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Burt Alvord

Updated: Feb 20

Burt Alvord was born 1876 in Arizona Territory. At the Age of 15 he witness one of the most infamous gunfights of U.S. history when he took on a job as a stable hand at the O.K. Correl. He was present when the lynching of John Heath took place. Later he would go on to serve as a deputy under the famous lawman John Slaughter. But Alvord would fall to heavy drinking, organized a gang, and become an outlaw himself involved in a string of robberies from Arizona into Mexico.

Burt Alvord was 15 years old when he was living in Tombstone with his father. He took a job as a stable hand at the O.K. Corral and happened to be working on that cold October day in 1881 when the Earp’s along with Doc Holiday confronted the Cowboys in the vacant lot. Alvord had no idea that the 30 second gunfight he had witnessed would be one of the most famous gunfights to go down in history. And that it would ignite a war that had been brewing between the two parties for months.

Another incident that Alvord witnessed was the lynching of John Heath who was involved in the Bisbee Massacre. December 8, 1883 a gang of five, Dan Dowd, Red Sample, Tex Howard, Bill DeLaney, and Dan Kelly rode into Bisbee to the Goldwater & Castaneda Mercantile store to steal a $7,000 dollar payroll for the Copper Queen Mine. Three men were posted outside with the horses and the other two went inside to get the money. The two men would come to find out that that payroll had not arrived. They decided to take what they could from the mercantile’s safe and people inside. Once they took what they could, they ran out the front door and the three men posted outside started to shooting. Soon two people were wounded and four dead including the town sheriff and a pregnant women. John Heath although was not present during the robbery, was the mastermind that put it all together. Eventually all men would be caught and put on trial. The trials for the five killers started February 17, 1884 in Tombstone and were convicted on first-degree murder and sentenced to hang on March 28. Heath who was tried separately was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in Yuma Prison. The people of Cochise County were not happy with the sentencing. On February 22, an angry lynch mob formed and busted in the Tombstone jail and took Heath to the corner of 1st and Toughnut Street where they threw a rope over a telephone pole. Heath yelled out “I have faced death too many times to be disturbed when it actually comes. Don’t mutilate my body or shoot me full of holes!” After those last words from John Heath he hung until he took his last breath.

John Heath Lynched

The five killers after being hung were laid to rest at Boot Hill. There is a marker for John Heath as well at Boot Hill but records indicate that his body may have been returned to his family.

In 1886 John Slaughter was elected Cochise County Sheriff and hired Alvord as his deputy. Together for three years they tracked and captured outlaws and brought them to justice. Alvord quickly gained a reputation of an excellent tracker.

In 1889 Alvord begin to drink heavily. He would jump from saloon to saloon around Tombstone. His drinking started to effect his judgment as a deputy and not to mention his reputation started to decline because his association with outlaws that would frequent the same saloons.

On night, Alvord with two cowboys named Fuller and Fortino were liquored up and stumbled into a house owned by Slaughter that he would use if he had to stay close to town. The two cowboys got into an argument and Fuller grabbed Alvord’s pistol and shot Fortino dead. Alvord was too drunk to prevent the incident from happening.

Slaughter who was in town heard the shots and ran to scene and saw Fortino dead, Fuller with his deputy’s gun in hand, and Alvord drunk. Slaughter was so outraged by what he had come upon, began to yell at Alvord so loud that the people of Tombstone begin to gather around to see what was happening. Slaughter, which did not mix words made it clear that he was not happy with Alvord’s drinking and he couldn’t believe that his deputy was so drunk that he let a person grab his gun to shot another.

After Slaughter served two terms as sheriff chose not to run for a third. This meant the Burt Alvord who was dependent on John Slaughter was out of a job. He drifted south of the border into Mexico and tried his hand at rustling.

Alvord and would eventually move back to Arizona. He first moved to Fairbanks then on to Willcox. Both towns he worked as a deputy sheriff. The drinking and socializing with outlaws would not change and it was in Willcox where Burt Alvord would meet fellow deputy Billy Stiles and the two would come up with a plan in their minds would provide great cover and fast money.

Billy Larkin Stiles was born in September of 1871 in Casa Grande, Arizona Territory. Early in his life he worked as a prospector and a ranch hand. In Willcox, he took a job as a Deputy Sherriff and who at one time, also served under John Slaughter and another sheriff named Jeff Milton.

