January 15, 2017

1875-86: The Murderous Stanton Syndicate

Charles P Stanton in front of his hotel.
This article is effectively retired. 
Four years after this article was published, historian Parker Anderson researched the subject for his book "Arizona Gold Gangster Charles P Stanton." Nearly all of the folklore was proven to be untrue or highly unlikely...

When Charles P Stanton first set his eyes on the town of Antelope Station, he coveted to make it his own personal empire. Eventually he would name the town in honor of himself and rule it with a murderous tyranny that would even make Al Capone blush.

"While Stanton, Arizona never had the glamor of Tombstone, in the days of Charles Stanton, no town in the West could equal the murderous, evil environment predominating life in this (otherwise) thriving gold-mining community." (*1)

In fact, Stanton gained such a heinous reputation that travelers in the area steered clear of the town. (*1)

By all accounts, Charles P Stanton was an unpleasant, lecherous, and conniving man. Most in the area believed that several murders in and around the town were the result of his insatiable greed; yet no one could ever prove he had any involvement with the killings. (*2)

"Born the illegitimate son of an Irish lord, Stanton began his felonious way of life at England's Monmouth Monastary where he was studying to be a priest. While there, he was caught pilfering the silver coffers and was expelled. He fled to America with a bounty of 1000 pounds on his head;" ending up in California. (*3)

In 1872, he turned from theft to fraud as he contrived the "Slack and Arnold Diamond Hoax." Stanton recruited a couple of down-on-their-luck miners named John Slack and Philip Arnold to show up in San Francisco with a bag of uncut diamonds. After the gems were found to be true, interested investors were taken, (blindfolded,) to a mine Stanton had somewhere in Wyoming to convince them of the find. Stanton was about to receive $20 million in investment money when geologist Clarence King uncovered the fraud. (*3)

King discovered the gems had actually come from the diamond fields of South Africa and were planted in the Wyoming mine. Fearing reprisal, Stanton fled to Arizona. (*3)

C.P. "Chuck" Stanton
At first, Stanton took up honest employment working as an assayer at the Vulture Mine near Wickenburg. While there, Stanton managed to acquire a half interest in the Leviathan claim near Rich Hill. He moved near his claim, built a cabin, and eventually opened a store at Antelope Station. (*2) 

"For a while, Stanton was the leading businessman in the little settlement. Stanton not only sold miners their food and other supplies, he bought their gold and acted as a banker for those who wanted a safe place to stash their money. Although he provided the necessities for the miner's way of life, he wasn't very popular with them. In fact, his haughty attitude, coupled with his Irish brogue, led them to call him the Irish Lord." (*2)

Stanton's competition included George "Yaqui" Wilson, who had a store in partnership with John Timmerman; and William Partridge, who owned a hotel and station. People began gravitating to these other, friendlier stores which infuriated Stanton. So he began to put his plan of taking over the town into action. (*3)

Two miles away in Weaver lay the headquarters of a Mexican gang known to some as the "Venezuela Gang," but to most as the "Vega Gang" after its leader. (*2)

First, Stanton enlisted the aid of these desperadoes to create ill feelings between the owners of the two other stores. With the help of the outlaws, some hogs belonging to Wilson found their way to Partridge's cabin and ate an enormous amount of food. (*2)

As soon as Wilson heard what had happened, he quickly admitted fault. In front of witnesses, he said that he would pay Partridge for any damages the pigs had caused. (*2)

However, "Stanton was not going to let the incident be smoothed over that easily, so he sent a member of the Vega Gang to Partridge with a fabricated story that Wilson was hopping mad and out to gun down Partridge for stampeding his hogs. Partridge believed the lies and waited for Wilson with his gun loaded and ready. When Wilson came by to pay for the damages his hogs had caused, Partridge shot him on sight." In due time, Partridge was convicted for the murder and sent to Yuma Prison, thus taking out two of Stanton's rivals in a single scheme. (*2)

The colorful history of the ghost town of Placerita, AZ and it's founder, Anson Wilbur "Old Grizzly" Callen. It's a story of gold, goats, and killings.

