In the early 1900s, Las Vegas, Nevada, was a small community that provided supplies for mining operations at El Dorado, Nelson and Searchlight. Nearby was an Indian reservation, home to a mixed group of Paiute, Mohave and Cocopa. It is there that the story of a killer named Queho begins.
Tracing Queho’s early years is difficult. Indian tribal records hold no information about him, but it is generally agreed that he was the son of a Paiute man and a Cocopa woman. And he was born with a clubfoot. Because of Queho’s deformity and his mixed birth, he apparently became an outcast, accepted by neither tribe. A present-day psychiatrist, reading Queho’s case history, might say that all his personal conflicts and inadequacies became too much for him to handle, and in 1910 he began to ‘act out’ his aggressions. Law enforcement officers and Las Vegas area residents of that time would have put it more bluntly. They would have told you that a crazy Indian had run amok and was endangering everyone in the vicinity.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, 1910, Queho shot and killed an Indian named Bismark on the reservation. There are also unconfirmed accounts that he killed two other Paiute Indians on the same day and stole their horses to escape. While stocking up on supplies in Las Vegas, he argued with merchant Hy Von and then beat him with a pick handle, breaking the man’s arms and fracturing his skull. Queho fled south to Nelson, where he left the horses and entered the El Dorado Mountains on foot. A hastily formed posse from Las Vegas trailed him into the mountains. At about the same time, word was brought to Nelson and Searchlight that a local woodcutter named Woodworth had been shot and killed by Queho.
Because the first posse could not be immediately contacted, a second posse was formed under the leadership of Deputy Sheriff Howe, and the group set out at once for the scene of the Woodworth killing. There, they found the distinctive print left by Queho’s clubfoot. The tracks led down the El Dorado Canyon to the Gold Bug mine. At the mine, Howe and his posse found the body of ‘Doc’ Gilbert, the watchman, and noted that his special deputy badge No. 896 had been ripped from his shirt and taken. The trail continued down El Dorado Canyon toward the Colorado River, and the second posse continued in swift pursuit. Queho eluded capture, however, and eventually both posses gave up the chase.
Nevada State Police Sergeant Newgard was called in to continue the search. Newgard went to El Dorado Canyon with several Indian trackers and two experienced hunters. For days at a time they would find no sign, but then they would uncover the characteristic clubfoot track, and the pursuit would go forward again. Finally, Newgard and friends were forced to give up the hunt; they returned to Las Vegas in February 1911, tattered and fatigued.
During the next eight years, a number of mysterious killings occurred in the same Colorado River area where Queho had been hiding out. For reasons unknown, four adults and several children were shot to death on the Arizona side of the river. Lone prospectors and sheepherders were found dead in isolated areas on the Nevada side. In those cases, the victims’ shoes and food supplies were usually stolen. Fear and rumors ran rampant along the river.
In January 1919, Maude Douglas was shot to death and her cabin ransacked near the Techatticup mine in El Dorado Canyon. Undersheriff Frank Wait and Deputy Ernest Lake found Queho’s footprints heading down the canyon toward the Colorado River. They formed a posse to search the rugged cliffs and canyons along the river. At about the same time, two prospectors, Eather Taylor and William Hancock, were found in a canyon a few miles west of the Colorado River; they had been shot in the back, their bodies mutilated and their supplies taken. When Wait’s posse arrived on the scene, they saw Queho’s familiar tracks.
These latest killings set off a manhunt that was to last for almost two months, despite freezing rain and snow. The intense search was conducted both on horseback and on foot along the rugged canyon areas, with Nelson used as headquarters. The posse found the skeletons of two miners who had disappeared several years before, and, though there was no proof, Queho was blamed for two more murders. As the search proceeded, the posse found still-warm campfires and caves that Queho may have used as food caches. But then the bad weather made tracking impossible, and Wait’s posse returned to the comforts of civilization.
