Martin family massacre, 1886

by Parker Anderson [*with folklore version added by Kathy Krause]

Today, legions of Arizona historians believe that Charles P. Stanton ("town boss" in the mining town of the same name) was involved in a number of mysterious deaths and disappearances in the Weaver Mining District and the Antelope Station area in the late 1800s. Stanton, who had numerous arrests for crimes ranging from petty to serious, was never convicted of any crime in his lifetime. In the following account, the folklore version will be presented in brackets and has never been "proven."

In the previous two Days Past articles was the account of a murder in 1877 in the little mining community of Antelope Station (now Stanton) near Congress. Two men lost their businesses as a result of the altercation: George Wilson was shot and killed by William Partridge who then was sentenced to life at Yuma Territorial Prison. [*Charles P. Stanton was implicated as having manipulated the shooting in order to take over their businesses and with both men 'gone,' it would be easily done.]

However, Mr. Wilson’s stage-stop business was taken over by his partner, John Timmerman and Partridge’s creditors hired Barney Martin to run his business while he was in prison. [*In last week's article, we learned that Timmerman was found dead just two years later in an unsolved case. Charles P. Stanton was furious that he had lost out on these two lucrative holdings and decided to do something about it. To avoid direct involvement, he hired a band of desperadoes who enjoyed a reign of terror over central Arizona, looting and killing at will. The band was led by Francisco Vega (or Valenzuela). Folklore attributes Timmerman's murder to the desperadoes with Stanton actually watching the murder from a safe distance. Stanton appointed himself appraiser of Timmerman's estate and made himself sole beneficiary. Now only the Martin family stood in his way.]

Barney Martin was one of the most prominent and wealthy miners in 19th century Yavapai County and had mining claims on Rich Hill and all around the Weaver Mining District in the Antelope area of southern Yavapai County. Martin’s mining activities regularly made news in the Prescott newspapers and all around northern Arizona.

In August of 1886, Barney Martin’s friends reported that he and his entire family were missing. Three weeks earlier, they had departed the bustling mining town of Weaver in a wagon heading for Phoenix where Martin had a business appointment. Afterward, he and his wife and children were to board a train east for a vacation. Martin was carrying $4000 in gold coins and gold dust and made no secret of it. They never arrived in Phoenix and friends were worried. [*Martin had received death threats but thought them pranks until his barn burned down, then his house. He rebuilt, and again the house burned. He knew he had to get his wife and two sons out of town. Stanton was suspected and also knew Martin was carrying a large sum of money on his trip to Phoenix. He set about planning his demise.]

Maricopa County authorities investigated the missing family and found a teamster who had seen Martin alive while passing near the Seymour and Agua Fria River crossing, close to the current town of Morristown.

The inevitable news finally came. A search party led by Charles Genung of Peeples Valley [*who had actually planned to be traveling to Phoenix with the Martins!] had found the bloody site where Barney Martin and his wife and two children were found massacred near Black Tanks. The murderers had set the bodies afire. By the time the charred bodies were found, they had been dead about 20 days and there was great concern the trail had grown cold.

Sheriff Broadway of Maricopa County notified Yavapai County Sheriff William J. "Billy" Mulvenon, who immediately set out for the site. Four offers of reward money were set up totaling $2250. Even this did not help the investigation.

In the meantime, Frederick Brill directed that the few remains of the Martins be brought to his ranch for burial near his ranch house. Brill’s ranch house still exists and is used by the Hassayampa River Preserve, three miles SE of Wickenburg on US 60. The Martin family gravesite is located along the road going into the preserve.

Charles P. Stanton was arrested for complicity in the murders of Barney Martin and his family but nothing came of it. After his initial court appearances, Stanton was freed on the grounds of no evidence connecting him to the Martin massacre. Word eventually came that the authorities had arrested an unidentified Mexican in connection with the massacre but the case was never resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. [*One of Vega's gang later confessed that Stanton had hired the gang to eliminate all traces of the Martin family making it look like the work of raiding Indians. Stanton is believe to have shared the stolen goods with the gang. Charles Genung knew Stanton was behind the killings; he heard it from the gang's cook later.]

Charles P. Stanton was shot and killed only weeks later in his own store and no one was ever prosecuted for that murder either! Once he was gone, the crime rate dropped in the Weaver Mining District!

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(photo courtesy Scott Rogers) Reuse only by permission.

The single gravestone of the Martin family reads: Barney Martin 40; Rosie 32; John 13; William 11. Murdered July 22, 1886. The gravesite is located at the Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenburg.

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(photo courtesy Neal Du Shane and AZ Pioneer and Cemetery Research Project) Reuse only by permission.

Martin family plot near the Brill ranch house, Hassayampa River Preserve.

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(photo courtesy Neal Du Shane and AZ Pioneer and Cemetery Research Project) Reuse only by permission.

Close-up of the Miller family gravestone, 1886, can still be read.

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