August 14, 1841 - October 21, 1908

Charles Alexander Shibell was one of those personages western author Louis L'Amour would have loved. He inhabited the old west coming of age just at the right time, spanning the period from the the Civil War to just past the turn of the century. Nowdays he is most noted for having given Wyatt Earp the deputy Sheriff position in Pima County, Arizona. Other than that he was a fairly low profile, hard working and considering the times, honest lawman, living and laying the groundwork for the unwritten precepts found in Cowboy Code of the West. Nothing ever came up about his abilities handling a gun, but he did however, outlive any number of known big guns that operated in and around his territories. If he didn't outshoot them, he outwitted them.

Shibell was born in St. Louis, MO August 14, 1841. In 1860 he headed west, eventually ending up in and around the general Sacramento, California area. In 1862, just as the Civil War was beginning he took a job as a civilian teamster for the military. In the process of that job he ended up in Arizona hauling freight back and forth between Ft. Yuma and Tucson, a distance of some 300 miles. In the spring of 1864 the troops he was assigned to were dispatched to the Rio Grande for mustering out. Shibell, as a civilian, remained in Tucson on his own accord.

Following a series of events that included an attempt at ranching near Sonoita, AZ as well as mining and some freighting he developed an interest in politics. In 1875 Shibell was appointed deputy Sheriff of Pima County under W.S. Oury, a position he held for two years. Later he was elected sheriff, served two terms retiring in 1881. During this period Tombstone, AZ was in Pima County and it was under his juristiction that on July 27, 1880, Shibell appointed Wyatt Earp deputy Sheriff in Pima County. In 1887 six years after his retirement, Shibell was again appointed deputy sheriff, this time under Eugene O. Shaw, a position he occupied until January 1, 1889.

It was during his second appointment as deputy sheriff that Shibell challenged an old friend, a former guide and scout for the U.S. Army named Alfred Franklin Banta, the reputed discoverer of Meteor Crater, to track down a fugitive 900 miles into Old Mexico and back. He returned with his prisoner, though saying he "had one horse shot; missed being assisinated three or four times, but I am here yet, telling the story." [1]

In 1888 Shibell was elected as the Pima County Recorder, a position he held until 1902. During his life, he was married twice, fathering four children by his first wife and two by his second. Shibell died in Tucson on October 21, 1908.







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Although Banta was known as a highly accomplished hunter and tracker most of his experience transpired north of the U.S. border.

While living, working, or traveling around the Tucson and Yuma area, Banta had, on a regular basis, come into contact with Yaqui Indians that inhabited the region. The Yaquis had been in an ongoing on and off war between the Spanish and later the Mexican government basically since their initial contact --- with no real beginning or a defined finalization date in sight. In the 1880s, in an attempt to quell the seemingly never ending hostilities, a major relocation of Yaquis occurred. Yaquis were moved from the United States Territory to Sonora and from Sonora to United States Territory (Arizona did not become a state until 1912). In the process of that relocation some Yaquis became not only quite adept at skirting back and forth across the border while avoiding the authorities on both sides, they also developed an intimate knowledge of the Sonoran Desert and surrounding terrain. Banta drew on that knowledge when he went on his manhunt into Mexico by recruiting a Yaqui who, because he was married to a Yuma Indian on the U.S. side, had lots of experience going back and forth traversing both sides of the border. Banta thought the idea perfect because the person he was seeking was operating outside the law and, since the Yaqui had to operate by avoiding the law as well, Banta felt it would put him in a much better position to apprehend the suspect he was seeking. In the end of course, his idea paid off as Banta returned with the fugitive.

The interesting part about the whole story is that the Yaqui Indian Banta recruited from Yuma to help him apprehend the outlaw turned out to be the father of one Don Juan Matus, who grew up to become famous in a series of books by Carlos Castaneda. (source)


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