Alvord and Stiles were not happy with their income as sheriffs and wanted more money. They came up with the idea of forming a gang to rob trains and being the law, could mislead investigations and them themselves, and would not be suspected in any way of being involved.

Alvord and Stiles formed a gang with a group of outlaws named “Three Fingered” Jack Dunlop, Bravo Juan Yolas, Bob Brown, and Brothers George and Louis Owens. They were able to successfully pull of a string of train robberies in Cochise County. It all came to a holt when they attempted to rob a train from Nogales bound for Benson with a stop in-between at Fairbanks. This attempt would be known as the Fairbank Train Robbery.

Alvord and Stiles wanted to rob the Southern Pacific’s Wells Fargo express car that would be holding the army’s payroll for the soldiers stationed at Fort Huachuca. The train would leave Nogales and make a stop at Fairbank to unload cargo before making its final stop at Benson. The men thought Fairbanks was a perfect location to hold-up the train because it was a few miles west of Tombstone with not much surrounding the station.

It was the night of February 15, 1900 when the gang road into town except Alvord and Stiles of course. The gang tied their horses up and tried to fit in around the station among the other people not trying not to bring any attention to them. They could see that the train was coming and waited for it to stop before they could see Jeff Milton standing at the door of the express car. By this time the former sheriff was working for the Southern Pacific express messenger and was covering for a friend on this particular route. The gang yelled “Hands up!” at Milton, and didn’t realize what was going on until the outlaws started shooting at him. He had left his revolver on the desk of the express car but quickly grabbed a scatter gun in his reach. Milton didn’t fire back because he had concern that he would hit an innocent bystander in the crossfire. Milton was struck in the left shoulder and fell to the ground and tried scooting himself back out of sight of gunfire. Just as he got back Dunlop and Yoas tried to rush the express car with Dunlop entering first, Milton raised the shotgun and fired at Dunlop. Dunlop went down body full of pellets and Yoas was hit by a pellet in his upper leg.

After the outlaws saw Dunlop and Yoas get shot a few seconds went by before the others started shooting at the express car again. Yoas was able to make his way to his horse and road away. With the bullets hitting the car which seem to come from every direction, Milton crawled over to the door of the car and slammed it shut. Bullets still hitting the car and Milton badly wounded, was losing consciousness. He took the key to the safe and hid it behind some luggage and passed out.

When the robbers broke through the door they saw Milton. And because he was bleeding and unconscious, they thought they had killed him. They searched for the key and were unable to find it. And On top of that, they had not dynamite to blast open the safe. The picked up the wounded Dunlop and draped him over his horse and rode out to town.

Riding for Tombstone, the gang left Dunlop behind because he was slowing them down. Plus they didn’t think he would survive the ride. They gave him a bottle of whiskey for his pain and rode off. By this time a posse was had formed with Sheriff Scott White. They stumbled upon a dying Dunlop the next day. And a couple days later captured Brown and the Owens brothers in the Dragoon Mountains.

Dunlop, who was taken into custody and in a Tombstone hospital, reviled that it was Alvord and Stiles who organized the robbery and they were involved in many more train robberies. He would die shortly after. He would be the last person to be buried at Boothill.

At first, the confession of Dunlop was not believed. But with Alvord acting suspicious during the investigation started to raise question. Billy Stiles was questioned and made a full confession. He also confessed of another train robbery made in the town of Cochise On September 9, 1899. He said that Burt Alvord and a man named William Downing planned the robbery and provided the dynamite to blast open the safe. And it was Stiles and another man who carried out the robbery. The confession of stiles was believed to be because he was angry at Alvord for the small amount he received for his cut.

Alvord was quickly arrested and put in the Tombstone jail. Downing, Burns and Yoas were also in the same Tombstone jail. Stiles who in custody but treated as a witness had a change of heart. On April 7, 1900, he broke into the jail and shot deputy marshal George Bravin in the foot and freed Alvord and Yoas. Downing refused to leave his cell. They took what weapons they could find and fled on stolen horses.

In March on 1901 the Governor Oakes Murphy, re-established the Arizona Ranger. Burton C. Mossman was appointed the captain and assigned to the capture of Augustine Chacon. Chacon was wanted for murder, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and horse theft. He was considered a Robin Hood type of outlaw to the people and they would protect him. This made it hard to capture him. Almost every well known lawman at one point in time made an attempt to capture Chacon including John Slaughter.

