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
- Suggested Reading:
- Breakenridge, William M.
- 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