ON DECEMBER 15, 1844, JOHN WESLEY HEATH WAS BORN in Ohio. When he was still young, his family moved to Texas. Texas is where Heath became a long-horn cattle rustler. He then discovered robbing people and stores was much easier and less risky. Heath married a couple of times. His first wife disappeared rather mysteriously. His second wife gave him three children.
In the early 1880’s, he was living in Cochise Country, Arizona, where he became the deputy sheriff. But he soon realized this was too dangerous and didn’t pay as well as thieving.
In 1884 in Bisbee, Arizona, he masterminded a robbery of the Copper Queen Mine payroll, which he’d heard was being held for safe keeping in the Goldwater and Castenada Store. Things went haywire. His gang shot the sheriff. Then, they shot four innocent people in cold blood, one a pregnant woman. And worse it turns out, the payroll hadn’t arrived in the store yet. The gang got diddly squat, so they ended up robbing the store and the few customers inside. The gang rode slowly out of town, rather nonchalantly after such a massacre, with a few dollars in their pockets.
Outraged for vengeance, the people of Bisbee formed a hard-ass posse and caught the robbers. Because he’d planned the robbery, John Wesley Heath got strung up on a telegraph pole on the corner of First and Toughnut Streets (really) by a mob of vigilantes. His last words were: “Don’t mutilate my body or shoot me full of holes!”
Apparently, the lynching was publicly condoned, as indicated by the coroner’s jury verdict: “We the undersigned, a jury of inquest, find that John Heath came to his death from emphysema of the lungs–a disease common in high altitudes–which might have been caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.”
There was such an abundance of copper and ore in Bisbee that by the turn of the century in 1900, Bisbee had become the largest city between St Louis and San Francisco, with a population of 20,000, and it had become one of the most cultured cities this side of the Mississippi. It built the first ball field in the West. And the first golf course. And an opera house. And breweries.
Today, you’ll find a bit of the Old West still alive in Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee residents have always been a little frayed around the edges, a tough bunch of outliers, unafraid to be exactly who they are—good, bad, ugly, beautiful. You’ll still find the culture of artists and the flare of bohemians. Today, residents pride themselves on allowing anyone in Bisbee to be who they are. Anything goes in Bisbee. For instance, you may find a dog running without a leash, and gay marriage was recognized in Bisbee, long before it was condoned by the state. You might find a breakfast joint named The Whyld Ass Coffee Shop serving a vegan quinoa scramble for breakfast.
If you visit Bisbee, you might want to steer clear of Brewery Gulch after dark. Some say the ghosts of outlaws and ruined women roam the valley. Others say it’s coyotes.
Why go to Bisbee?
- Because it is the quintessential quirky burg on the fringe of nowhere
- Because instead of a five-star, you can rent a vintage 1950’s Airstream trailer to sleep in for the night
- Because you can down hand-crafted beer at a microbrewery
- Because you might see a ghost
- Because you might see a dog, without a leash or master, running down Main Street
- Because it’s there
You can find other entries to DP Photo Challenge here: Numbers
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View other entries to DP Prompts here: Transformation