Pinal County Politics in the Old West

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

By John Hernandez

Pinal Nugget

Politics have always been an ugly game. Dirty tricks, gerrymandering, racism, fear, propaganda and outright lies are just some of the methods politicians use to get elected. Arizona politics and Pinal County politics are no different. The birther movement was used by Arizona politicians to get publicity and votes. Even Sheriff Joe wasted taxpayer money to look for the mythical forged birth certificate of the President of the United States.

In the old west and early days of statehood, politics were the same. Anti-immigrant laws and the fear of Indians and Mexicans were used to get elected and push through legislation. Candidates bought votes with whiskey and tampered with the ballot box. One politician in Pinal County would make a rather stupid mistake during the last months of his campaign. His name was Joe Phy.

Josephus Phy was an under sheriff and deputy in Maricopa County. He also owned a feed stable and corral in Phoenix. In 1878 he ran for the office of Maricopa County Sheriff but lost to Reuben Thomas. In 1879 he moved to Tucson where he was a deputy and was involved in mining interests in Silverbell and Quijotoa. He later moved to Florence and was hired as a deputy by the popular Sheriff John Peter Gabriel.

In 1886 Gabriel decided not to run for re-election. Joe Phy threw his hat into the ring and would run as a Democrat with Gabriel’s support. In September, Phy traveled to Casa Grande to confront a man who had been making comments about him that was costing him votes in the Casa Grande area. The man was Tom Montgomery, a teamster who freighted between Casa Grande and the Silver King mine. He had been telling everyone that Phy had made the comment “that he had come over here to run for sheriff against a scrub” referring to one of Phy’s opponents, Jere Fryer a popular businessman in Casa Grande. TheArizona Weekly Citizenreported it like this under the title “The Democratic Way”:

“Joe Phy, the Democratic candidate for sheriff of Pinal County, made a cowardly attack last evening upon Tom Montgomery a teamster, beating him with a six shooter into insensibility and then continuing the assault upon the man while he lay face downward in a pool of blood, by kicking him in the head and striking him with the gun. He also drew his gun on those who interfered to prevent further blood-shed. The cause of the difficulty was an assertion made by Montgomery damaging to Phy, and which Montgomery says he can prove. After the assault Phy was with some difficulty found. He was then arrested and placed under bonds for his appearance next Tuesday. Tom Weedin accompanied Phy here from Florence.”

Phy was unable to post bond and was confined in the Florence Jail. Sheriff Gabriel fired him and withdrew his political support. Phy would lose the election to Jere Fryer who had run as an Independent. This would be the beginning of a feud between Phy and Peter Gabriel. The bitter feelings between the two would end in 1888 at the Tunnel Saloon on Main Street in Florence when the ex-sheriff killed his former deputy in a gun duel. Gabriel was seriously wounded but survived.

John Hernandez (133 Posts)

John Hernandez lives in Oracle. He is retired and enjoys writing and traveling. He is active in the Oracle Historical Society. He covers numerous public events, researches historical features and writes business/artist profiles.


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
facebooktwitterby feather

Comments are closed.

  • Stories Just Posted

    Cecilio Tafoya

    7 hours ago
    by

    passed away on Sept. 18, 2014. He was born in Winslow, AZ on Aug. 2, 1930.


    Pinal County Sheriff’s Report

    7 hours ago
    by

    The Pinal County Sheriff’s Report is taken from the daily logs, based on the information provided by deputies.


    Mayor responds to report of town meeting

    7 hours ago
    by

    In response to the “Resident concerned about Mammoth Council meeting” in last week’s article, the facts are as follows:


    Great Arizona Shakeout – 10:16 a.m. on October 16, 2014

    September 29th, 2014
    by

    At 10:16 am on Thursday, Oct. 16, nearly 65,500 school children in thousands of classrooms across Arizona, will “Drop, Cover, […]


  • Stories Just For You

    Oracle Ridge Mine update

    September 23rd, 2014
    by

    Pinal Nugget Oracle Mining Corporation (TSX:OMN) is a Vancouver, Canada based company. The company owns the Oracle Ridge copper mine project located in the Catalina Mountains.


    Every Man’s Musings: The Copper Art Museum opens for business

    September 23rd, 2014
    by

    T T T he relatively new Copper Art Museum has opened its doors for business in Clarkdale, Ariz., taking up residence in the old high school. Clarkdale was founded as a company


    A history of the San Manuel Arizona Railroad ‘SMARRCO’

    September 23rd, 2014
    by

    Pinal Nugget The San Manuel Arizona Railroad Company (SMARRCO) was constructed by the Utah Construction Company and the Stearns-Roger Manufacturing Company in 1955.


    Progress continues on Resolution Copper Project

    September 23rd, 2014
    by

    By Mila Besich-Lira Pinal Nugget The Resolution Copper Project just east of Superior has met many challenges over the past decade.


  • Facebook

  • [Advertisement.]
  • Arizona Headlines & Current Weather

  • Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin