Hysterical Journey To Historic Places

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February 12th 2013
Published: February 12th 2013
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From Fort Grant Road at Exit 340 in Willcox take I-10 southwest about 9 miles to Hwy 191. Turn south on Hwy 191 and about 5 miles further. Just past the railroad crossing turn right and follow the signs to the little town of Cochise.

Burt Alvord was a well-regarded lawman in Cochise County. In 1897 he was appointed town constable in Willcox. It was a fun job that suited his special talent for bruising up rambunctious miscreants and busting their pumpkin heads. It did not pay very handsomely though and he was having trouble making ends meet. In order to supplement his modest income Burt and his pal, Billy Stiles, decided to branch out into robbing trains. The two of them put together a good plan although it involved robbing the store of a friend in Willcox for the dynamite needed to open the express safe. The blasting caps, fuses and more dynamite were pilfered from a mine in Dos Cabezas. For muscle they brought in two of Billy’s drinking pals, Matt Burts and Bill Downing. Bill was a fairly successful rancher and part time deputy constable. Bill also supplied good sound horses to the effort. Agreeing to take part in a train robbery was a momentary lapse of good judgment for him; and for Alvord too, but Billy Stiles made it seem so easy. The Southern Pacific train they had targeted was supposed to be carrying the payroll for the mines in Pearce. On September 9, 1899 the train pulled in to Cochise Station to water up for the pull on to Benson. Matt Burts captured the engineer and fireman, while Stiles and Downing controlled the passengers and crew, none of whom were robbed or hurt. The telegraph lines were cut earlier and the passenger cars were disconnected at the station. The express car was pulled a mile or so west of the station and it also was disconnected. The locomotive was sent further down the tracks. The safe in the express car was blown open and looted of about $2500. The lucrative payroll was not there, but it was a successful robbery. Burt Alvord remained in a Willcox saloon to establish an alibi and then took a pursuing posse off on a wild goose chase. Matt Burts took his share of the booty and went off to Oregon; Downing took his and retired to his ranch. Alvord and Stiles did not find themselves quite on easy street because of the missing payroll so they began planning another robbery. The second attempt failed and Alvord and Stiles were caught. The photo shows the water tower at Cochise Station. It is all that is left of the station there.


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