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Stolen Mules Incident At The McLaury Ranch
Six government mules were stolen from Camp Rucker during July 1880. Lieutenant James Hurst and a party of soldiers were sent to track down the mules. At Tombstone, Virgil Earp, a deputy United States Marshal, and and his brothers, joined with Hurst's party. The group followed a trail until the reached the McLaury ranch on the Babacomari River.
At the ranch, Hurst and Frank McLaury talked for a few moments before Hurst led the his party off. Hurst thought that he had an agreement with McLaury to have the mule returned. However, Frank's recollection of his talk with Hurst was quite different. A few days later, on July 30, 1880, Hurst placed an ad in the Tombstone Epitaph regarding the mules and an reward. The advertisment identifed the thieves as "Pony Diehl," "A. T. Hansbrough," and "Mac Demasters." Hurst also accused Frank Patterson, Frank McLaury, and Jim Johnson of hiding the stolen stock at or near the McLaury ranch.
When word of Hurst accusation reached Frank McLaury, he sent a scathing advertisement of his own which was published in the Epitaph on August 5, 1880. About his talk with Hurst, McLaury would explain:
I told him that I had not seen either the men or the stock. He asked me if I did not know the men. I replied to that that I knew two of the men. He insisted that I should do what I could to see these men and have the stock returned, and to tell the men that he did not want to make any arrests. I told him I would do what I could to assist him. In the course of the next day I saw Diehl and told him exactly what Hurst had told me. Diehl replied that he knew nothing of the stock and had not seen it. I then saw Hurst and told him what Diehl had said to me, and I interested myself no farther about it.Wyatt Earp later stated the Hurst posse found the missing mules at the McLaury ranch, but Hurst decided not to take posession of the at that time. Yet, this makes no sense whatever. Why organize a posse of nine armed men to searc for missing mules if you are not going to take charge of the when found? Obviously, no missing army mules were seen at the McLaury ranch.
Wyatt Earp would also latter state that the incident created bad blood between the McLaurys and the Earps. Maybe so, but clearly Frank McLaury was more angry with Hurst than anyone else.
Your host is Steve Gatto, author of The Real Wyatt Earp (Edited by Neil Carmony) (2000), Johnny Ringo (2002), Curly Bill, Tombstone's Most Famous Outlaw (2003). Steve's latest work, Hurled Into Eternity, The Story of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has not yet been released.
Portions of the text appearing on this site come from the above books.
|"bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance
proved himself the right man in the right place." Tombstone Epitaph|