Monthly Archives: December 2015

What Really Happened to Mollie Sheppard?

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c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article appear in Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona (2015, The History Press)

Of all of Prescott’s wayward women, Mollie Sheppard is probably the best known. Born in Ireland, Mollie was just 21 years old when she arrived in Prescott in 1868. Two years later or so Mollie fell in with William Kruger, a 30-year old clerk who boarded at Maria Wheaton’s place in Prescott. Kruger, who was born in Prussia, may have been employed as Chief Clerk to Captain C.W. Foster, A.S.M. for the United States Army—for that is how he later signed a letter recounting what is now referred to as the Wickenburg Massacre.

During her time in Prescott, Mollie frequently fought with Prescott’s Yavapai County assessor over taxes. By 1871 she had enough, selling her brothel and leaving in November carrying thousands of dollars in cash. Because much of the real story has been lost to folklore, the amount Mollie carried depends on who is easiest to believe: newspapers of the day claimed the total to be $6,000. William Kruger assessed the amount at $9,000. Writer Sandra Mofford Lagesse put the amount at $15,000. Arizona’s own state historian, Marshall Trimble, stated the amount was $40,000.

In addition to her cash, Mollie also allegedly carried her extensive collection of jewelry and was on her way to Panama. This she apparently planned to accomplish by first taking the stage from Prescott to San Bernardino, California, via the Arizona town of Ehrenberg. Boarding the stage on November 4 with her was Kruger, who was working for the Arizona  Territory Army Quartermaster and was transporting $30,000 to $40,000 in military funds to Ehrenberg. Several other men boarded the coach as well, which departed from Fort Whipple on November 4. They consisted:

– Boston journalist Frederick Wadsworth Loring, age 21, most recently part of the George Wheeler expedition which recorded notes about the terrain and where water could be found for the military.

– Peter M. Hamel,  who had been with Loring on the Wheeler Expedition and was heading home to his family in California.

– Charles S. Adams, namesake for the town of Adamsville, Arizona and who was currently employed as an agent for W. Bichard and Company. Adams was traveling to see his wife and three children in San Francisco due to an illness in the family.

– Frederick Sholholm, a Prescott jeweler who had sold his business and was on his way to Philadelphia by way of Panama.

– William George Salmon, who was also on the Wheeler Expedition and heading home to his family in California.

– Driver John “Dutch” Lance, who had only been working this particular stage road for two weeks.

“To be sure,” Kruger later wrote, “the stage was rather crowded, but being all of such good temper we had a real nice time.” The stage traveled through the night, reaching Wickenberg the morning of November 5. There, according to Kruger, Loring insisted on switching from the inside of the stagecoach to a seat on the outside. “I most decidedly objected,” Kruger said, “but he insisted on being outside for a short time. I had two revolvers and he had none; in fact, no arms whatever. He rejected my offer of a revolver, saying at the time, ‘My dear Kruger, we are no comparatively safe. I have traveled with Lieutenant Wheeler for nearly eight months, and have never seen an Indian.’”

Thus the stage departed with Loring, driver “Dutch” John Lance and Charles Adams occupying the driver’s seat while the other passengers remained inside.

The stage arrived at Wickenburg around midnight. The passengers presumably procured lodging and readied to depart the next morning at 7 a.m. for Culling’s Well, the next station located some 36 miles away. From there, the stage was scheduled to travel through Ehrenberg to the eventual destination of San Bernardino. Once there, the passengers would disperse with at least some of them traveling on to San Francisco via Los Angeles. At Wickenburg an eighth passenger, Aaron Barnett, joined the stagecoach. Two miles out of town, however, Barnett realized he had forgotten something. Unable to return, Lance stopped so Barnett could disembark and head back to Wickenburg.

Other than Barnett’s unscheduled departure, all seemed normal within the group. Mollie had spread her fur cape on the middle bench of the coach so the group could play “Freeze-Out”, a popular poker game in which players cannot re-buy into the game once they lose their money. The game continues until only one player is left holding the entire pot. Everyone had stashed their guns under the seat cushions to make for easy access to the game.

At about 11 a.m., just nine miles northwest of Wickenburg, the stagecoach was accosted by a group of men. Kruger said he heard the driver shout “Apaches! Apaches!” (Other historians have identified the time of day as 8 a.m., but this may be the time the stage actually departed Wickenburg.) The men, who were later alternately identified as Apache Indians, Mexicans dressed as Apaches or Anglos dressed as Apaches, rushed the stage on foot as it passed though a canyon and opened fire. William Kruger would later state positively that the robbers were Indians.

