sheriff Reynolds and two attacked Deputy Holmes, killing both. Middleton heard the shots and assumed the lawmen were shooting the prisoners to quell an attack, not realizing the men had been fatally wounded. The lone Mexican prisoner took Sheriff Reynolds' gun and advanced on the stagecoach, shooting Middleton. As the team of horses bolted on, Middleton fell from the coach with wounds to his head, neck, and side. The Apache Kid intervened as the other Apaches caught up and began to attack Reynolds as well, telling them Middleton was already dead and so not to shoot. 

Middleton, though, was not dead. One of the bullets struck him in the right cheek, exiting at the top of his head; it likely followed the path of least resistance as it traveled upward, rather than entering his skull. He later said he'd "played possum" while the Apaches took his gun, coat, and valuables. They also took the orders of commitment to prison and tore them up at the scene.

Middleton was able to walk back to Riverside and, although the papers at the time reported him as "nearly dead," he lived until April 24, 1929, dying in the apartment complex he owned in Globe. Middleton, a true pioneer, had lived in Gila County since 1876.

Sadly, there's no official monument to the incident along the sandy stretch of road. From my own exploration of the area and the landmarks described in the papers of the time, the grade on which the murders occurred is easily identifiable. Precisely where the incident happened is uncertain; it's midway up the hill and out of sight of where Middleton waited at top. The photo of the road above is my best estimate as to the rough location of the murders.  Nearby is the cross in the top photo. I believe it is intended to mark the death of the two lawmen and may well have been where the tragedy occurred.

Reynolds and Holmes were among the first of Arizona Territory's line of duty peace officer deaths. Should you drive that dusty highway, take a moment to remember them.

The Florence- Kelvin Road
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Copyright (c) 2018 by Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, forwarding, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thanks for stopping by.

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