Here is a story that needs telling - A drifter murders a justice of peace in a Crown King saloon in 1904. The Territorial Governor contributes $250 reward money in addition to $100 from the county sheriff. The story captured the attention of the entire state with news stories printed from Bisbee to Flagstaff. The accused murderer eludes capture for 9 days and then severely beats one of the three deputies who attempt to capture him while he slept.
According to the Bisbee Daily Review, "Justice Killed Near Prescott...Posse Surrounds Murderer and Will Close in This Morning...Judge Reynolds Was Widely Known in the Territory - Was Shot Through the Heart By Mexican Because of Woman". This information is based on the story as report in the Coconino Sun, Arizona Silver Belt, and the Bisbee Daily Review.
Here are the facts as reported:
Justice Reynolds was 60 years old. He was in Crown King on official business, but he spent the much of the day on September 10, 1904 in the local saloon. He spent part of the day drinking and quarreling with Andres Bustamente, a 25-year old man from Mexico. They argued several times about a beautiful Mexican woman. Bustamente may have been a mine worker, or a drifter who frequented the local saloons. After shooting and killing Reynolds, Bustamente "sauntered into another saloon", but quickly left. "Bustamente is said to have a bad reputation and the Mexicans throughout the area are afraid of him".
A $100 reward was offered by the County Sheriff and a $250 reward was offered by Governor Brodie of the Arizona Territory. Bustamente was described as 5'10" and 150 pounds with a scar from a bullet wound on the right side of his neck. Sheriff Roberts led a posse of twenty men in search of Bustamente after the shooting. A miner by the name of Dennis Welsh encountered Bustamente on September 16th near Hot Springs Junction and reported him to the Sheriff. "Bustamente was captured this morning (Sept 19) after a hard fight with three officers. He was tracked to the house of a woman in Columbia (Near Humbug) by three of Sheriff Roberts' deputies and surprised while asleep. As soon as awakened Bustamente got his rifle and before Deputy Mike Welch could defend himself he had been struck two vicious blows over the head, falling to the floor in a senseless condition. The other two deputies closed in on the Mexican, and by beating him severely with revolvers were able to handcuff his wrists."
"Bustamente, charged with the murder of Judge Reynolds at Crown King was yesterday lodged in the county jail. His passage from the depot to the jail was thronged with curious people, fully 100 following him to the portals, from where he may emerge to the scaffold. He appeared to take a keen delight at the notoriety he was receiving and expressed his satisfaction with a broad grin."
My song will explore the ambiguity of the situation: Why did Justice Reynolds spend the day with Bustamente? Was the woman who was the subject of their arguments the same woman who was with Bustamente the day that he was arrested? Was Bustamente protecting Maria in the only way that he knew? While all of the news accounts focused on the "Mexican" no one talked about Reynolds.
These two powerful men collided during a violent period in Arizona history. While Bustamente led a short and violent life, Justice Reynolds may have had a more colorful life than first appears.
Look for my song to be posted on this blog in the coming days.