In all, seventeen bullets hit the coach. According to Kruger, Loring, the driver and the other outside passenger, Mr. Adams, were shot. The lead horse was also fatally shot, and the second lead horse was wounded. The surviving horses bolted some twenty yards and came to an abrupt stop. Loring and Adams fell off the stagecoach as the robbers fired again from both sides and the rear. Inside the coach, Solholm was killed while Salmon and Mollie were wounded. Salmon fell out of the coach and “crawled away, but was finally captured by the Indians, scalped and otherwise mutilated.” Mollie, according to various reports, received anything from powder burns to a gunshot in her arm.

Kruger stated that he and the last uninjured passenger, Hammet, began firing at the Indians. Both men fired six shots. Kruger was out of ammunition when the Indians disappeared behind the bushes. For the next several minutes there was silence except for Loring, who lay dying directly in front of Kruger. (Writer Sandra Mofford Lagesse states Loring took a “lance to the chest.”) Kruger also had pushed Mollie to the floor. Although “badly wounded”, Mollie managed to take a loaded revolver off of one of the dead men and handed it to Kruger.

A few minutes later, Kruger saw some fifteen “Indians”, dressed in blue soldiers’ trousers, creeping towards the stage. Kruger jumped up and both he and Mollie began yelling at the robbers as Kruger commenced firing. Mollie later stated she threatened the robbers with a broken whiskey bottle. The Indians retreated and the couple readied to make a run for it. Kruger said he called out “as loud as I possibly could if any one was left alive, but only Mr. Adams answered; but he was mortally wounded and could not even move his hands or feet. I had to leave him to his fate.” Adams was later found with his throat cut.

Quite by some miracle, Krueger and Mollie were able to jump from the stage and ran towards Culling’s Well on foot. According to Kruger, he received a gunshot through his right armpit and two shots to his back. Mollie, he said, was shot three times. It is unclear whether these wounds were sustained at the coach or while on the run, but as the couple fled, some of the robbers came after them on horseback which resulted in “unsteady” gunfire from them. Later accounts would claim that “only a slight wound was received by Miss Sheppard, and neither [she nor Kruger] sustained further injury than the wounds inflicted from the first fire.”

It is a miracle Kruger and Sheppard were not overtaken, saved only by shots fired by Kruger as they ran. The hapless man “still retained his revolver and fired upon them when they came too near, causing them to scatter and retreat but only to rally again to the pursuit until finally they withdrew and joined their fellows.” Writer Allan Hall put the number of robbers pursuing Kruger and Mollie at nine men. According to Kruger, he carried the “wounded woman for over two miles in my left arm” and said the Indians chased them for five miles. He  also said he shot at least two Indians, who later died at Camp Date Creek Reservation. There, “the commanding officer refused to have the thing investigated, for fear he would find sufficient evidence that they were his pets—that is, the Camp Date Creek Indians.”

Camp Date Creek had in fact been established in 1866 as a military post between Prescott and Ehrenberg, to protect travelers in peril. (Evidence of the Camp existing at that early date is verified by the death of soldier Maurice Keefe who died and was buried there in September of 1866.) At last, Kruger and Sheppard spotted an east-bound mail carrier who had just left Culling’s Well. In one version of the meeting, the driver “made them as comfortable as possible and rode one of the horses back to Wickenburg for help.” In another version, the driver took the couple back to Culling’s Well. Word was sent to Wickenburg via the Vulture Mine, “the bearer fearing to proceed by the direct route.” As a result, news of the attack did not reach Wickenburg until midnight. Meanwhile, a full sixteen hours “of terrible suffering and agony” after the attack, Kruger and Mollie were finally taken to Wickenburg.

Two groups left for the site of the attack: one to claim the bodies and another to track the killers. When the parties reached the stagecoach, they were met with the horrible site of five dead men: Frederick W. Loring, C.S. Adams, John Lanz, Fred W. Shoholm, W.G. Salmon and P.M. Hamel. Hamel and Salmon had been shot, and the latter so badly mutilated he was buried on the spot. And although the passenger’s bags had been broken open and some items were missing, other large sums of money and valuables remained at the scene. Even ammunition and horses, which would have typically been taken if the marauders were Indians, remained. The money, totaling about $25,000 and including $9,000 belonging to Kruger and Mollie, was gone.

