By John Hernandez
“Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” Honore de Balzac
The second trial of Bob Stewart and Ed Fondren was held in Oct. 1908 in Florence. It again resulted in a hung jury. A third trial for both was set for Dec. 7. It would be delayed until the following year. In Globe, mid October, Willis Woods was indicted on a criminal libel charge. The complaint had been filed by J.B. Newman. Woods had apparently gotten drunk and told some bystanders that he had been hired by Newman and Sheriff Henry Thompson to murder George Palmer a local miner that was involved in litigation with Newman over a mining claim. Woods had allegedly gone and warned Palmer also. Woods said he was to be paid $5,000 for the job.
The attorneys in the case announced that they wanted to have the trial end before the elections which were coming up in November. Sheriff Thompson was running for re-election. On Oct. 30, criminal libel charges were dropped against Woods. He had testified that George Palmer with an attorney had approached him and asked him to sign an affidavit saying that Newman and Thompson had tried to get him to murder Palmer. Palmer allegedly told Woods that if he won the lawsuit against Newman, he would pay him a good sum of money. The Lawyers went behind closed doors and when they returned they said they had come to an agreement, and charges were to be dismissed. Thompson would easily be re-elected sheriff of Gila County.
Willis Woods was from Douglas, Ariz. He had been in prison for cattle rustling and perjury. He was a member of the Alvord-Stiles gang. The gang was notorious for cattle rustling, armed robberies and train robberies in southeastern Arizona. Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles were former lawmen who had become outlaws. Woods would be sent to prison for life for a murder committed in 1918 on the Black Canyon Highway. He killed a man to steal his automobile. He would escape from Florence prison in 1921 but would be captured at the Mexican border.
On Dec. 23 Fondren and Stewart were released on a bond of $3,000 each. It was not disclosed who paid it. On Christmas Day, Stewart was celebrating in a saloon in Florence. He got drunk and was overheard by a number of people making threats against his enemies. He was arrested and returned to the jail in Florence.
The trials were held in March 1909. The third trial for the murder of A.J. Daggs ended in a guilty verdict for Bob Stewart. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years. This was considered a death sentence as Stewart was 45 years old at the time. The undoing of Stewart’s case was his arrest for threatenings made in the saloon in Florence. The arresting officer that evening was Deputy Sheriff Roy Troxell. He would testify in court that the evening of the arrest, Stewart admitted to him that he killed A.J. Daggs. Troxell said that Stewart told him, “I killed Jack Daggs and am damned proud of it.” A few minutes later Stewart said, “I saw the ____ take his last kick,” testified Troxell. After the verdict Judge Kent admonished the witnesses for the defense saying he believed they had perjured themselves. Ed Fondren was acquitted of the murder of A.J. Daggs. Judge Kent then set a trial for Fondren for the murder of George Ditmore.
In April of 1910, a court date was set for Fondren. Newspapers reported that Bob Stewart would be the main witness against him. It was said that Stewart had made a confession at the prison and said that Ed Fondren was involved in the killings. Fondren was found guilty of Manslaughter. It seems that after the acquittal in the Dagg’s case, feeling confident that his troubles were behind him he had admitted to Gila County Deputy Sheriff Bob McMurray that he had participated in the killings. McMurray testified in court to that fact. Bob Stewart was not called as a prosecution witness as they believed some of his confession to be false. They did not specify what part of the confession was untrue. On May 5 Fondren was sentenced to 10 years in the penitentiary.
In June 1911, the confession of Bob Stewart that was made at a release hearing to the Board of Control (early version of the parole board) was made public. The story made front page news and excited the residents of Arizona. The Board of Control had been sitting on the story for six weeks and since then affidavits were received to support the story according to the Arizona Republican. The shocking part of the confession was that Bob Stewart said that the murder of Daggs and Ditmore was incited and planned by Sheriff Henry Thompson of Gila County and J.B. Newman.
Stewart claimed that he; Ed Fondren, Sheriff Thompson and J.B. Newman were the owners or claimants of some valuable mining properties near Superior. They had been involved in litigation with Daggs over the properties for some time. A plan was developed to kill Daggs. Ed Fondren had backed out and Deputy Sheriff Bob McMurray took his place. McMurray was Thompson’s brother in law and cousin.
McMurray and Stewart concealed themselves along the trail they knew that Daggs and Ditmore would be taking on their way back from the Dagg’s claim. When Daggs and Ditmore approached the place where Stewart and McMurray were concealed, Stewart rose from behind a rock and shot Ditmore in the head with his shotgun. Daggs was on horseback and jumped to the ground, pulling his pistol and approaching Stewart. He was shot by McMurray from behind cover. Ditmore had drawn his pistol and fired twice at Stewart but missed. Stewart shot Ditmore again with the shotgun inflicting a mortal wound. McMurray apparently was not seen by Ditmore or Daggs as he had remained hidden behind some rocks. After disposing of the bodies they walked to Stewart’s cabin and finished off a bottle of whisky they had drunk from before the shooting to calm their nerves.
