Monday, December 24, 2018

Powers Family ranch should be on everyone's checklist


A short history of The Powers family ranch and Rattlesnake Canyon


The gold claims in Rattlesnake Canyon were first staked by a man known as Black Jack Gardner.  Black Jack discovered the gold by accident rather than scientific discovery. While prospecting in the Galiuro Mountains he killed a steer and camped out at the top if Rattlesnake Canyon. Two days later he noticed some cowboys coming his way. He grabbed as much meat as he could and took off into the canyon.

Black Jack found a good hiding spot near a natural dike. The next morning he decided to examine the dike and discovered one gold stringer after another. He spent 2 days dressing and exposing the gold to prepare it for assaying. Black Jack took samples of his find to Tucson where he met with Francis Hartman and Col. Randolph. They agreed to finance his operation and $50,000 was spent. The Ranch and gold claims where later abandoned and a caretaker took over the property.

John Powers and his horse.
Jeff Powers later purchased the ranch and gold claims from a caretaker after the place was abandoned by Black Jack Gardner. The Powers family previously owned a cattle ranch near Klondike before they moved to Rattlesnake Canyon. Rattlesnake Canyon got its name from a den of rattlesnakes that caused the death of many of Powers cattle. The Powers boys made many improvements to the place including a new tunnel at the mine and a stamp mill. Many buildings were built including one that caused the fate of Jeff Powers mother when the cabin collapsed. The men built a wagon by hollowing the middle of a large tree. The wheels were slices of the tree trunk. In a tragic accident, Jeff Powers wife was killed by a runaway wagon. Crashing and throwing her from the wagon.

Wanted for the crime of "being a slacker"


On February 10th, 1918 US Deputy Marshal Frank Haynes, Graham County Sheriff Frank McBride, Deputy Mark Kempton, and Deputy Kane Wootan went to the Powers place with a warrant for the Powers brothers for draft evasion and questions concerning mysterious circumstances surrounding the death to their sister Ola Powers. Ola Powers apparently died after being assaulted and strangled by an unknown attacker at the ranch.

The officers reached the cabin near the mine. Jeff, Tom and John Powers and a family friend Tom Sissons were inside the cabin. Sheriff McBride and his deputies took a position in front of the cabin while Deputy Marshal Haynes went to the rear. Old man Powers opened the door with rifle in hand ordering the officers to put their hands up. Seconds later one of the boys opened the door and started firing killing Sheriff McBride and his deputies. Old man Powers drops to the ground shot through the right shoulder and inches from his heart. Over 80 shots were fired in the gunfight. The Powers brothers and Tom Sissons took the guns and ammunition from the dead officers, mounted their horses and head down Rattlesnake Canyon.

About a mile down the canyon they stopped at John Murdock's Ranch and saw Murdock's son and father and a man named Henry Allen. They told the bunch about the gunfight and they are heading in the direction of Reddington along the San Pedro River. They asked Henry to go help, Jeff. Allan and a man named Murde found Jeff unconscious but still alive. They put old man Powers in a tunnel in the mine and lied him on a cot. Old man Powers eventually died later that afternoon. They immediately set out for Safford to alert authorities. Once Allan and Murde reached Safford and reported the news of the killings a posse was quickly organized to recover the bodies of the fallen officers and capture the outlaws.

A huge posse that stretched from Clifton to Mexico


Over 1000 men gathered from all over the southeastern part of Arizona to capture the outlaws. Ranchers, miners, lawmen and US and Mexico troops. Apache trackers stayed close on their tail and helped track them. They fallowed Sisson and the Powers brothers and surrounded them at Cochise Stronghold tracking every step they made. Come nightfall the outlaws made a break for it. The Powers boys and Sisson rode all night to the Dragoon mountains than to the Chiricahua Mountains where Sheriff Harry C. Wheeler of Cochise County and Sheriff Rye Miles of Pima county picked up their trail. They ditched their victim's horses near Rock Creek Canyon and Turkey Creek.  In the meantime Colonel Augustine Camou, Sonoran Commander of military forces sent Mexican troops to guard the border.

Thomas J. Sisson Horsethief.
Mugshot from a previous prison sentence.
"Tired and weary, unshaven and hungry, gaunt eyes from loss of sleep, but armed to the guards with enough artillery to capture and police Mexico. 100s of men from Bisbee, Douglas, Tombstone, New Mexico and from Graham, Pinal and Pima counties are doing their best to capture the murderers and slackers." reads an article from the February 19, 1918 edition of the Bisbee Daily Review.

The outlaws continued to a small town called Rodeo just about a mile over the New Mexico line where the Powers boys previously lived. From there they traveled south to Skeleton Canyon where Sissons previously owned a ranch and then finally into Mexico. Unable to find water south of the border they turned back to the vicinity of Hachita. Soon after they were spotted by 6 soldiers approaching in the flank. Believing a larger group may be approaching from the other flank they decided to surrender without a fight.

Sheriff Stewart of Graham county was notified of the capture and immediately retrieved them by automobile. They were taken to Bisbee and locked in the county jail to await trial for the murders. Later a Change of venue was granted and the trial moved to Greenlee county in Clifton and the prisoners were transferred there. The jury unanimously agreed on natural life in prison.

Weeks later another brother Charles Powers arrived to take over the families ranch and immediately started negotiations to sell the place. After a publication in the Copper Era newspaper describing the beginning of negotiations, a lawsuit was filed. The three wives of the fallen officers filed a civil suit for $120,000 and the Powers gold claim. The judgment was awarded in their favor and they took ownership.

It was later discovered that the Powers brothers skipped the draft because the rich gold deposit required the help of the entire Powers clan and they knew their father couldn't do it alone. They were incredible marksmen and knew that only their rifle protected them from looters trying to take their riches. The officers never announced they where officers of the law and where immediately taken as a threat. As for Sisson, he was already on parole for stealing cattle from an Indian. He lost his left eye in the gunfight and later had it removed. Deputy Marshal Frank Haynes was never involved in the gunfight and escaped with no injuries. All accounts of the story suggest he hid in the mountains and rode to Klondike for help. Sheriff Harry C Wheeler was later commissioned captain of the United States Army and was assigned to the 308 cavalry regiment being developed in Arizona. He was highly praised for his accomplishments during the manhunt.







The Powers Children.
Left Ola Powers, Center Tom Powers,
Right John Powers