I know what 31 year old John Harris Behan (above) was thinking that December of 1880, while listening to Wyatt Earp, the ex-under-sheriff for Tombstone, Pima County, Arizona. Johnny Behan, the current under sheriff for Tombstone, was thinking about Johnny Behan, because that was always what Johnny Behan was always thinking about. Wyatt had resigned as under-sheriff to protest the rigged November 1880 election for Pima County Sheriff, in which his friend and fellow Republican, Bob Paul, had come 46 votes short to Democrat Charles Shibell. But Wyatt's act of principle had allowed Shibell to appoint Johnny Behan to replace Wyatt.
Now, both Johnny and Wyatt wanted the lucrative positon of sheriff of the new Cochise County, set to come into existence in early 1881. So that December night, Wyatt offered to withdraw from the race. In exchange, Johnny would appoint Wyatt as his under-sheriff for the town of Tombstone (above), the job Wyatt had just given up. Johnny seemed agreeable, as he always did, and Wyatt left the meeting convinced they had a deal. But with Johnny (below, left), nothing was ever simple.
Johnny Behan's entire career was the monitarization of his sex life. When petite Victoria Behan (above, right) filed for divorce in 1875, she cited her husband's addiction to "houses of ill fame and prostitution" mentioning one prostitute in particular, "...Sada Mansfield...." But, as Wikapedia notes, Johnny's numerous liasons included "...the wives of friends and business partners." It raises the question of what kind of a man "counts coup" on his "friends". In October, 1879, the now single Behan opened a saloon in the central Arizona boom town of Tip Top. There were four other taverns in the town of 500, and Johnny's primary draw for customers was the "Courtesan" services offered by 19 year old Sada Mansfield.
Sada (above) or "Sadie" or "Sarah" invented so many stories about herself, it is difficult to pick the ones most likely to be accurate. She probably ran away from her orthodox Jewish home at the age of 13, fleeing San Francisco in the company of well known madam, Hattie Wells. They arrived together in Prescott, Arizona sometime in 1874, where the young girl went to work in Well's Granite Street brothel. Being a prostitute gave her independence, which she exercised in 1879 by moving to Tip Top with Johnny Behan. By the time she was 20 years old she had borrowed the name of "Josphene Marcus" from an actress in a traveling theatrical troupe. Sadie admitted years later, "My blood demanded excitement, variety and change."
Johnny (above) and Josephine moved to Tombstone in September of 1880. Having served 2 terms as a Republican state legislater for Mohave County, Behan now took a job as bar manager in the Grand Hotel, a hang out for the 'cow boys', who were solidly Democrats. Sadie's talents cemented Johnny's friendships "aross the aisle". At the same time he cemented his Republican ties by investing his earnings from Tip Top in Tombstone's Dexter Livery Stable, owned by John Dunbar, whose family had close ties to the infamous Republican Presidental hopeful , Senator James Blain, "The Continental Liar from the state of Maine". All of which made Johnny seem the obvious choice as Sheriff of the new Cochise County. Wyatt knew he needed a little publicity if he was going to secure the job as under-sheriff for Tombstone. The opportunity for that good press appeared on Tuesday, 15 March, 1881, when the 6:00pm northbound Tombstone to Benson stage coach was held up.
By about 7:30pm, the coach, carrying 7 passangers, a driver and a guard and a strongbox containing 6 bars of silver bullion worth $26,000 - over half a million dollars today - all pulled by 6 horses, was about a mile passed the cut off to the San Pedro River mill town of Contention City, and just 200 yards short of a hill top station run by the widow Georgina Drew and her 5 children - the half way mark between Tombstone and Benson. As the driver slowed to climb the rise a man appeared in the road, wearing a mask and wig. He waved a shotgun and ordered the coach to "Hold!".
