Published: December 8th 2012December 8th 2012
DOUBLE CIRCLE HORSE CAMP
McBride Crossing is about ten miles northwest on Eagle Creek Rd from Hwy 191 north of Morenci, AZ. It is right on the boundary of both Graham/Greenlee County and the forest circus/ tribal lands and about 0.15 miles south of where Graham County Rd 1800 joins Eagle Creek Rd. That road junction is in Greenlee County though and so the road is not marked. You will need a vehicle with adequate clearance for several creek crossings. A forest circus map of the area would be useful.
DOUBLE CIRCLE HORSE CAMP
Bronco Bill Walters was as tough as an army boot. He started out as a section hand for the Santa Fe Railroad, but didn’t much care for it. It was hard, demanding work and they treated him like a Chinese coolie so he left in a huff and deeply resented the Santa Fe for the rest of his life. He was a pretty good cow hand when he needed to be one, but when the life of a cowboy wore thin on his patience he sought his pleasure through other means. What pleased him most was robbing trains and the trains he chose to rob were Santa Fe trains of course. His partner was Bill Johnson. They knocked over a train outside of Gallup which hardly seemed worth the effort. They got twenty thousand dollars in currency out of the Wells Fargo box in a robbery at the depot in Belen. A posse led by Valencia County Sheriff Vigil caught up with them on Alamosa Creek and a sharp engagement ensued in which Sheriff Vigil and two deputies were killed and Bronco Bill and Johnson were both wounded. After they had gotten themselves patched up they took on another bandit named Red Pipkin and attempted to knock over the depot at Grants but were driven off empty handed by townsmen. Wells Fargo had quickly grown weary of their antics and put Express Detective Jefferson Davis Milton on their trail. In July of 1898 when the outlaws shot up a community dance at Geronimo in the Arizona Territory it gave Milton a fresh trail to follow. That trail eventually took them to McBride’s Crossing on Eagle Creek where the Double Circle Ranch had a horse camp. Milton’s posse captured the horse camp and held every man there at gunpoint so that word of their presence could not leak out. On July 30, 1898 Milton went fishing in the creek and heard two gunshots nearby. He returned to the camp and picked up his rifle just as the outlaws approached. When the smoke cleared Bronco Bill and Johnson were down with serious gunshot wounds and Pipkin’s horse was dead. Pipkin escaped on foot, Johnson died of his wound the next day and was buried at the horse camp. Bronco Bill recovered from his wound but spent the next 19 years in prison. He was paroled in 1917 and went back to being a cow hand. In 1933 he fell to his death from a windmill near New Hachita, NM. The two shots that warned Milton that the outlaws were nearby were fired by them at a rattlesnake. From that day onward Milton never killed another rattler. The loot from the Belen robbery was never recovered. The photo shows the creek and the glade where the horse camp stood, but the grave has disappeared. Milton has suggested that a bear probably dug Johnson up and ate him.