Bill Brazelton Stage Robber


Death photo of Bill Brazelton

“The next robbery which took place was that of the California stage, and this occurred just a few miles west of Tucson. The stage was being driven through a country comparatively free from crime. Among the passengers was John P. Clum, now engaged in the Post office Department at Washington, and a John Miller, who was editor of a newspaper. The driver was telling the story of the last robbery, when the lone highwayman stepped forward with the words, ‘Here I am again, boys. “Who have you here?’ He went on, ” ‘A peace officer and an editor,’ replied the driver. – ” ‘Well, peace officer and editor, step out,’ said the bold lone highwayman, and both stepped out accordingly.”Clum had $250 and Miller had $10, which they gave up. “I want, some money for breakfast,’ said Miller.” ‘What will half a year’s subscription to your paper cost, asked the highwayman. “Five dollars” ‘Here, take it.’ “‘Where will I address it?’ queried Miller.” ‘Address it to hell.’ said the highway man. ‘Get in there now, and keep ‘ your mouth shut.”
A curious thing about the robberies was that they would take place at one time of the year, and that the day on which they occurred it would rain. The robber watched the sky so closely that he knew when rain would be about to fall. The robbery would be committed two or three hours before the downpour, so that the tracks of the horse made in the flight to his place of hiding were thus washed out. The robberies continued daily, and it was believed that ‘ the robber was living in Tucson. “The people were now exasperated. L. C. Hughes, the present Governor, was then district attorney, and he discovered the first clue to the robber.

Sherriff Charles A Shibell

Sheriff Charles A Shibell

Shortly after the commission of another robbery a man riding out from Tucson met one named Davis Nimitz riding a horse corresponding in every point with the one on which the highwayman had ridden during his course of crime. He reported the matter to the sheriff, Charles A. Shibell, who still lives in Tucson, and who has been recorder of Pima County. The district attorney ordered the arrest of Nimitz, and the order was carried out. The horse being placed in safe keeping. This Nimitz was the man who drove the stage from the stables to the express office, and there turned it over to the driver. He had a house about four miles from the town, over which a Mexican woman presided. The sheriff at- once proceeded to the spot and ‘there found a number of horseshoes. It was learned also that the horse had been brought to a blacksmith in Tucson to be shod shortly after the last robbery. – There was sufficient evidence to hold Nimitz. The offense being – one against the United States laws, the matter was taken in hand by the United States district attorney.

Day by day Nimitz was questioned, but yet he held his secret. He was now bound over to the United States grand Jury as an accessory, to the robber. Still he declined to open his lips. The people were indignant, and threats of hanging at last were made. At length he said: I will tell you everything if you will keep me in Jail until you have killed him.’ This promise was made, and he said: ‘The robber is Bill Brazelton, who was employed with me in the livery stables.

“I’m trapped. I’m trapped,’ roared Brazelton, with despair and ferocity in his voice. Every man now fired.
HOW HE WAS KILLED. “Now came the difficulty of capturing or killing Brazelton. A plan was agreed upon,’ Nimitz was to go out to meet him. He was to say that he had been placed under arrest, but had escaped; that the officers would soon be on his trail and on the trail of Brazelton also, and that their hiding place had been discovered. He was then to ask Brazelton to help him get away, as refuge near Tucson was further impossible. Nimitz went out accordingly, and it was arranged. By Brazelton that he (Nimitz) was to hide out until the next night, when he would meet Nimitz at a certain deep cut in the roadway,- supplied with food and ammunition. Then they were to go to Tucson, kill all the officers of the law, seize two horses and flee. Each officer was to be called out to his door and shot down. Of course Nimitz gave all this information to the officers.


Dead Bill Brazelton with mask

He was to approach to within ten feet of the spot where Brazelton was hiding; Brazelton was to cough once. Nimitz was to answer by coughing three times. Brazelton was to lay his hat on a log of wood “which lay across the road, preventing any one going to the other side without considerable difficulty. Seven men were selected to go out. ‘The seven, as far as I remember, were C. P. Etchell, C. O. Brown, James Lee, C. A. Shibell, A. G. Buckner and I. We went out in the night. I was to represent Nimitz. I was about the same height. I assumed his dress, and in a general way might have passed for him at a distance. Every man took up his position behind a tree. It was drizzling rain and became quite dark, so that we could barely see. Every man was to fire the moment he saw Brazelton came from his shelter. At 8 o’clock a stealthy step was heard. Brazelton could be discovered moving swiftly down the road, crouching low, so that he resembled a tiger leaving his Jungle rather than a human being. Every man was motionless; it was a case of life against life. I coughed once, Brazelton coughed three times; then I put the hat on the log as had been agreed upon. Now, I was to have coughed twice, but, in the excitement of the moment, only coughed once again. “I’m trapped. I’m trapped,’ roared Brazelton, with despair and ferocity in his voice. Every man now fired. No one was more than fifteen feet from the stage robber, yet every man missed except me. My shot put an end to Brazelton’s life

Brazelton was just thirty years of age. He was a native of Wisconsin, and had gone to San Francisco while a boy. He came into Arizona with the purpose of becoming a stage robber, and accepted employment in the livery stables while he was preparing for his dangerous and unlawful calling. He was a man who put no value on his own life or on that of his fellow-man. When he entered the employment of Leatherwood in his livery stables the burden of his conversation to those around him was: “The United States owes me a living; I will live at its expense.” At length he gave up his work, and one day rode out of the stable and addressed Nimitz thus: “Dave, I want you.” “What are you doing?” inquired Nimitz. . “I’m of the road,” he answered. “If you tell this to a living soul I’ll kill you. I want you to go out to the wood, build a little house, there I will rest, eat and sleep, and there I will provide rest and food and drink for my horse. If you refuse to do this I’ll kill you.” Nimitz did as he was ordered, and it was at this house in the woods Brazelton rested and ate, and fed and watered his horse for so long.
When he died there was found on his possession a small, valuable lady’s watch, with his name inscribed on the case, and also a letter from a young lady bearing simply her ‘ initials, who spoke of looking forward , with pleasure to his return to his native State. What became of the money he stole, no one ever learned. The one thing certain is that he had none was on his person when killed, and that none was ever found in his old haunts.


This article is from the Indianapolis Journal dated Febuary 17, 1895.


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