Crime Doesn't Pay: A Group of Bandits Receive the Law's Justice | HistoryNet

Crime Doesn’t Pay: A Group of Bandits Receive the Law’s Justice

By Jay L. Warner
June 2019 • Wild West

Murdering bandits robbed a mule train in Arizona Territory and were caught. Town folk soon strung them up from the old sycamore

 

In the 1880s, Globe was a booming mining town in Gila County, Arizona Territory, though it remained dependent for supplies brought in by stagecoach and pack train. Cargo delivered by train to Casa Grande on the Southern Pacific Railroad was put on an eastbound stage for Pioneer Pass in the rugged Pinal Mountains. From there it was transferred to a mule train manned by a packer and a mounted Wells, Fargo & Co. shotgun messenger for the final 12-mile stretch to Globe. On August 20, 1882, the packer was Frank Porter, the messenger Andy Hall. This time, along with supplies, they were packing a strongbox loaded with $5,000 in gold coins—payroll for the McMorris silver mine. Globe-based photographer Cicero Grime, his diminutive miner-millhand brother, Lafayette, and associate Curtis B. Hawley, a wood and charcoal supplier, learned of the payroll shipment and plotted to grab it. Their plan called for the trio to ambush the mule train and create an “Indian scare,” blasting away with rifles until Porter and Hall hightailed it without the gold. Hawley had a 16-shot Henry rifle. Lafayette served with the Globe Rangers, a group formed to defend against raiding Apaches, and on some pretense “borrowed” a .50-caliber Springfield rifle from his captain, Dan Lacy.

At the Pioneer Pass stage station that Sunday morning, Cicero Grime watched Porter and Hall transfer their cargo to the mule train and saddle the lead roan with the strongbox. He noted that Hall carried a handgun, but Porter was unarmed. Riding north ahead of the train, Cicero relayed the information to brother Lafayette and Hawley, who had slipped out of Globe afoot to set up their ambush about four miles from town. Cicero then returned to Globe, leaving the duo to carry out the robbery.

Due to the steepness of the trail, Hall and Porter had split the mule train in two sections. When the first section reached the ambush site, Grime and Hawley shot and killed the lead roan and grazed Hall in the hip with a bullet. Hollering war whoops, the outlaws kept firing until Hall and Porter retreated to seek cover in the underbrush. The panicked mules bolted in all directions. Hall told Porter to ride to Globe for help while he sought to recapture the spooked animals. Amid the melee, Grime slunk down to the dead roan, cut the pack ropes, broke open the strongbox and emptied the gold coins into saddlebags. The plan had worked to perfection. Grime and Hawley made off on foot with the loot, headed west.

Mine owner Dr. William F. Vail of Globe was out riding that morning when he heard shots and prudently went in another direction. He chose the wrong direction. A half-mile farther he ran across Grime and Hawley. Dismounting to speak with them, Vail inquired about the shooting. Their responses made him suspicious, so he mounted his horse to leave. The outlaws shot him, dropping the doctor to the ground. Leaving him for dead, the pair put more distance between them and the ambush site before stopping to rest in hiding along a ridge.

Meanwhile, having corralled the mules, Hall set out on foot after the attackers, still not knowing whether they were Apaches or outlaws. He was approaching their hiding spot when Grime fired a wayward shot at him. Drawing his pistol, Hall took cover and hollered a warning. Emerging from hiding, the pair apologized, claiming they had mistaken the messenger for an Indian. Hall replied that attacking Apaches had wounded him. Feigning concern, the outlaws insisted on escorting him to Globe.

As the three men walked side by side, the already suspicious Hall noticed Grime was shouldering a heavy load in his saddlebags, and he kept his revolver unholstered. The outlaws knew they couldn’t allow Hall to reach Globe. Falling behind the messenger, Hawley shot him in the back. Hall dropped to his knees and, though gravely wounded, gamely emptied his pistol at the pair, missing his mark. The outlaws shot him seven more times, delivering a coup de grâce as the messenger lay on the ground.

