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The Bisbee Massacre

Updated: Nov 6


The Bisbee Massacre is on the Old Bisbee Tour, the Bisbee Lowell Warren Tour, and the Copper City Territory Tour


Everyone initially thinks about Tombstone when imagining the wild west in Arizona. Bisbee has many controversial and wild historic events that match and rival Tombstone. One such moment in Bisbee history is The Bisbee Massacre and the events that followed this horrendous act of violence.


Red Door at the Letson Loft Hotel (Site of the Bisbee Massacre)


In December of 1883, six hoodlums decided to rob the miner's payroll which is kept in the safe at the Goldwater & Castaneda Store on Main Street in Bisbee, Arizona. The miner's payroll is kept in the store because Bisbee had no bank at that time.



Main Street, Bisbee


The robbers weren't very bright, however, and soon discovered the miner's payroll wasn't in the safe. It was still being delivered on the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.



The vicious robbers included John Heath, Daniel “Big Dan” Dowd, Comer W. “Red” Sample, Daniel “York” Kelly, William “Billy” Delaney, and James “Tex” Howard.

John Heath was the leader of the gang who fancied himself a clever fellow. Not clever enough to know when the payroll was delivered to the Goldwater & Castaneda Store, however.




After discovering the safe was missing the payroll, the robbers decided to stick around and rob other items in the store along with the customers.

The decision to stick around costs them valuable time.

Two of the robbers stood guard outside the store, rifles ready. Their presence attracted the attention of some of Bisbee’s rough and ready citizens, who were typically well-armed at all times. Within minutes, four citizens lay dead or dying, including a New Mexico police officer who tried to intervene, and a pregnant woman, shot dead through a window by a stray bullet.

The robbers rode out of Bisbee in a hail of bullets and went their separate ways.


One citizen jumped on his horse and headed north to Tombstone to notify the sheriff. He made the 22-mile trip in less than two hours and along the way passed the stage carrying the riches of the Copper Queen payroll.

Soon after, a posse was formed and in quick pursuit of the robbers. John Heath, the clever one, actually joined and guided the first posse looking for himself. After finding nothing, Heath was considered a liability and left behind.


Eventually, all the robbers were captured exc