Burton Mossman had an idea of making a deal with Alvord to help capture Chacon. Burt Alvord actually knew Augustine Chacon and he needed Alvord to trick Chacon into crossing over the Arizona boarder so he could arrest him legally. In exchange, Alvord would turn himself in for a reduced sentence and the reward money on Chacon’s head. First he had to locate Alvord.

On April 22, 1902, Mossman tracked and found Alvord’s hideout. It was in a small cabin a couple miles from San Jose de Pima. When the captain approached the cabin, Alvord was standing outside alone while Stiles and the rest of the gang were inside playing poker. Alvord quickly went on alert thinking the law and finally caught up with him and was coming to arrest or kill him. Mossman assured him that he was by himself and wanted to talk to him regarding a deal. The two men talked and once Alvord was convinced that the deal presented to him was legit he accepted. Alvord also wanted Stiles in on the deal so he could use him as a messenger between them. The deal was made; Alvord and Stiles set out to find Chacon.

Alvord located Chacon three months later. Alvord, acting as an undercover agent for Mossman, quickly fell in the inner-circle with Chacon. He carefully gained the trust of Chacon and was able to convince him to cross the border into Arizona to steal some horses from a ranch. Chacon agreed and Alvord sent Stiles to inform Mossman of the plan and the location of their camp and a point where they could ambush them to arrest Chacon once they had crossed.

Once the Chacon and Alvord crossed the border, it was late in the afternoon and Chacon felt it was too late and they could steal the horses the following day. Mossman and Stiles caught up with Chacon and Alvord at their camp. Mossman, not reveling who he was, was introduced to Chacon. And because he trusted Alvord, he had no idea that he was just introduced to an Arizona Ranger that was assigned by the Governor of Arizona to arrest him.

Early next morning, Alvord got up and walked quietly over to Mossman. He kneeled down and told him that he had done his part and was leaving and it was up to him how he arrested Chacon. He also told him that he hopes that he keeps his end of the deal. Then Alvord mounted his horse and left.

When everyone started to wake up, Stiles was next to Chacon and Mossman, asked him for a cigarette. Chacon handed him one and Mossman proceeded to light it with a twig from the fire that was still smoldering. As soon as he lit his cigarette, he quickly dropped the twig and pulled out his revolver and told Chacon to put his hands up. According to some sources, Mossman said: "Hands up, Chacon," to which the Chacon replied: "Is this a joke?" Mossman replied: "No. Throw your hands up or you're a dead man." Chacon then said: "I don't see as it makes any difference after he is dead whether man's hands are up or down. You're going to kill me anyway, why don't you shoot?"

Mossman had disarmed Chacon. He and Stiles tied Chacon’s hands and placed him on his horse. From there, they went to Benson. Chacon did make a couple of attempts to escape the custody of Mossman on the way but was unsuccessful. Once they reached Benson, he was then handed over to sheriff Jim Parks and boarded a train to Solomonville to face the judge.

Augustine Chacon had already been sentenced to hang originally on June 18, 1897 a stabbing of a general store manager in Morenci, Arizona but had escaped from the Solomonville jail on June 9th. So his next court appearance would be just to set a new execution date.

On the night of December 18, Chacon and two of his gang members Pilar Franco and Leonardo Morales broke into the McCormack’s General Store. The manager Paul Becker lived in the back of the store and as they stumbled on him Chacon took out a knife and stabbed him many times. Once they thought he was dead, they went through the store and took what they could. Becker who actually survived the stabbing laid still and waited for the outlaws to leave before he got up and stumbled into a saloon looking for the local law. By this time, Chacon and his gang were already on their way to cabin which they used as a hideout. This cabin gave them an advantage because it was high enough on a hill to oversee the town and they could see anyone approaching long before they could make it to the cabin.

The following morning, the town sheriff organized a posse and was hot on the trail of Chacon and his men. They followed the trail that took them to the cabin. As soon as the posse reached the hilltop, Chacon and five other men busted through the cabin door firing their revolvers. The gang ran for big rocks that surrounded the cabin. After a few moments of gun fire, the sheriff yelled out to them that they were under arrest. The shooting started again. Heavy fire from both sides went back and forth. A deputy named Pablo Salcido who was part of the posse yelled out to Chacon and said he wanted to speak to him. Chacon told him to walk over to where they were. Salcido slowly crept towards Chacon’s position and as soon as Salcido was in the open Chacon fired at Salcido and with one shot, hitting the deputy directly in the head killing him before his lifeless body hit the ground. The shooting continued again and an estimated 300 rounds were fired between the two parties before Franco and Morales along with the other two men decided to make a run for it leaving Chacon to fight for himself. A few men who had volunteered to join the posse were able to kill the fleeing outlaws. Chacon kept up the fight until the posse was able to move in on him. Chacon was shot in the chest and shoulder and he fell to the ground unable to continue the fight. This would be known as the town’s bloodiest fight and dubbed the Gunfight at Morenci.

