Five Simultaneous Hangings in Tombstone, Arizona
 
"A regular choking machine."
 
March 28, 1884; Tombstone, Arizona. Five men; Dan Dowd, Red Sample, Tex Howard, Bill Delaney, and Dan Kelly are hanged for their part in the December 8, 1883 robbery/murder in Bisbee.
 
The purported leader of the gang, John Heath, was lynched by Tombstone residents over a month earlier, on February 22.
 
The crime was considered particularly heinous, even for those times in Arizona Territory, as four innocent by-standers (including a woman) were killed during the robbery.
 
On December 8, 1883, the outlaws rode into the booming mining town of Bisbee, Arizona. They had heard that the $7,000 payroll of the Copper Queen Mine would be in the vault at the Bisbee General Store. The outlaws charged into the General Store with their guns drawn and demanded the payroll. To their disappointment, they discovered they were much too early--the payroll had not yet arrived. The outlaws quickly gathered up what money there was (reports vary that the take was anywhere from $900 to $3,000), and took valuable rings and watches from the customers unlucky enough to have been in the store at the time.
 
For reasons that are totally unclear, the robbery then turned into a murder spree. When the desperadoes rode away, they left behind four dead or dying people, including Deputy Sheriff Tom Smith and a Bisbee woman named Anna Roberts.
 
It didn't take long for law enforcement officers to apprehend the gang members. All were to be tried for the murder/robbery - however, Heath was lynched before being brought to trial. The other five were found guilty, and sentenced to hang in a public execution.
 
The event soon took on a 'circus' air, with one enterprising business man building bleachers around the gallows and selling tickets for the standing-room-only event. Famous western entrepreneur Nellie Cashman disapproved of the 'festivities' - she and compatriots demolished the grand-stand the night before the execution. Although there was nothing that Nellie could do to prevent the legal hangings, she and friends were determined to make the outlaws' executions a 'dignified' affair.
 
One of the condemned, possibly Dowd, remarked that the multi-gallows was "a regular choking machine." His analysis was quite correct. Of the five, only one died of a broken neck - the other four died by strangulation, with death taking as long as ten minutes for one of the men.
 
Suggested Reading:
 
Breakenridge, William M.
  HELLDORADO
 
Karolevitz, Robert F.
  NEWSPAPERING IN THE OLD WEST : A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF JOURNALISM AND PRINTING ON THE FRONTIER
 
Ledbetter, Suzann
  NELLIE CASHMAN - PROSPECTOR AND TRAILBLAZER
 
Ledoux, Gary
  TOMBSTONE: A CHRONICLE IN PERSPECTIVE
 
Martin, Douglas D.
  TOMBSTONE'S EPITAPH
 
Myers, John Myers
  TOMBSTONE'S EARLY YEARS
 

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