May 3, 2006
Last night I started my overhead view sketches of the Whambam Payroll Robbery scene. Utilizing the army map, the two surviving photos of the scene as it looked in 1889, and my nine rolls of film I think I’ve got a good mental concept of how the rugged foothills of the Graham mountains spill off into the Gila River Valley. We’ll see. Laid in a light wash this morning of the panorama.
The bizarre twists and ugly aspects of the case are just astounding and I’m going to have trouble squeezing all the good stuff in just six pages. Here’s a few samples:
Wham Payroll Robbery Notes From Last Weekend’s Field Trip
• After driving off the soldiers, the robbers cut loose the surviving mules (9) and these draft animals, some wounded and injured, wandered through the battlefield to the south end where they were found after the fight, standing “up on the hill there sleeping away in the sunshine.”
• The three dead mules were left where they died and at the trial six months later, Major Wham testified their bones were still up there (we didn’t find any trace, but after the fight, many Arizonans travelled to the site to picnic and cleaned pretty much everything of interest away).
• After the fight, Major Wham found “between three and four hundred exploded shells,” in the main robber fort, although at the trial the defense got him to admit he told the grand jury he estimated the number closer to 150. Take your pick, even at 100 that would be a ton of shooting. Keep in mind there were nine forts!
• The robbers stole both Wham’s valise and Gibbon’s, although Wham’s was recovered a mile from the scene and there was blood on the papers. Gibbon's later recanted his testimony and claimed there was no fight and everyone ran away. Two medal of honor winners and ten wounded soldiers would seem to disprove that dubious claim.
Q: Did you hear anybody say anything at the robbery?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What did they say?
A: Look out, you black sons of bitches.
Q: What did you all do?
A: We looked out. . .
—testimony of Pvt. Young
Was the Fight Formal Or Semi-Formal?
Suspect and Mormon, Lyman Follett “had on a kind of light shirt with a black tie.” Wilford Webb wore a “brown jacket, buckskin.”
• Married, with a daughter (both named Mary) Major Wham had been the paymaster for more than a decade at the time of the robbery. He was appointed to the position by President Grant. He is five ten, and a stockily-built man with greying blond hair. He is fond of good horseflesh, at one time owned a racehorse and is known to be somewhat thin-skinned and blusters when his dignity is hurt.
• Wham started in Tucson (on the 7th) and that's where the payroll money came in by train, he says in the trial. It either came from "one of the National Banks in Los Angeles," or from the sub-treasury in San Francisco. Wham's first stop was Fort Huachuca, then back to Fort Bowie, and he spent the night in Willcox (9th) where he picked up additional funds at the railroad station, and then Fort Grant on the 10th. And he was on his way to Fort Thomas on the 11th when he was robbed of $28,000 by Mormons who needed the cash so they could plant crops to sell to the army at Fort Thomas.
• There was about $1,200 in currency which was "put into a sack and the sack rolled up and then rubbers put around it." (They had rubber bands!)
• There were 11 men in the escort, all black: a sergeant, a corporal and nine privates, and they were all riding in the second spring wagon. Must have been big.
We’ve got a major coup brewing on the movie Tombstone. One of our writers, Henry Beck, was interviewing one of the principals in the 1993 cult classic when the Wyatt Earp film came up. The actor, who has a new movie coming out this Friday, launched off on a twenty-minute soul cleansing monologue about what really happened after scribe and first-time-director Kevin Jarr got fired. Now here’s the great part. The actor, who’s married to the gal who was supposed to play Honkytonk Sue, claims he has much of the missing footage in his garage. Stay tuned.
Count Us In, Count
“Two years ago I went to Tombstone and was allowed to take part in one of the shows at the OK corral.
“I mention 'en passant' that I own the original and old antique western saddle that was 'Bucks' in the TV series 'The High Chapparal' -it is in excellent condition! -I feel that this should go back to America, and I would like to sell it--can you advise a good site (other than e-bay) or maybe advertise it in your magazine? Transport costs may be prohibitive though I feel-unless transported by sea. "
—Count Ralph de Straet von Kollman kt ,Shoreham by Sea, West Sussex
Favorite Onion Headline de Jour
Nation’s Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue
”If you live for revenge, better dig two graves.”
—Old Vaquero Saying
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