Chacon recovered from his wounds and waited for his trial. He would eventually be convicted for the murder of Deputy Pablo Salcido and sentenced to hang on Jun 18th. But June 9th Chacon was able to escape and slip into Mexico. They believe that people were visiting Chacon in jail and bringing him tools to dig his way out of the adobe jail walls. The fellow inmates would sing and play the guitar to cover up the noise that Chacon would make during his dig. It worked and he was a fee man.

But now he found himself in custody again 6 years later. And not just by a town posse but the Arizona Rangers. The plan Mossman worked out with Alvord was successful like he hoped. Chacon was sentenced to hang November 14, 1902. But because he was popular among the people a petition was started to reduce Chacon’s sentence to life in prison. The campaign would be unsuccessful and November 21, 1902 would be the new execution date for Augustine Chacon.

Augustine Chacon circa 1900

Chacon was held in a steel cage heavily guarded and the scaffold that was built for Chacon for his original execution date back in 1897 would be the scaffold used. Fourteen foot adobe walls surrounded the scaffold and the execution was by invite only to view the hanging. That morning Chacon had breakfast and was aloud two of his friends to visit him. The two friends were named Jesus Bustos and Sisto Molino. A Catholic Priest was allowed to stay with him for the day. At noon he was given lunch. After lunch he was able to shave and dressed in a new black suit that was giving to him. Chacon appeared at 2:00pm and when he entered the adobe walls people were waiting to greet him. He asked for a cigarette and a cup of coffee and delivered a speech the lasted nearly 30 minutes. Speaking in Spanish with and English interpreter, Chacon claimed he was innocent of killing his friend, Pablo Salcido, or anybody else for that matter, but he did say that he was guilty of stealing and “many other things.” After a second cigarette and cup of coffee, Chaco requested that he be allowed to live until 3:00 pm, but was denied. While walking up the steps of the scaffold, Chacon shook the hands of his friends and admirers. When the rope was in place around his neck, Chacon’s final words were “Adios, todos amigos.

Augustine Chacon Execution Solomonville, Arizona

Chacon was buried in a San Jose Cemetery. He’s gravestone reads:


1861 – 1902




When Alvord quietly told Mossman that he hoped he would keep his end of the deal the morning Mossman arrested Chacon, it would go on to be Alvord who didn’t keep his end of the deal. He had second’s thoughts and didn’t turn himself in.

Now Alvord and Stiles were wanted by the Arizona Rangers. They were tracked and captured in December of 1904. While the two men were in custody, they were able to escape. They were able to elude the Rangers and slip into Mexico.

While hiding out in Mexico, Alvord came up with an idea of sending two dead bodies back to Tombstone with a note saying they were the bodies of Burt Alvord and Bill Stiles. They had almost gotten away with it but with further examination of the bodies, they determined it was actually two dead Mexicans. It’s not sure if Alvord and Stiles committed the murder of the two men that they had sent back to Tombstone.

Now high on the Rangers wanted list, the Governor of Arizona sent the Rangers into Mexico. They tracked them down near Norco on February of 1904. Not wanting to be captured, they shot it out with the Rangers. Alvord was wounded and captured. There are two different reports regarding Billy Stiles on that day. One story is that he too was wounded and captured. The second story is, once Alvord went down he had made a run for it and escaped.

Some reports indicate that Stiles moved to the Orient after his escape. Then he would eventually return to the United States under the name William Larkin and took a job as a deputy sheriff in Humboldt County, Nevada. On December 5, 1908, Stiles went to the ranch to serve a summons to a man named Charley Barr. Unable to locate him Stiles saw a barn that he had not checked. As he approached the barn, Barr stepped out shooting at Stiles hitting him three times killing him. Barr was arrested and acquitted on all charges.

Burt Alvord at the Yuma Territorial Prison in 1904

Alvord spent two years in prison. After his release Alvord moved to South America where he was last seen in 1910 working as a canal employee.


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