In March 1919, the state of Nevada posted a $2,000 reward for the capture of Queho. Arizona officials, believing that some of the unsolved murders on their side of the river were due to Queho, offered $500. Clark County, Nev., added $300, and private individuals were encouraged to contribute to the fund, which soon reached a total of more than $3,000. Undersheriff Wait would periodically leave Las Vegas with a posse to search the area from Searchlight on the south to as far north as the area where Boulder Dam would later be built. But when no further murders were committed, interest in the elusive Indian faded.
Twenty years later, in February 1940, Queho again became a news item. Two prospectors, Arthur Schroeder and Charles Kenyon, discovered the mummified remains of an Indian in a cave located high above the Colorado River on the Nevada side, 1½ miles south of Willow Beach. The corpse was well preserved thanks to the desert climate. It was surrounded by a variety of artifacts, including a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 rifle, a 12-gauge Hopkins & Allen double-barreled shotgun with a rope sling, cooking utensils, crude Indian bows, arrows and Doc Gilbert’s special deputy badge No. 896. Shotgun shells matched the fired cases that had been found beside the body of Maude Douglas in 1919.
A recovery party, including former lawman Frank Wait, Kenyon and Schroeder, identified and removed Queho’s remains and all the items found nearby. The corpse was taken to the Palm Funeral Home in Las Vegas, but that was not the end of Queho’s story. Kenyon, the undisputed finder of the body, demanded that either the reward money be paid him or the body be turned over to him so that he could sell it to the Las Vegas Elks Lodge for exhibition purposes. In the meantime, Judge Nelson of Boulder City issued a court order preventing any parties from taking custody of the corpse or artifacts until a positive identification was made. At this point several Indians living in Clark County brought forward what they said were the remains of Queho, whom they had secretly buried years ago. The Indians claimed to be Queho’s heirs. Judge Nelson, though, ruled that the corpse at the Palm Funeral Home was indeed the Queho for whom rewards had been issued in 1919.
Since neither Nevada nor Arizona seemed disposed to make good on their old reward offers, and since the corpse, weapons and artifacts were beginning to develop a greater value as curios, the legal battle shifted from one of ‘finder’s rights’ to one of legal possession for purpose of sale. In addition, the Parks family, who owned the Palm Funeral Home, demanded that the body be removed and that they be paid for Queho’s storage charges.
As soon as it became known that there would be expenses involved with acquiring the remains, those claiming to be his heirs disappeared, the city of Las Vegas dropped its own claim, and Kenyon withdrew the lawsuit he had filed. After three years, the Parks family issued their ultimatum: Someone must either pay up and pick up Queho at once or the remains would be cremated and the ashes scattered in the desert. Frank Wait paid up and then turned the body over to the Las Vegas Elks Lodge. In their Helldorado Village, the Elks built a facsimile of the cave and enclosed it in glass. Queho and some of his possessions were put on display. Over the next few years the mummy became a great attraction at the annual Helldorado Days celebration. Queho even rode in the back of a convertible in one parade.
As Las Vegas became more sophisticated, however, so did the manner of celebrating Helldorado Days. By the early 1960s, Queho’s remains were no longer an asset for the Elks. Early one January morning in 1962, the Clark County Sheriff’s Department received a call from the caretaker at the county dump, reporting that a body had been found there. Captain Witty, then commanding the homicide bureau, responded to the call. He soon learned that instead of having a murder case on his hands, he had a ‘found mummy’ case. It seems that the Elks Lodge, having tired of the display and not wishing to become involved in the legal complications of body disposal, had taken old Queho to the dump.
The sheriff’s department decided to permanently end their longtime involvement with Queho, and on an order from the county coroner, Queho’s corpse was buried in an unmarked grave in the public portion of the local cemetery. And so the Clark County Sheriff’s Department has seen the last of Queho, the Indian who became the killer hermit of El Dorado Canyon. Or has it? Some of the old-timers are betting he’ll pop up again.
This article was written by Allen P. Bristow and originally appeared in Wild West. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!