September 20, 2020

1910: Shootout in Downtown Mayer

T.F. Averill had “long been known as a resolute and desperate man,” the newspaper wrote, and he was now infuriated with a Mayer saloon owner named Charles Wells. He told nearly everyone he came across that he intended to kill Wells at noon on September 29, 1910.

Averill was a mining man who resided in the area for several years. Previously he worked as a special messenger for Wells Fargo & Co. in Mexico. He had several valuable placer claims in the Big Bug district, as well as an onyx claim near Mayer. According to the paper, he was involved in a previous shooting affray that left one man dead, but “He was exonerated for the killing by a jury in the District Court.”

Wells also lived in the area several years and was part owner of the Cook & Wells Saloon. The paper described him as “a quiet and inoffensive young man.” Exactly why Averill felt such antagonism for Wells is not known, but the paper declared that “the two had not been on friendly terms.”

It was Averill’s plan to move to the Salt River Valley by the first of the year and was settling his business arrangements before the move. Five days before the confrontation, he bought an option for some land there. His wife was already in Phoenix, staying with an aunt. Yet there was one more thing to take care of and that was Charles Wells.

The night before that fateful day, Averill went to Wells’ house “and informed him that he would hang his hide on the fence the following day at noon,” the paper reported. “He applied vile epithets to Wells during the heated discussion, which awakened several residents of the neighborhood.”

The following morning, “Averill informed several people…that he intended to kill Wells at noon,” and these people quickly conveyed the threat to the popular barkeep. “Fearing for his life, Wells armed himself with a double-barreled shotgun, loaded with buckshot, at his place of business, the Cook & Wells Saloon,” the paper described.

At 12 noon Averill began to walk down the street toward the saloon armed with a Colt .45 filled with “soft-nosed bullets.”

“He stopped a laborer on the way and informed him that before he returned from dinner there would be a ‘dead one’ in the saloon,” the paper related. He walked up to the drinking establishment and entered. Immediately he was met by both barrels of buckshot hitting him in the head and the side of his face; 22 of the pellets lodging within.

Averill fell to the ground, but while “struggling to arise,” Wells took a sixshooter and fired two shots into Averill’s abdomen and one into his right eye. Bullets were now lodged in Averill's stomach, heart, and brain, “any one of which would prove fatal,” the paper observed. He died within three minutes.

As a telegram was sent to Mrs. Averill informing her of her husband’s demise, Wells was quickly arrested and faced a coroner’s jury that afternoon. After he testified that he feared for his life, a parade of witnesses confirmed the threats that Averill made to Wells.

“Wells was exonerated,” the paper reported, because “all of the testimony show[ed] that he acted in self-defense.”

A few relatives attended Averill’s funeral, but not his wife, who was too forlorn to go. 

It wasn’t long before life in Mayer returned to normal.

ALSO ENJOY: Cactus Needles for Toothpicks?

The story of an early Mayer, AZ industry that manufactured toothpicks from cactus needles and what happened to the popular product.



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Weekly Journal-Miner, 10/5/1910; Pg. 3, Cols. 2-5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/13/1909; Pg. 6, Col. 5. 

IBID. Pg. 8, Col. 6

Weekly Journal-Miner, 7/21/1909; Pg. 2, Col. 6

Weekly Journal-Miner, 10/5/1910; Pg. 6, Col. 2

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