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 (255 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

    Suspect Arrested for Marijuana Grow in Oracle

    April 23rd, 2015
    by

    On Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 at 4:07 p.m. citizens from the Neighborhood Watch Program in Oracle reported suspicious activity at […]


    Head Start celebrates Week of the Young Child with field trips, father-kid activity

    April 22nd, 2015
    by

    Superior – According to Teresita Olmos, April has been a great month at Superior Head Start, with the students learning a little something about the joys of springtime growth and renewal.


    Panthers pick up much needed win versus Miners

    April 22nd, 2015
    by

    Superior Sun After losing four-straight games, the 10th-ranked Panthers’ baseball team was in desperate need of win heading into last Friday’s game against the eighth-ranked San Manuel Miners.


    Lady Panthers hold off fourth-ranked Miners

    April 22nd, 2015
    by

    Superior Sun After suffering a loss at fourth-ranked San Manuel earlier last week, the sixth-ranked Lady Panthers returned the favor in an 8 – 7 victory against the defending back-to-back


  • Stories Just For You

    Workers Struggle in a Mining town

    March 25th, 2015
    by

    T T T he towns of Clifton and Morenci, Ariz. are located in Greenlee County. The Morenci Mining District in 1903 would become the site of labor unrest that would lead


    Kearny originally declared ‘hostile, uninhabitable’

    March 25th, 2015
    by

    Pinal Nugget Kearny’s roots began in the 1800s as legendary Arizona explorer Father Kino sought to convert the Apache Indian communities in the area to Christianity.


    Visiting Badger Springs and Agua Fria National Monument

    March 25th, 2015
    by

    A A A gua Fria National Monument was established by executive order in 2000 and at 70,900 acres contains over 400 archeological sites and four major prehistoric settlements.


    Getting Lost in the Copper Corridor

    March 25th, 2015
    by

    Can you guess where in the Copper Corridor this photo was taken? If you guessed Oracle, then you would be correct.


  • Facebook

  • [Advertisement.]
  • Arizona Headlines & Current Weather