Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Death of Johnny Ringo – King of the Cowboys

His Body Found in Morse’s Canyon – Probable Suicide

“Sunday evening intelligence reached this city of the finding of the dead body of John Ringo near the mouth of Morse’s canyon in the Chiricahua mountains on Friday afternoon.”

“There was [sic] few men in Cochise county, or Southeastern Arizona better known. He was recognized by friends and foes as a recklessly brave man, who would go any distance, or undergo any hardship to serve a friend or punish an enemy. While undoubtedly reckless, he was far from being a desperado, and we know no murder being laid to his charge. Friends and foes are unanimous in the opinion that he was a strictly honorable man in all his dealings, and that his word was as good as his bond. Many people who were intimately acquainted with him in life have serious doubts that he took his own life, while an equally large number say that he frequently threatened to commit suicide, and that event was expected at any time.”

“The circumstance of the case hardly leave any room for doubt as to his self destruction. He was about 200 feet from water, and was acquainted with every inch of the country, so that it was almost impossible for him to lose himself. He was found in the midst of a clump of oaks, springing from the same stem, but diverging outward so as to leave an open space in the centre. On top of the main stem and between the spreading boughs was a large stone, and on this pedestal he was found sitting, with his body leaning backward and resting against a tree.”

“He was found by a man named John Yost, who was acquainted with him for years, both in the Territory and Texas. Yost is working for Sorgum Smith, and was employed hauling wood. He was driving a team in the midst of the clump of trees, apparently asleep. He passed on without further investigation, but on looking back, saw his dog smelling of the man’s face and snorting. This excited curiosity, and he stopped the team, alighted, and proceeded to investigate. He found the lifeless body of John Ringo, with a hole large enough to admit two fingers about half way between the right eye and ear, and a hole correspondingly large on top of his head, doubtless the outlet of the fatal bullet. The revolver was firmly clenched in his hand, which is almost conclusive evidence that death was instantaneous. His rifle rested against a tree and one of his cartridge belts was turned upside down. Yost immediately gave the alarm, and in about fifteen minutes eleven men were on the spot. The subjoined statement made by the eye witnesses to Coroner Matthews:”


“Statement for the information of the Coroner and Sheriff of Cochise county, Arizona:”

“There was found by the undersigned, John Yost, the body of a man in a clump of oak trees, about twenty yards north from the road leading to Morse’s mill, and about a quarter of a mile west of the house of B. F. Smith. The undersigned viewed the body and found it in a sitting posture, facing west, the head inclined to the right. There was a bullet hole on the top of the head on the left side. There is, apparently, a part of the scalp gone, including a small portion of the forehead and part of the hair. This looks as if cut out by a knife. These are the only marks of violence on the body.”

“Several of the undersigned identify the body as that of John Ringo, well known in Tombstone. He was dressed in light hat, blue shirt, vest, pants and drawers. On his feet were a pair of hose and an undershirt torn up so as to protect his feet. He had evidently traveled but a short distance in this foot-gear. His revolver he grasped in his right hand, his rifle resting against the tree close to him. He had on two cartridge belts, the belt for [the] revolver, calibre 45, No. 222, contained five cartridges; 1 Winchester rifle octagon barrel, calibre 45, model 1876, No. 21,896, containing a cartridge in the breech and ten in the magazine; 1 cartridge belt, containing 9 rifle cartridges; 1 cartridge belt, containing 2 revolver cartridges; 1 silver watch old American Watch company, No. 9339, with silver chain attached; two dollars and sixty cents ($2.60) in money; 6 pistol cartridges in pocket; 5 shirt studs; 1 small pocket knife; 1 tobacco pipe; 1 comb; 1 block matches; 1 small piece tobacco. There is also a portion of a letter from Messrs. Hereford & Zabriskie, attorneys-at-law, Tucson, to the deceased, John Ringo. The above property is left in the possession of Frederick Ward, teamster between Morse’s mill and Tombstone.”

“The body of deceased was buried close to where it was found.”

“When found deceased had been dead about twenty-four hours.”


“Thomas White, John Blake, John W. Bradfield, B. F. Smith, A. E. Lewis, A. S. Neighbors, James Morgan, Robert Bolter, Frank McKenney, W. J. Dowelt, J. C. McGray, John Yost, Fred Ward.”

“From Fred Ward, who arrived in the city on Sunday evening, an EPITAPH reporter learned that the general impression prevailing among people in the Chiricahuas is that his horse wandered off somewhere, and he started off on foot to search for him; that his boots began to hurt him, and he pulled them off and made moccasins of his undershirt. He could not have been suffering for water, as he was within 200 feet of it, and not more than 700 feet from Smith’s house.”

“Mrs. Morse and Mrs. Young passed by where he was lying Thursday afternoon, but supposed it was some man asleep, and took no further notice of him. The inmates of Smith’s house heard a shot about three o’clock Thursday evening, and it is more than likely that that is the time the rash deed was done. He was on an extended jamboree the last time he was in this city, and only left here ten days ago. He had dinner at Dial’s in the South Pass of the Dragoons one week ago last Sunday, and went from there to Galeyville, where he kept on drinking heavily.”

“We have not heard of his whereabouts after leaving Galeyville, but it is more than likely he went to Morse’s canyon. He was subject of frequent fits of melancholy and had an abnormal fear of being killed. Two weeks ago last Sunday in conversing with the writer, he said he was as certain of being killed, as he was of being living then. He said he might run along for a couple of years more, and may not last two days.”

“He was born in Texas and is very respectably connected. He removed to San Jose, California, when about sixteen years old, and Col. Coleman Younger, one of the leading citizens of that town is his grandfather. Ringo was a second cousin to the famous Younger brothers now in Minnesota penitentiary, for their partnership with the James boys. He has three sisters in San Jose, of whom he was passionately fond. He was about thirty-eight years old, though looking much younger, and was fine specimen of physical manhood. Many friends will mourn him, and many others will take secret delight in learning of his death.”

Tombstone Weekly Epitaph, July 22, 1882.

See Also:

The Arizona Cowboy
Shootout at the O. K. Corral — 133 Years Ago Today

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