top of page

The Bisbee Massacre - Those Dang 'Cowboys'

man hanging by neck from pole
John Heath Hanging from Telegraph Pole

Welcome to Big Jeep Tours in #Bisbee, Arizona. Today, we bring you a historically significant and notorious event that transpired right here in this charming old town. We will retrace the chilling steps of the infamous Bisbee Massacre that occurred in 1883.

John Heath, a dance hall owner on Main Street and also a member of the Cochise County Cowboys gang (the gang who fought #WyattEarp in Tombstone), is central to our story. Believing he could make a fortune, Heath and five other Cowboys wanted to rob the miners' payroll thought to be in the safe at the Goldwater & Castaneda Mercantile Store.

Our journey begins where the gang tied their horses, near the Copper Queen Mine smelter at the end of Main Street. From there, they ambled to the Goldwater and Castaneda store. But the plot thickened, as upon arrival, they discovered the payroll was missing.

The gang, determined to not leave empty-handed, began robbing the store's patrons. The robbery took too long, arousing the curiosity of bystanders. The street started filling up as people questioned the presence of armed guards at the store's entrance. This resulted in a dramatic gunfight right here on the street, in front of what is now the Letson Block.

Unfortunately, the violence escalated, leaving five innocent people dead—a child, a pregnant woman, a policeman, and two bystanders. The gang members hastily exited the store under a hail of gunfire, running towards their horses and firing at anyone they saw. Deputy Sheriff William "Billy" Daniels, who had rushed over from his saloon, tried to stop the outlaws, but his shots missed their mark.

The bandits managed to mount their horses, riding up Main Street, over Mule Pass, and out of town. They gathered at Soldier's Hole, a site east of Bisbee, where they divided the spoils and went their separate ways.

#JohnHeath, who had orchestrated the whole plot, did not participate in the robbery himself. Heath managed to play a double game, organizing the first posse to search for his own gang and misleading them across Arizona. However, suspicion eventually fell upon him, leading to his indictment alongside the five perpetrators.

After a trial in Tombstone, the evidence against the gang was undeniable. All five were sentenced to hang. Heath's trial was separate, with the jury convicting him of second-degree murder despite the lack of solid evidence tying him to the robbery, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

However, the townspeople were unsatisfied with this verdict. A large posse from Bisbee rode to the Tombstone Courthouse and forcibly removed Heath from the jail. The lynch mob dragged him down Toughnut Street, where they lynched him from a telegraph pole at the corner of First and Toughnut Streets. The telegraph pole stump and a commemorative plaque sit there today.

His final words were a plea for his body not to be mutilated. As a chilling conclusion to this tale, the mob left a placard on the telegraph pole stating Heath's final words. This event has cast a long and haunting shadow over Bisbee, marking it as a site of one of the Old West's most notorious crimes.

As we journey through these streets today, it's hard to imagine the chaos and tragedy that unfolded here over a century ago. Bisbee's history is as rich as it is unsettling, offering a glimpse into the Wild West's harsh reality, far removed from the romance of old cowboy movies.

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page