This is one of my favorite stories from the Old Wild West and this is the best version of it that I’ve found. It comes from the Tucson Citizen September 11, 1881, and that paper attributes it to the Tombstone Nugget. The story ties everything and everyone together, from Billy the Kid to Tom Jeffords, the Brunckow Mine and Justice Burnett of Charleston.
John Jeffords was the brother of Tom Jeffords who staked a claim to the Brunckow Mine, that mine famous for all the murders committed there, in 1874. He still owned it in 1881 and brother, John, was his guard. John went into Charleston and got drunk on his way to visit his brother, Tom, at Fort Huachuca where Tom was sutler, post trader. Billy the Kid was Billy Claybourne who ran away from the Gunfight Near the O.K. Corral. And the Justice of the Peace was Burnett famed for pocketing fines. In one apocryphal instance, two men shot it out in town. Burnett fined one for discharging his gun within city limits. He then rifled the dead man’s pockets and fined him the contents thereof for negligently standing in front of a gun about to be discharged.
Here’s the story:
From Mr. S.W. Carr, the Nugget gathers the following particulars of a shooting affray that occurred at Charleston yesterday afternoon between John T. Jeffords, at present employed as guard at the Bronkow mine, and Antonio Fleres, a hotel proprietor. It seems that [line missing at fold] to Camp Huachuca, and meeting some friends signalized the occasion by “tossing the ruby” in a manner that soon rendered him irresponsible for his subsequent acts. While in this condition he proceeded to the hotel of Fleres and demanded dinner. There were several ladies at the hotel at the time, including Mrs. and Miss Herring of Bisbee. The loud talk of Jeffords aggravated Fleres, and he informed him that the dinner hour was over and that he must look for sustenance elsewhere. Jeffords then asked Fleres if he was not a Frenchman. Upon being informed in the affirmative he again demanded something to eat, and made the demand in a manner that infuriated Fleres, who started into the house. Jeffords, thinking that he had better call the turn before it was made immediately opened fire on Fleres with a six-shooter, missing him.
In a second or two Fleres returned with a double-barreled shotgun, loaded with buckshot, and immediately opened fire on Jeffords, the charge striking him in and about the head, one shot tearing off the upper lobe of the left ear, another striking him above the ear and following around the skull, coming out at the back of the head. Five or six shots perforated his hat also. Jeffords immediately returned the fire from his six-shooter, but owing to the fact of being blinded by blood, and the retreat of Fleres, his shots, three in number, proved ineffectual.
After emptying his weapon at his fleeing adversary, Jeffords ran around Zeckendorf’s building, where he met Justice Holt and Billy Claybrone, better known as “Billy the Kid.” The Judge was armed with a double-barreled shotgun and at once commanded Jeffords to halt, and commissioned “the Kid” to disarm him. This “the Kid” did, and as soon as the Judge was fully assured of the fact he took Jeffords in charge and turned him over to Constable McElvey, who took him to the American Hotel, where he is at present. Jeffords made no resistance to arrest. His examination will probably take place today before the Charleston Justice. Jefford’s wounds are superficial and he will be all right in a few days. “Such is Life on the border.”