Stewart said that Ed Fondren was convicted at the insistence of Thompson and Newman. They have been attempting to patent some valuable property owned by Fondren. He also said that it is a matter of record that Newman and Thompson have partnered with Hugh Daggs, the son of the murdered Daggs to obtain all the property that was involved in the bloody dispute. Fondren’s mining claims were being managed by his niece who had come from Texas to help him.
Sheriff Thompson said the charges were groundless, that it was a plot by Stewart to blackmail him and Newman. He believed that they were selected because of their antagonism towards A.J. Daggs and interest in the mining claims. Hugh Daggs said,
“He has taken no stock in the story, believing the prisoners are willing to do almost anything to gain their liberty.” Daggs made no statement concerning the allegations that he had partnered with Newman and Thompson. The Arizona Republican defended Henry Thompson saying his record as sheriff was a long and honorable one although because of the serious nature of the allegations, a “most rigid and impartial investigation must be made.” It is not known if an investigation was ever initiated or completed.
On Dec. 22, 1911 Sheriff Thompson shot and killed Mike Jurasco, a bartender, allegedly for resisting arrest. Newspapers said that Thompson had gone to the bar to arrest Jurasco for selling liquor to Indians, a minor charge. Thompson said Jurasco fired first. Thompson was arrested by Deputy Haynes. Mike Juraskovich known as Jurasco was from Montenegro. The Coconino Sun newspaper reported the story that Thompson shot Jurasco after Jurasco struck him with a club.
The Weekly Journal-Miner newspaper in Prescott reported on Jan. 5, 1912 that Sheriff Henry Thompson had been exonerated by the Coroner’s jury on Dec. 26. A statement issued through Thompson’s attorney said that the “killing of the bartender was in self defense, necessary and entirely justifiable.” The attorney went on to give Thompson’s version of the story.
“Mr. Thompson and Mr. Temple entered the Globe Saloon and while in there saw the bartender filling a beer bottle with whisky, which they say afterwards, saw the bartender pass to an Indian at the rear door of the saloon. Mr. Thompson then said to Mr. Temple: ‘You take the bartender and I will get the Indian.’ Thompson then started for the Indian but the Indian closed the door behind him. While Thompson was in the act of opening the door, he heard a scuffle and, looking around, saw that the bartender had Temple on the floor between the front and back bars. Thompson ran to about the center of the front bar and the bartender stooped and picked up something from the back bar and then struck Thompson over the head with it. Thompson was sinking behind the front bar and the bartender then fired two shots. The bartender started around to the front of the bar where Thompson was, but Thompson met him at the end of the bar and they were out in the open when two shots were fired. One shot was fired by the deceased, and one from Thompson’s gun which killed the deceased.”
“Mr. Thompson was looking for another party for whom he had a warrant and asked Mr. Temple to accompany him through that end of the town. Neither of the officers knew the bartender and entered the saloon looking for the man for whom they had the warrant.”
There were others in Globe that believed the killing of Jurasco was unjustifiable. On Jan. 4, 1912 Sheriff Thompson resigned his position at the request of the County Board of Supervisors. Earlier in the day a grand jury had indicted Thompson and Harry Temple for the murder of Mike Jurasco. Deputy Frank Haynes was appointed to take Thompson’s place as Sheriff. Haynes would later become Thompson’s son in law. Sheriff Haynes would be appointed as a U.S. Marshal in 1917. He would participate in the Power Shootout in the Galiuro Mountains in 1918. He was the only surviving law man of this famous gun battle. Thompson had been sheriff for seven terms.
On Feb. 14, 1912 the Territory of Arizona became a state. Thompson and Temple would be tried in Globe in May. On May 21, 1912, former Sheriff Henry Thompson and Special Deputy Harry Temple were acquitted. The May 24 edition of the Graham Guardian reported that the case was submitted to the jury at 4:45 p.m. and the verdict returned at 5 p.m. In the book “Sheriff Thompson’s Day” by Jess G. Hayes, Hayes says that Sheriff Thompson and Harry Temple, a railroad watchman had gone to the Globe Saloon to celebrate the coming holiday. They had exchanged drinks with many of the saloon’s patrons. During the wee hours of the evening after most of the patrons had left, Mike Jurascovich was killed by a single shot fired by Sheriff Thompson. Just what happened that night may never be known.
This incident ended Thompson’s political and law enforcement career at age 51. He would however be a successful businessman with holdings in cattle ranching, real estate and mining. He would also work for the Highway Department. Thompson is said to have had more arrests and convictions and served longer than any other territorial sheriff in Arizona.
