May 23, 2016

1916: Man Kills Two Over a $2 Bet

Fred Marshall was a disturbed, angry man. Few in the area knew much about him or anything of his past. (*1)

Yet one warm June evening, Marshall would receive his "15 minutes of fame" in a most notorious way.

He and a local machinist named S.F. Wrenn "were shaking dice in (George G.) Casey's Poolroom and became involved in an argument over a $2 bet," which Marshall "refused to pay." (*2)

"During the argument, Wrenn knocked Marshall down." Incensed, "Marshall went across the street to his home and procured a revolver. He returned to the pool hall (where he) was met outside the door by Wrenn.

"The two men grappled. Wrenn wrested the gun from Marshall and during the struggle, one (shot fired). Several witnesses testified to having heard Marshall scream that he was shot." As Marshall retreated, "Wrenn took the gun into the pool hall, tossed it across the bar to Casey and said laughingly: 'Here's a gun I just took away from that fellow.'" (*2)

But Fred Marshall was not done.

"Marshall again ran to his home, secured a .45 calibre army model Colt revolver and returned to the pool room." (*2)

As "Wrenn was leaning on the bar talking to Casey, Marshall opened fire through the screen door. The first shot struck Wrenn in the stomach and he doubled up in agony. Casey ran to the telephone to call for a doctor and Marshall fired again. The bullet struck Casey just as he was lifting the receiver from the hook and he fell to the floor and pulled down the telephone with him." (*3)

"Although mortally wounded, Wrenn ran around behind the bar for protection and Marshall fired a third shot through one of the windows. This shot also struck Wrenn, but the latter ran outside and around to the rear of the hall before falling to the ground, unconscious." (*3)

Prudently, other patrons of the poolroom tarried until Marshall was out of sight.

Soon after, six different posses were heading in every direction trying to locate the murderer, in an attempt "to take (him) dead or alive." (*2)

Wrenn soon died while Casey did not survive surgery.

For his part, Marshall "fled into the darkness," stole a horse and two guns from the local mining company,  "and rode away at top speed." (*3)

"A posse of citizens, the sheriff, and several of his deputies...started in pursuit, but the murdere(r) evidently had too much of a start and no trace of him...had been found. Officers all over the country were keep a sharp lookout for Marshall and were warned to take no chances, as he is considered half-crazy and a dangerous man at any time." (*1)

Reporter's obligatory queries to neighbors about what kind of a man Fred Marshall was, were met with assertions that "during his residence in Humboldt of 5 or 6 months, he was said to have been embroiled in a number of quarrels and on such occasions was free in his use of threatening language. He also had the reputation of being a crack revolver shot." (*1)

Nothing was known of his past, although it was said that "at one time he resided in Jerome for a short period." (*1)

He was also considered to be a "drug fiend". "This led officers to believe that he would come to Prescott for some drug and two extra night policemen were sworn in. Marshall did not appear, however, nor (had) any word been received of his having been seen anywhere in the county since the shooting." (*4)

True story of the grip of opium upon Prescott, Arizona. Eventually, the city would become a hub of manufacture for the drug.

The trail for Marshall quickly grew cold. Although there was really no evidence to believe so, many theorized that Marshall turned the gun on himself. (*4)

Eventually, further investigation revealed that a friend had brought Marshall food once and that he was taking cover in a abandoned mine tunnel near Humboldt. (*5)

This created a stand-off situation since officers were leery of entering the tunnel and walking into an ambush.

Instead, "the entrance to the place (was) closely guarded. The sheriff's men believed that (Marshall would) give himself up within the next few hours." (*5)

However, the sheriff wasn't going to wait forever. The Frontier Days Celebration would be starting in Prescott in a few days and deputies would be required there, instead.

What ultimately happened after this is a bit of a mystery. In fact, Marshall never did appear, surrender, nor was he ever seen or heard from again.

Perhaps the friend who provided the food helped Marshall make a clean getaway before the sheriff could post a guard...

Perhaps he perished from his gunshot wound...

Perhaps while trying to find a suitable hiding place, he fell down a shaft in the mine...

Maybe someday, some death-defying explorer might find a body deep in this abandoned mine and have no idea that it was a murderer who received his just due.

Tourist Tips:

Known as “Arizona’s country town,” Dewey-Humboldt was formed in 2004 as a merger of two neighboring communities in the Agua Fria River valley. The combination brought the rich farming culture of Dewey together with Humboldt, a mining community.

(*1) Prescott Journal-Miner 6/23/1916 Headline
(*2) IBID 6/24/1916 pg. 1 col. 1
(*3) IBID Pg. 4 col. 4
(*4) IBID 6/25/1916 pg. 5 col. 3
(*5) IBID 6/27/1916 pg. 6 col. 4


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