On December 8, 1883, five men rode into Bisbee, Arizona. Their leader, Daniel “Big Dan” Dowd, had heard that the $7,000 payroll of the Copper Queen Mine would be in the vault at the General Store. The outlaws blew into the store, guns drawn, demanding the payroll. These smart guys figured out they were to early, the payroll had not yet arrived. The outlaws quickly gathered up what money there was, reports vary between $900 to $3,000) and took rings and watches from the customers.
What happened next is unclear but the robbery turned into a slaughter. When the five desperadoes swung a leg over their horse and rode away, they left four dead or dying, including Deputy Sheriff Tom Smith and a Bisbee woman named Anna Roberts.
The people of Arizona were shocked, the newspapers dubbed it the “Bisbee Massacre.” The sheriff quickly organized posses to track down the killers, Deputy Sheriff Billy Daniels (pictured below) lead them. The posses, though, soon ran out of clues and the trail grew cold. Most of the citizen members gave up. Daniels, however, stubbornly continued the pursuit. He eventually learned the identities of the five men from area ranchers and began to track them.
Daniels found one in Deming, New Mexico, and arrested him. A Mexican informant lead the deputy to Big Dan Dowd, who had run south of the border to Sabinal, Chihuahua. Disguising himself as an ore buyer, Daniels tricked Dowd into a meeting and arrested him. A few weeks later, Daniels returned to Mexico, arresting another of the outlaws. Other law officers apprehended the remaining two members of the gang. A Tombstone, Arizona, jury quickly convicted all five men and sentenced them to be hanged. As the noose was fitted around his neck on the five-man gallows, Big Dan reportedly muttered, “This is a regular killing machine.”
The next year, Daniels ran for sheriff but lost. He found a new position as an inspector of customs that required him to travel all around the vast and often isolated Arizona countryside, where various bands of hostile Apache Indians were a serious danger.
Early in the morning, on this date June 10th, 1885, Daniels and two companions were riding up a narrow canyon trail in the Mule Mountains east of Bisbee. Daniels, who was in the lead, rode into an Apache ambush. The first bullets killed his horse, and the animal collapsed, pinning Daniels to the ground. Trapped, Daniels used his rifle to defend himself, but the Apache overwhelmed him and cut his throat.
His two companions escaped with their lives and returned the next day with a posse. They found Daniel’s badly mutilated corpse but were unable to track the Apache Indians who murdered him.
For every Waytt Earp, and Pat Garrett, that we see there are unknown lawman such as Billy Daniels who most of us have never heard his name.