Due to Stanton's influence, a post office was established in 1875 and the town was officially named after him. Soon he became its complete ruler.

If you needed food, supplies, or some temporary female company, you would need to look for Charles P Stanton. If you wanted your mail, you would need to see Postmaster Charles P Stanton. Need a law officer? That would be Deputy Charles P Stanton. And, of course, the Justice of the Peace was none other then The Honorable Charles P Stanton.

"Terror stalked the streets and murder was prevalent. In fact, there are thirty-five bodies buried around town in various spots as a result of that gory era." (*4)

Stanton thought he had solved his competition problem except that Partridge owed creditors some money and his store was sold at auction to cover the debt. The unlucky buyer was Barney Martin, who had a wife and four children. (*2)

"With Wilson dead, his partner John Timmerman...closed out (that) store and formed a new partnership with Martin." However, Martin had some past due debts, so to head off a sheriff's sale Timmer­man took $700 and started by mule for Wickenburg to pay off the note. "Upon hearing of this, Stanton hired one Juan Reval to waylay and kill Timmerman. At a narrow curve halfway between Antelope Valley and Wickenburg. Reval shot his victim through the heart with a pistol." (*4)

Before he died in prison, Reval related that Stanton had watched the murder from a nearby hill and had then received his half of the $700. (*4)

True crime story about Fred Marshall, who murdered two men after losing a $2 bet in Humboldt, AZ.

As for the Martins, they were subjected to constant molestation and harassment. "Barney was challenged to a dozen fights everyday. Mrs. Martin dared not even go to the store for fear of jeers and insults from Vega gang members and even the little boys were stoned in their own yard and set upon in the streets by children of Stanton's sycophants." (*4)

Although Martin was constantly warned of possible harm to him and his family if he did not leave town, he did not take it seriously until several fires were set at his place. (*3)

Finally, in July, 1886, the Martins heeded the warnings, sold out, and loaded their wagon for Phoenix.

Martin sent word to his friend Capt. Calderwood of when the family expected to arrive at his place. As the Martins left town for the last time, they were unaware that several members of the Vega Gang began following them under Stanton's directives. (*3)

"The family arrived in Congress without incident and left that town at 2:15 in the afternoon. Between Congress and Phoenix there was but one spot suitable for waylaying passers-by: a small gulch near the Hassayampa River, and Stanton had men waiting to attack the family at this point. The men had been waiting impatiently for several hours for the wagon to appear and were on the verge of abandoning the project," when they were told that the Martins were in sight. "The following half hour is unsurpassed for stark, bloody horror in the annals of the West:" (*4)
"As the wagon dipped down through the gulch the Martins were held up and taken off the road by eight men, headed by Vega. At about a half mile off the road the wagon was stopped and Elano Hernandez ordered Barney to get to the ground. As Barney leaned over to comply, one hand on the dashboard and the other on a wheel, Hernandez plunged a butcher knife through his heart. Hysterical with terror, Mrs. Martin jumped down on the opposite side and ran back to­ward Vega, who was standing with rifle ready. She cried, 'Francisco, save our lives!' The little boys ran after their mother with Hernandez pursuing from behind. Catching her, he grabbed her hair, pulled her head back and cut her throat. He then cut the little boys' throats while they were still clinging to their mother's dress. Some woodchoppers were in the area cutting fuel for the pump near Seymour. One of these named Lucero started to run at the sight of the brutal murders, but Vega pointed his rifle at him and ordered that he halt. Lucero was then made to chop wood to burn the bodies." (*4)
"Each family member had either been shot or knifed, then scalped. Afterward, the bodies were piled into the wagon which was torched, making it appear to be the grizzley work of Indians." (*3)

When Capt. Calderwood's search party finally arrived at the scene several days later, they found only the charred skeletons of the Martin family, further revealing the gruesome detail that Mrs. Martin had been pregnant.