Kruger accompanied the parties, “closed the eyes of all my poor traveling companions” and retrieved Loring’s hat, which he later offered to the writer’s grieving family. The remaining bodies were buried the next day “in nice coffins.” As for the assailants, Kruger claimed they were tracked by the party from Wickenburg to the Camp Date Creek Reservation. There, he said, the commanding officer Captain O’Beirne of the Twenty-First Infantry “not only allowed the Indians to go unpunished, but also refused me, Miss Shephard [sic], the two surviving cripples, shelter. Yes, sir, he ordered us off his reservation.” Kruger’s complaints about the Captain apparently fell on deaf ears, even though Camp Date Creek did indeed have a hospital.

The sensational story of victims attacked by Indians soon became national news. On December 9, William Kruger wrote a letter from Ehrenberg in response to a request for information from the eastern relatives of Frederick Loring. In it, Kruger gave intimate details of the escapade.  The letter included Kruger’s statement that the men were buried at the site of the massacre, but other reports were made that five of the victims were “reportedly buried in Wickenburg on November 6th, three hours after a hastily called inquest.” If this is true, the bodies would have been buried at Stone Park Cemetery or Lumber Yard Cemetery, the only two burial grounds in existence at the time. The initial exploration of the site also did not include finding the body of William Salmon, who was later found on that same day and buried in a “deep cut in the hillside.” Later, certain reports claimed, Salmon was exhumed and reburied alongside the other victims in Wickenburg.

Meanwhile, an investigation was made into the possibility that the robbers were indeed Indians who resided at the Date Creek Reservation. History has since confused whether they were Apache-Mohave Indians or Yavapai Indians. What has been ascertained by at least one historian is that Captain  Charles Meinhold and twenty other men left Camp Date Creek in search of the murderous robbers. Adjutant  Captain Azor H. Nickerson later reported that the group was unable to “determine definitely whether the perpetrators were Indians or Mexican bandits or both.”

For months, speculation ran amuck as to who actually committed the crime. The suspects ranged from the Indians at Camp Date Creek, to Mexicans led by Joaquin Barbe, to crooked military officers, to Anglo men from Prescott who knew there was a lot of money on the stage. An initial outcry almost led to the a complete massacre of the Indians at Date Creek, but for the intervention by General George Crook. Still, sentiments ran high that the Indians were in fact the murderers.

Eventually, the investigations included suspecting Kruger and Mollie of pulling off the robbery themselves. But lack of evidence set them free, and the couple went on to California where they received celebrity status because of newspaper reports about the robbery. On January 3, 1872, the Los Angeles Daily News ran an article consisting of an interview with both Kruger and Mollie. Both claimed they each lost $8,000 to the robbers. But in February, the Weekly Arizona Miner began accusing Kruger of slander and lying.

In the meantime, General George Crook of Fort Whipple was put in charge of the investigation, resulting in a skirmish at Camp Date Creek and the killing of two Indians. Another was arrested. In addition, Phoenix deputies went after Barbe and his gang. The leader and another Mexican were “escorted” out of town and subsequently “shot to death by the deputies during an argument.” Other Mexican suspects met their ends in jail and at the hands of others.

By April of 1874, Mollie Sheppard was nowhere to be found. Kruger told others that Mollie had died from her wounds, but gave no other information. It is presumed she died sometime after January 11, 1872, the date she was last seen with Kruger in San Francisco. Some historians have offered the theory that Kruger actually killed Mollie, but there is no evidence to prove it.

In 1937, the Arizona Highway Department erected an official plaque in memory of the victims of the Wickenburg Massacre. Eleven years later, in March of 1948, the Wickenburg Saddle Club made their first trek to the massacre site. The Club found five of the graves and erected a marker and a plaque, neither of which survive today. Writer Allan Hall insinuates that the marker was on Highway 60 and not at the actual massacre site. He also submits through his research that the victims’ graves in Wickenburg were “reportedly ‘disturbed’ in 1949 and then disappeared from local records.”

The Wickenburg Saddle Club placed a second plaque at the site in 1988. Today the graves of those who died at the Wickenburg Massacre exist very near where the robbery occurred. There was no pattern to the graves, indicating the victims were likely buried where they were found. Those interred there include Frederick W. Loring, C.S. Adams, John Lanz, Fred W. Shoholm, W.G. Salmon and P.M. Hamel. Curiously, a seventh grave was identified by the Saddle Club as being that of a woman.

Also during their excursion to the site, the Saddle Club claimed to have found an area some seventy five feet east of the graves where a second set of graves contained seven more males, two of which were believed to be Indians. Also, an abandoned ranch on the way to the site revealed six or seven more graves. Allan Hall counted ten graves at the massacre site, far too many than the number of victims reported. He also reported six to eight graves at a distance of fifty to 150 yards from the massacre site. Then in 2011, a different marker commemorating the massacre was identified as being located near “the airport”, located three and a half miles from the site.

