Eugene Midddleton (1863-1929), the son of William and Miriam Middleton who are listed at Wheatfields on the 1880 census, then moved to establish a ranch near Pleasant Valley “The Middleton Ranch” later in 1880, had a brush with some Apaches prisoners.
Eugene bought and operated the stage that ran between Globe and Florence. The Apache Kid and seven other Apaches, plus one Mexican, were found guilty of various crimes and were sentenced to serve time in Yuma Prison. It was the job of Gila County Sheriff Glenn Reynolds and his deputy Hunky-Dory Holmes, to take the prisons to Yuma, or at least as far as Florence. And they would take them in Eugene Middleton’s stage which was pulled by four horses. This was in November 1889.
The prisoners were loaded onto the stage, with feet shackled and they were handcuffed together at the wrists in sets of two, but they each had one free hand. All was well until after they had gone about four miles past Riverside, AZ at a place called the Kelvin Grade. It was a long, sandy wash and the load was too heavy. Sheriff Reynolds ordered six of the Apaches out of the stage to lighten the load and removed the shackles off their legs so they could walk. Two of the Indians, including the Apache Kid, remained in the stage.
When the stage had gotten about 40 yards ahead of the walking prisoners, sheriff, and deputy, the prisoners made a sudden assault on the sheriff and deputy. They disarmed them and killed both the sheriff and the deputy. The Apache Kid was in the stage at the time and did not assault anyone. The Mexican ran up ahead to tell Eugene Middleton of what was happening. Middleton drew his gun, but was shot in the face before he could shoot anyone. Before running into the surrounding countryside, the Apaches mutilated the bodies of Sheriff Reynolds and Deputy Holmes.
After Middleton sufficiently recovered, he walked the four miles back to Riverside to get help.
The Apache Kid has been blamed for these killings by many writers, but he wasn’t guilty. The Apaches with him did it. He knew he would be blamed, so he fled.
The bullet that hit Eugene Middleton entered about the middle of the right cheek and came out directly over the spine, about even with the top of his shoulders. The ball passed very near his spinal cord and his escape from death was a very narrow one.
Why did all of this happen? Prisoners were not secure. The sheriff should have shackled each man’s hands and feet. The prisoners who were walking had to have their shackles removed. But, they should have been handcuffed individually and then a rope or chain tied to each man so they were all connected. They should have been made to walk in front of the sheriff and the deputy by several yards and guns should have been pointed at them at all times.
Story told by late Historian, Jynx Pyle.