The driver, Eli "Bud" Pierpott, seemed to refuse. Another of the would-be robbers fired from the brush beside the road, hitting Bud in the heart. He fell forward, falling onto the traces between "the wheelers" - the horses closest to the 48 inch wheels - and then under the coach. The gunshot, the loss of pressure on the reins, and the jerk on the load they were pulling, all panicked the horses, who bolted up the hill. The shot gun guard, sheriff candidate Bob Paul, let loose both barrels from his weapon. About 20 shots were fired from the brush as the stage lurched past, one of them hitting the back of a miner riding in the "dickie seat" above and behind the driver, a man named Peter Roerig.
The gunshots, and then the stage racing through the station, alerted Mrs. Drew and her children, who were waiting to change the horse team and sell the travelers a little food and drink for a dollar apiece. They found Bud Pierpott lying dead in the road, and saw 4 men riding off from the scene. A mile north (above) Bob Paul managed to recapture the 6 reins, and pulled the winded horses to a stop before they capsized the coach. Pete Roerig was in a bad way, but none of the other passangers were injured. So Paul drove the horses and coach hard the remaining 14 miles to Benson, the Southern Pacific railroad and the telegraph. He got there not long before 10:00pm that night.
After seeing to poor Pete Roerig - he would die shortly after reaching Benson - and locking the silver bullion safely in the railroad companies' safe, Bob Paul (above) telegraphed the Deputy Federal Marshall in Tombstone, Virgil Earp.
By midnight, perhaps the most impressive posse ever formed in the old west - Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, gambler John "Doc" Hoiday, Wells Fargo agent Marshall Williams and Wyatt's friend and fellow lawman from Dodge City Kansas, Bat Masterson - were all provisioned, mounted and on the road to Drew station, 12 miles north.
Bob Paul was first to return to the scene of the crime. Near the hold up site, he found three masks, and tracks that led east. Now leading the Tombstone posse, Paul followed the trail to sprawling ranch run by Henry and Leonard "Lem" Redfield, where they cornered and captured the unhappy cow boy Luther King. He readily admitted to being involved, but insisted his only task had been holding the horses. But he also identified the other 3 highway men as Harry "The Kid" Head, one time jeweler William "Bill" Lenoard and Jim Crane. King said that Crane had been wounded in the thigh, although by Paul's hasty shot gun blast or by his own six shooter, is unclear.
The capture of King presented a dilemma. The crime had been committed halfway between Tombstone and Benson. And while Deputy Federal Marshal Virgil Earp had authority throughout the territory, the trial of the killers of Pete Roerig and Bud Pierpott would do Wyatt (above) the most good if held in Tombstone. So, come sun up on Thursday, 17 March, 1881, the 7 lawmen gave up their search for the other 3 members of the gang, and began escorting Luther King back toward Tombstone.
It was a stroke of luck, then, when, they ran into Cochies Sheriff Johnny Behan and a deputy, riding north, in search of the gang. Johnny took possession of Luther King - even insisted on it - freeing Paul, the Earps, Holiday and Marshall to return to the pursuit. They tracked Harry Head, Bill Leonard and Jim Crane for 2 weeks, south and east into the San Simon Valley (above, lower right) , into New Mexico, all the way to the northern mouth of Guadalupe Canyon, just above the Mexican border. Then, short of provisions, and with no funds to obtain more, they were forced to return to Tombstone.
To their surprise, they discovered that although under- sheriff Behan had locked Luther King securely in the Tombstone jail, the cow boy had managed to slip out the back door and disappear. And, poof! All the effort and expense of sweat, leather and horse flesh were for naught. Any hope Wyatt Earp had of becoming sheriff of Tombstone vanished along with Mr. King. Wyatt was going to have to think of something else.
According to the Tombstone Epitaph", it was not long after this, in April of 1881, that "Sadie" Marcus (above and below) returned home early from a trip and found Johnny in their bed with the wife of a "friend". Who the friend was, is unstated, but that was Johnny's modus operendi. But the Epitath was clear that the 20 year old lady kicked Johnny out of their house, and became a truely independent operator. It must have been about this same time, the self posessed lady met Wyatt Earp.
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