STREET SMARTS: MOSSMAN ROAD

Street Smarts: Slight but tough rancher helped tame wild, wooly Arizona

2013-05-14T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:34:35Z Street Smarts: Slight but tough rancher helped tame wild, wooly ArizonaDavid Leighton For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Burton C. Mossman stood barely 5 feet 8 inches tall with his boots on, and weighed 160 pounds after a steak dinner.

But he was tough as nails.

In 1901, Arizona Territorial Gov. Nathan O. Murphy met with Mossman, a prominent cattle rancher, at a saloon in Holbrook to ask him to be captain of the newly formed Arizona Rangers. The Rangers' mission was to rid the Arizona Territory of cattle rustlers, horse thieves and murderers.

Mossman accepted the position and chose a sergeant and 12 men, including veteran Rough Riders, lawmen and able residents. In the first 12 months, these men rid the territory of more than 125 wanted outlaws, and scared many more across the border.

Mossman is most famous for his bold and daring manhunt of one of the most wanted men in the history of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico: Augustine Chacon, who had murdered 15 Americans and 37 Mexicans.

Crossing the border unarmed and with the help of Burt Alvord, an outlaw who agreed to help in hopes of getting a lighter sentence, Mossman brought Chacon into the gallows.

In the eight years the Arizona Rough Riders were active, they were very effective at stopping crime and driving out criminals. Ultimately, they did so well they put themselves out of business. Most of them became successful businessmen and prominent citizens.

Mossman was no exception. Following the Rangers, he spent many years ranching in northern Mexico and the United States, and finally hung up his saddle in 1944.

For Mossman, his final career was a continuation of his first. He was born in 1867 to George W., a Civil War veteran, and Anna (West) Mossman in Aurora, Ill. He was reared in Minnesota, but by age 16 he had come to the Territory of New Mexico. At 21 he was in charge of his first cattle spread, and nine years later was he managing the 2 million acres of the Hash Knife Ranch in Northern Arizona, near Holbrook.

His grandchildren still remember their grandpa spinning tales of life in the Old West. Some were the God's honest truth, and others were more fiction than fact.

Like most real cowboys, Mossman never died, he just faded away in 1956, in Roswell, N.M. He is buried in Kansas City, Mo.

The east-west Tucson road that bears his name is bounded by West Drexel Road, South Palo Verde Road, West Bilby Road and South Country Club Road. Neighboring streets include (Bat) Masterson Avenue, and Wyatt (Earp) Street, in a neighborhood that could be nicknamed Lawman & Outlaw Square.

Editor's note

Each week the Star tells the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at streetsmarts@azstarnet.com

Sources: Special thanks to Richard W. Hughes for research assistance; Phone Interview with Mary Burton Riseley of New Mexico, granddaughter of Burton Mossman; Emails from Margaret R. Barbour of Arizona, granddaughter of Burton Mossman; professor Howard R. Lamar, "The New Encyclopedia of the American West," Yale University Press, 1998; Jim Turner, "Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State," Gibbs-Smith Pub. 2011; Charles Hewes, "Captain of the Arizona Rangers," Saga magazine, June 1958; Dan Thrapp, "Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography," University of Nebraska Press, 1988

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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