During the first week of Aug. 1912, it was reported that the Calumet and Arizona Copper Company of Bisbee had purchased 81 claims from four mining groups in Superior. The largest group of claims, the Cobre-Verde property was owned by Hugh Daggs and Attorney P.H. Hayes of Phoenix and Henry Thompson and Jack Newman of Globe. The four owners of this group of mining claims were to receive $500,000. One month later, Ed Fondren was recommended for parole by the Board of Control. Governor G.W.P. Hunt approved his release. The same day it was reported that he received another shock as he received a letter from his niece informing him that an offer of $100,000 was made for his mining claims in Superior. One newspaper said, “Every law abiding citizen in Arizona is or will be suffering from a shock,” referring to the release of Fondren. It was also reported that his claims were in the group recently taken over by the Calumet and Arizona Copper Company.
Bob Stewart entered the Territorial prison on April 7, 1909 under a 25 year sentence. It was reported that in 1913, he was working on a ranch in Florence as a trustee. He was paroled by Governor Hunt on Dec. 12, 1914 having served five years in prison. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and sent back to the prison for a short while. On Dec. 6, 1916 he was granted a full pardon by Governor Hunt. The Coconino Sun reported that Stewart was living in the Superior area in a cabin on one of the Daggs mining claims “from which he refuses to be ejected by the son of the man he killed.” There was some irony in the releases of both men convicted of the murders of A. J. Daggs and George Ditmore by Governor Hunt. Hunt was known to be sympathetic to the Graham cause during the Pleasant Valley War. He had lived with his wife on the Middleton ranch for a while. This ranch was where some of the Graham faction were killed. Hunt also had ties to Jack Newman and Sheriff Thompson having lived in Globe for many years. Hunt also ran on the same Gila County Democratic ticket for recorder at the same time Ed Tewksbury ran for Globe constable and Henry Thompson for sheriff.
In Aug. 1919 newspapers reported that one of the largest mining deals in copper property in Arizona was recently consummated. Thirty-two claims owned by the Consolidated Holding Company were sold to the Grand Pacific Group. “These claims, popularly known as the Dagg’s group, were located in 1899 by A.J. Daggs. They are located adjacent to the Grand Pacific Group already owned by the purchasing syndicate, are about one mile from the Superior mine, and near the famous Magma Mine.”
“The purchasers were represented by J.C. Denton, General Manager of the Grand Pacific Copper Company, and the local interests by Hugh Daggs and P.H. Hayes, president and secretary of the holding company. The four original claims were long worked as silver mines without regard to the copper possibilities. At one time the Monte Carlo and the Touchnot claims were extensively worked for silver, which was hauled to Tempe, the town of Superior not being in existence.”
“The property just sold has an interesting and, in places a tragic history. Worked in part as a silver property for years, sold and resold, titles contested in court, and murders on account of the value of the claims all enter into its history.” The Daggs group of claims would eventually become part of Magma Copper and are now owned by Resolution Copper.
An interesting side note is that J.C. Denton the wealthy mine promoter was murdered in Los Angeles in 1920. His body was found buried inside of a house he was renting. A woman that had been staying at the house and some co-conspirators were arrested for the murder. The motive was robbery. P.H. Hayes, Hugh Daggs partner and the defense attorney for Bob Stewart and Ed Fondren represented Denton’s daughter in the estate hearing.
When I started this story, I assumed it would be a short simple story about a murder over a mining claim with a quick arrest and the perpetrators brought to justice. As I read more newspaper articles from the times and researched more about the characters involved, it became more of a mystery story. I wondered if there was a conspiracy involving some of the most powerful men in the area behind the killings. Surely there were many unanswered questions which if one had more time to research would make for an even more interesting story or book. It would be interesting to read the court transcripts about the Daggs and Ditmore killings. Was there ever an investigation conducted on the allegations made by Bob Stewart about Sheriff Thompson, Deputy McMurray and J.B. Newman? Did Bob Stewart retract his statements? Who were the prominent men and jurors in Globe that signed a petition to have Newman released after serving one year in prison for attempted murder and why? What happened to Newman’s victim J.C. Evans? When did Hugh Daggs become partners with Newman and Thompson and why? Did he do it to have financial support against his powerful uncles when contesting his father’s estate? Why select P.H. Hayes, the defense attorney of the two men that murdered his father as a partner?
The court transcripts and police reports of the killing of Mike Jurasco could maybe shed some light on what really happened in the Globe Saloon that December morning. Why was Bob Stewart after his release from prison, allowed to live on Daggs’ property? Was he working there? Was this part of some deal he made to get released? The timing of Fondren’s prison release and the sale of his mining property is suspect. None of the characters involved were angels by any means, including the murder victims. It is clear that some men got rich from obtaining the property and the mining claims continued to produce over 100 years, making money for the owners. What wasn’t clear was who were the villains and were there any good guys?