Arizona Album: Incident in the life of Jeff Milton

2012-05-13T00:00:00Z Arizona Album: Incident in the life of Jeff Milton Arizona Daily Star
May 13, 2012 12:00 am

This piece was published on Feb. 17, 1954.

One evening as the passenger train pulled into Fairbank, a cattle shipping point in the San Pedro Valley, the station agent and loungers at the depot were linked up by two masked men who suddenly appeared out of the darkness. Other masked men covered the engine crew, while several bandits covered Jeff Milton, the express messenger.

In that perilous moment when death glared from the outlaws guns, Milton took a long chance. He darted back into the express car, threw his keys into a far corner, and grabbed a shotgun. A bullet whizzed above his head, piercing his hat. He fired a blast of lead, then another from his double-barrel shotgun. One of the robbers fell, mortally wounded, and an instant later Milton reeled and fell.

Milton crawled to the door of the express car and managed to close it. Tearing off the sleeve of his shirt, he wound it above the ugly gash in his arm where the bullet had torn away the flesh and split the bone to threads. Then he fainted, falling between two large trunks, which protected him from the bullets of the robbers.

"I heard the most beautiful music as I fell" Milton later told his friends. "Must've been the gun music I heard, but it sure sounded pretty."

Believing that they had killed Milton, the robbers forced the door open and two of the band, Owins and Brown, entered, while Bravo Juan held up the depot crowd. The express car was searched, but the keys to the strong box, containing money and other valuables, were not found.

Defeated by the brave messenger, the men left the express car with but a handful of Mexican pesos that Milton had put into the safe. The leaders of the banditti gave the command to bring up their horses, which were guarded by one of the robbers. They picked up the wounded bandit and placed them back of one of the riders. Jeff Milton's shotgun had made an ugly wound in the man's stomach.

Milton was hurried to Tombstone, where Dr. Rockafeller prepared to sever Milton's arm at the shoulder.

"Get my gun and put it under my pillow," Milton called to Frank King. "He is not going to take my arm off."

Later in San Francisco, surgeons saved that arm.

These stories were part of a column, Pioneer Anecdotes, written by George H. Smalley, editor of the Tucson Citizen from 1898 to 1901.

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

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