The indignation toward Stanton was palpable. "There was no definite proof that he had been involved, but it was common knowledge that the Vega Gang had done Stanton's dirty work in the past and although the actual murder may have been committed by the Mexicans, it was probably at Stanton's bidding." (*2)

Stanton was arrested and charged for complicity in the murder of the Martin family in September, 1886. (*2)&(*3)  "He pleaded his own case, called one after another of his henchmen as witnesses, and thanks to their testimonies, was exonerated!" (*4)

"After the Martin family murders and the subsequent trial, Stanton's carousals became more wanton and frequent." Soiled doves and cronies "surrounded him at his hotel, where orgies were often continued around the clock." (*4)

Although it seemed that Stanton's macabre dream had come true, he would only enjoy his empire for three months.

Ultimately it was Stanton's lechery and greed that brought about his demise. He developed a particular eye for a girl he could not have. Her name was Froilana Lucero. She was described as "beautiful with flashing dark eyes and the spirit of a wild stallion." (*1) However, she was the sister of three brothers who were in the Vega Gang.

One night while drunk, Stanton tried to force a pass at Froilana, receiving a punch in the mouth from her in return. Her honor was sullied and she wanted revenge. Adding to the tension between Stanton and the Vega Gang was the suspicion that the gang was shorted of their share of the booty from the Martin killings. (*2)

Then on November 13 1886, Stanton's tyranical rule finally came to an end when the three Lucero brothers rode into town late that night. Posing as weary travelers, they asked his clerk, a man named Kelly, directions to Walnut Grove. From inside, Stanton instructed his clerk to invite the men in. (*3)

"Stanton was seated near the counter, reading a newspaper, when the three men entered his store. Without warning, the men opened fire. Stanton was hit three times, one bullet striking him in the heart and killing him instantly. Kelly immediately blew out the light and grabbed his rifle. As the brothers fled, he fired out the window and fatally shot one of them. The other two escaped into the night, never to be prosecuted for the murder of Charles P Stanton." (*3)

In fact, "the next day Tom Pierson from Crown King met (Froilana's brother fleeing) on the trail and listened to the story of Stanton's killing, whereupon he advised, 'You should turn around and go back. They'll probably give you a reward.'" (*4)

Unfortunately, the expiry of Stanton did not bring a close to the hideous work of the syndicate. Instead, the Vega Gang continued their murderous ways now relieved of providing Deputy Stanton his cut.

"Three men were found slain at the same spot where the Martin family had been so cruelly murdered." (*2)

Additionally, merchants who tried to run Stanton's old store met his same deadly fate. One was a Frenchman killed by a Mexican miner; the other was a couple by the name of Franks. A few years later and two miles away, another store owner was robbed and nearly beheaded. (*2)

Finally, in 1906, the mines closed and the once busy burg of Stanton, Arizona became a ghost town.

Tourist Tip:
Today the town of Stanton is a well preserved ghost town owned by the Lost Dutchman Mining Company where its members can bring their RV's, pan for gold, and socialize with like-minded people and their families.

Membership is available to anyone who pays the dues and includes entrance to more than a dozen other locations across the US.

For further information, CLICK HERE.

(*1) Sharlot Hall Archives. Vertical File Surnames: Stanton, Chas P.; The Tatler; Vol. 4 No. 1 1963, Pg. 5.
(*2) Sharlot Hall Archives. Vertical File Surnames: Stanton, Chas P.; "The Curse of Stanton; Profile of an Early-day Terrorist,' by C. Kutac, published July, 1981. (A copy from an unidentified periodical)
(*3) "Charles Stanton" by Mary G. Stano. The Nevadan Today; March 26, 1989, Pg. 8.
(*4) http://www.apcrp.org/STANTON/Stanton_110307.htm


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