So, what really happened to Mollie Sheppard? The Wickenburg Saddle Club has a theory that Mollie and Kruger had enough time to gather their valuables before escaping the stagecoach, burying them as they fled from the robbers. Returning to the site sometime later, the Club speculates Kruger killed Mollie and buried her with the others. Or, perhaps someone else killed Mollie. Wherever she ended up, Mollie Sheppard remains an enduring legend in Arizona history.

An Old Time Christmas, Arizona Style

CHRISTMAS 1898c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in Frontier Gazette magazine.

Amongst historians, there is some dispute as to whether anybody in Prescott had a Christmas tree during the city’s first holiday season in 1863. By the late 1880’s however, Prescott knew full well how to get its Christmas on. In 1886, local newspapers were informing citizens that “Christmas trees are now in order” and published the highlights of Brooklyn Magazine’s December issue for those who could not afford their own copy. Prescottonians also celebrated the coming of the new Prescott & Arizona Central Railroad, which general manager T.S. Bullock announced would make its inaugural run into town on Christmas day. Bullock cheerfully promised the “railroad boys” would celebrate their Christmas dinner in Prescott.

Christmas presents were all the rage, even back then. At Christmas in 1886, mercantile magnate Harry Goldwater presented a handsome cane, made by inmates at Yuma’s Territorial Prison, to the editor of Prescott’s Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner. In the days before WalMart, more common folks shopped at such unique places as Baumann’s Candy Store in the Bellevue Hotel (where buyers could purchase tree decorations and children could visit with Santa Claus), and J.W. Wilson’s place which promised “toys and Christmas goods without end.” Mrs. D.J. Sullivan’s prices promised to be “less than Eastern prices” and with a good selection to boot. J.L. Fisher’s advertised Christmas cards, adding, “There are a few bad places on the Montezuma Street [read: the notorious saloons along Whiskey Row] sidewalk, but, ’tis strange how they will flock up to J.L. Fisher’s for toys, Christmas goods, furniture, etc. etc. etc.” For many years, Aitken’s was the place to go for a pleasing array of candy and fresh nuts.

Some even dared venture down to Joe On Lung’s Chinese and Japanese Bazaar down on Granite Street, directly across from the Union Saloon and Prescott’s red light ladies. Indeed, the grand opening of P.L. Kastner’s new tavern on Christmas Eve in 1888 was no doubt much celebrated. In keeping with barroom etiquette, merchant George Washington Ford recommended a box of imported Key West El Modelo Cigars as a fitting present for gentlemen. At the Fireman’s Ball at Christmas in 1889, however, the fancy affair promised the presence of “floor managers” who would “do everything possible to make the ball a pleasant affair for all who attend.” No riff-raff would be permitted to the dance, which promised music by the Whipple Band, electric lights, and a proper “Ladies’ Dressing Room.”

Likewise, rabble-rousers were no doubt turned away from the beautiful Victorian home of Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Bashford at Christmas in 1894. The Bashfords were leading Prescott merchants who hosted an annual Christmas market and musicale. For twenty-five cents, guests could enjoy refreshments, a several musical numbers and a variety of goods for sale that included needlework, homemade candy and fresh-cut flowers. Despite the inclement weather, the party was deemed a success (An intriguing sidenote: the Bashford’s home was moved to Sharlot Hall Museum in 1974 and today serves as the Museum’s gift shop). Not to be outdone, Mrs. B.H. Smith threw a similar soiree a few weeks later, charging a dollar to gentlemen and fifty cents to the ladies.

Mince pies, Christmas turkeys and Oregon apples graced every table, according to newspapers. An 1891 article recommended the turkey be “as large as possible and fat” and gave an most tempting recipe for dressing that included roasted chestnuts, stale bread and corn muffins, fresh oysters, onion, celery, parsley, cayenne, butter and mashed hard-boiled eggs, all mixed together with the juice from the cooked turkey. More recipes and ideas for home made gifts were available in the Ladies Home Journal, well on its way to being the premier magazine for the lady of the house.

Like today, the wealthier Christmas shoppers thronged in the streets, clamoring for gifts and taking part in numerous celebrations. But also like today, the sentiments among the Victorians of the past still rings true. “One need not be rich to enjoy making Christmas present,” the Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner reminded everyone in 1892. “It is not the value of what is given, but the feeling which prompts the gift that makes the pleasure.” And, there was little sympathy towards the familiar cry of “Is that all I got?” amongst gift recipients. “Perhaps if those who received no Christmas gifts could get those given to people who do not appreciate them,” lectured the Miner in 1895, “everybody would be happier.”