Tales and Places of the Copper Corridor: The Riverside Stage Hold-Up, Part 2

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By John Hernandez

In last month’s Nugget, we began the story of a particularly violent stagecoach hold up near Riverside in the Copper Corridor. This hold up happened on Friday, Aug. 10, 1883, between Riverside and Globe.

Below follows the aftermath of the hold up and the citizens’ responses to it.

Later that morning, businessmen closed their stores and every available man armed themselves and went to the courthouse and jail. The citizens group posted guards around the jail to prevent the marshal and his posse from returning to get Redfield. There were close to 100 armed men in the jail yard. The mob took Deputy Scanland and his assistant prisoner. They took the jail keys and removed Joe Tuttle and Lem Redfield from their cell. They were taken out into the corridor. Two ropes were thrown over some braces between the joists in the ceiling and they were both strangled to death and left hanging. It was reported that while the rope was being placed over his neck, Lem Redfield said, “Well boys, I guess my time has come.” Tuttle broke down and began sobbing, pleading, “Let me talk; give me time to talk.” Someone in the crowd said, “You didn’t give poor Collins time to talk and we will serve you the same way.” After the two men were dead, the group removed young Carpenter from his cell and brought him out to look at his accomplices hanging from the rafters. They told Carpenter to look at his uncle and take it as a warning of his fate if he should continue in a life of crime. They then put him back in his cell. When word of the hangings spread around town, hundreds of Mexican men and women appeared at the jail to look at the men hanging in the corridor. They looked on in disbelief as it had always been their complaint that only Mexicans and Indians could be hanged in Florence.

The Florence Enterprise newspaper reported two confessions by Joe Tuttle implicating Lem Redfield, Carpenter, Jack Almer and Charley Hensley in the crimes stating that Redfield had known about their plans to rob the stage and was to receive a share of the loot. Lem had also provided the new hatchet to them to open the strong box. The paper also reported that a coroner’s inquest into the hangings found a verdict that the men were hanged by parties unknown to the jury. The Arizona Weekly Citizen newspaper out of Tucson wrote editorials against what they called “Judge Lynch” editorializing that the law should have been allowed to follow its due course. It wrote that many of the people that knew Len Redfield did not believe he was involved and the reliability of the confessions by Joe Tuttle were questioned. The Florence Enterprise tried to justify the lynching by saying that the members of the mob were sober and tried to place the blame on Marshal Evans for inciting the people in Florence by attempting to bully Deputy Scanland into releasing Redfield and threatening the town with martial law. Thomas Weedin the Editor of the Enterprise and member of the posse that arrested Tuttle and Redfield was a friend of Johnny Collins. Leading up to the lynching his paper portrayed everyone that had been arrested as guilty and had called for swift justice.

On October 3, Pima County Sheriff Robert H. “Bob” Paul obtained a tip that Red Jack Almer and Charley Hensley were in the Willcox area. He organized a posse and they were taken by train from Tucson to Willcox that same evening. That night the posse came upon Hensley and Almer at the Percy ranch 12 miles outside of Willcox. A gun battle ensued. Red Jack Almer was killed, having been shot numerous times. Hensley, although badly wounded, was able to escape in the darkness. One of the posse members received a grazing flesh wound to his calf. The next morning the six posse members found Hensley at Point of Mountain about 10 miles from Willcox. He was lying in a gulch and began firing as soon as he saw the posse. Sheriff Paul was forced to jump off of his horse after it began bucking wildly having been grazed by a bullet in the abdomen. The posse members returned fire killing Hensley. It was discovered that he had been wounded in the chest and stomach the night before and would probably have died from those wounds. Frank Carpenter, the last of the gang was indicted by a grand jury for being an accessory after the fact in the murder of Johnny Collins and the robbery of the Riverside stagecoach. In November while he was out on bail it was reported he was found dead at his ranch. The cause being nervous prostration due to the fear he had received at the county jail.

Sheriff Doran would receive a $600 bounty for bringing in Redfield and Tuttle. Wells Fargo had a standing bounty of $300 for any robber of one of their stages. Doran would be selected as a Pinal County Representative to the Territorial Legislature. Pete Gabriel would replace him as Pinal County Sheriff. In 1888 Gabriel would be involved in the infamous “Duel in the Tunnel Saloon” shootout in Florence where he killed a former deputy of his, Joe Phy. He would be badly wounded in the gunfight but would survive to continue prospecting in the Pioneer mining district. Joseph Wiley Evans would leave the law enforcement profession in 1885 to go into real estate. He would become a well respected and successful businessman in Phoenix. Some people believed that the reason he quit law enforcement was due to what he considered his failure to protect Lem Redfield. Sheriff Bob Paul would serve as Pima County Sheriff until 1886. As sheriff he ordered the arrest of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday after the killing of Frank Stilwell even though he was a friend of the Earps. He would be appointed U.S. Marshal of Arizona Territory 1890 – 1893, serve as a detective for the Southern Pacific Railroad and end his career as a Justice of the Peace in Tucson. Hank Redfield would continue ranching in the San Pedro Valley while trying to clear his brother’s name. He would eventually sell the ranch. In 1884 he moved with his family to Benson where he opened a livery business. He died in Benson in 1886 of an overdose of laudanum. His son Leonard “Len” would become the postmaster of Benson for 20 years and first Mayor of Benson. The involvement of Lem Redfield in the Riverside stage coach robbery is still debated. Although the silver stolen in the robbery was recovered, the $800 in gold was reported as missing and may still be hidden somewhere along the San Pedro River Valley.

Editor’s Note: The Carlink Ranch near San Manuel in Redington (which was featured for its pumpkins in the October issue of the Nugget) was once a part of the Redfield ranch.

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