Around noon, Porter arrived in Globe and reported the attack on the mule train to Gila County Sheriff William W. Lowther. He in turn telegraphed Pinal County Sheriff Pete Gabriel, who doubled as a deputy U.S. marshal. Riding to the ambush site, Lowther and posse found the dead roan, the empty strongbox, scattered mail, spent rifle shells and footprints, some that were unusually small (Lafayette Grime wore a size 4 shoe). The posse then split up to follow the various tracks. Two deputies found Vail, who was barely hanging on. Before dying the doctor described his attackers, though he couldn’t name them. Other possemen soon came upon the body of Hall. One of them, Eugene Middleton, was a member of the Globe Rangers, and after hearing the evidence, he told Lowther he suspected one of the holdup men was fellow ranger Lafayette Grime.

By the time Sheriff Gabriel reached Globe that Tuesday, Hall and Vail had been buried. The marshal spoke with Captain Lacy of the Globe Rangers, who also suspected Grime, as the borrowed rifle Lafayette had returned had been fired and was all scratched up. When found and questioned, Grime denied any involvement in the robbery and murders. Eavesdropping on the interrogation from hiding, Gabriel suddenly showed himself. “That’s the man!” he exclaimed. “Put the handcuffs on him. I was on the hill and saw him shoot at Hall three times.” Caught off guard, Grime blurted, “No, I didn’t—I only shot at him twice.” At that point Grime confessed and ratted out Hawley, though he insisted his brother had only served as a lookout. Authorities quickly arrested Cicero Grime and Hawley, and Gabriel transported the trio to E.A. Saxe’s nearby ranch for safekeeping.

For more on murderous bandits and swift justice check out A Tale of Two Lawmen

A jurisdictional dispute arose when Lowther arrived at the ranch after midnight on Wednesday morning. The Gila County sheriff demanded custody of the prisoners for suspected murder, while Marshal Gabriel claimed the trio for the theft of the U.S. mail. Consulted later that morning, Gila County District Attorney John D. McCabe sided with Lowther, and Gabriel turned over the outlaws. Riding into Globe, the sheriff took the three prisoners to the old adobe that served as a jail. When notified of the arrests, the Wells, Fargo superintendent replied in a terse telegram: Damn the money. Hang the murderers.

That evening a group of armed citizens showed up, eager to mete out swift justice. Lowther refused to surrender his prisoners but consented to have the trio brought before Justice of the Peace George A. Allen for a hearing of sorts at T.C. Stallo’s dance hall, where the bar was closed to ensure a sober jury. Having confessed, the outlaws were found guilty and sentenced to hang; disclosing the whereabouts of the stolen money did them no good. Pointing to her three young children, Cicero Grime’s wife pleaded for his life, as did the Reverend D.W. Calfee and even Dr. Vail’s widow. The mob relented, and Cicero was later sentenced to 21 years at the Yuma Territorial Prison. As for Lafayette Grime and Hawley, at about 2 in the morning of Aug. 24, 1882, the crowd marched them to a sycamore tree in the middle of Broad Street to meet their maker.

Lafayette Grime lost his nerve and swooned when shown the rope. Receiving permission to remove his telltale tiny boots, he expressed regret for his crimes and stated he deserved death. Hawley was game to the end. “What the devil is the future to me?” he said, refusing all prayers. “I want to get away from this mob.” Stepping into their nooses with hands tied, the two were jerked off the ground into eternity. Cicero Grime spent a short time at Yuma before he was declared insane and sent to the asylum at Stockton, Calif. One day he simply walked away and vanished.

Most residents of wild-and-woolly Arizona Territory were supportive of the action taken in Gila County. Globe citizens dubbed the sycamore the “Hanging Tree,” considering it, in the words of the Arizona Daily Star, “a monument to the sturdy spirit of justice.” It too was ill-fated. On June 9, 1894, a fire devastated Globe and damaged the sycamore. Two years later the sheriff declared its scorched hulk a public hazard and hired a cowboy to cut it down.

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