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The Goswick Incident

My grandfather, Floyd Pyle, was a good friend of Giles Goswick. They were both government lion hunters in the early 1940s, and before, as I have records of my granddad hunting for the government in 1929. I also have a letter dated 1944 from E. M. Mercer (district agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service) asking that Floyd do some hunting on the Sitgreaves Forest as Giles could handle Coconino, but the Sitgreaves was too far from Giles’ home near Camp Verde for him to hunt all that country.

Floyd and Giles sometimes camped together as they hunted lion, although they hunted separately. In this way they were able cover a piece of country faster and didn’t have to pack in as much camp gear. With supper done, the dogs tied and the horses fed, Floyd and Giles would swap a few yarns over the coffee pot before they turned in for the evening.

It was on one of these evenings that the conversation turned to Giles brother, Wes Goswick. Floyd knew Wes well, also, as Wes and his family had lived on Ellison Creek for sometime, just a mile below Floyd’s home on the Myrtle Ranch and only four miles from Floyd’s childhood home at Bonita Gardens.

Years later, my grandfather related to me what Giles told him about Wes. It kindled my interest, so I questioned some of the old-timers hoping to gain more information about the incident.

I soon found out that like the Pleasant Valley War, the people who really knew the story were pretty closed mouth about it, but from what Giles Goswick told my grandfather, and what I was able to glean from family histories and court records, I have pieced together the following story.

Wesley Floyd Goswick, known as “Wes,” was a miner all of his adult life and moved his family around quite a bit. He and wife, Mary, came from Tennessee to New Mexico and then to Globe Arizona. From there they moved to Colorado and later came back to Arizona and the Verde Valley where Wes’s brother, George, lived. For a time they farmed with George in the Verde Valley. Later they moved onto the old Ellison Ranch located below the Myrtle Ranch on Ellison Creek. There they lived for several years, farming and hunting. Two of Wes and Mary’s little children, Willie and Rosie, died of diphtheria on the old Ellison Ranch in 1901 and 1902 respectively and are buried there. When the dam construction began, the family moved to Roosevelt.

Wes and Mary’s children were: Bessie, who married Jess Henderson; Rhoda, who married Bill Packard; Belle, who married Alfred Packard; Helen “Jo” who married Buster Ellison, and Nora “Dude” who married Oscar B. Cline. They had two more daughters, Myrtle and Lou, whose lives were cut short, and so begins this story.

The details immediately following, I learned from research: Wes and Mary divorced. Their two daughters, Myrtle, 12, and Lou, 14, lived in Miami with their mother, but were visiting Wes on his ranch four miles north of Globe. A hired hand by the name of Kingsley Olds worked on the ranch. On the morning of June 23, 1910, Wes got up early to go lion hunting. Olds was told to take a wagon to Horseshoe Bend on the Salt River to pick up a gasoline engine. Myrtle and Lou asked to go along with Olds so they could have a picnic. They were given permission.

When Wes arrived back at the ranch late that afternoon, the girls had not returned. Neither was there any sign of Olds or the wagon, so Wes decided to take the road to Horseshoe Bend in hopes of meeting his daughters. His concern turned to worry, then to fear as he covered the miles. His arrival at Horseshoe Bend confirmed his worst fear. Wes found blood and signs of a struggle! Then darkness covered the scene. Wes left the bend and returned with help at sunup the next morning.

In the light of day, Wes and his helpers were able to find and unravel much of the evidence. Wes recalled that Olds had taken a shotgun to protect the girls. A cowboy, J. R. Haskell, had crossed the river about ten o’clock the previous day and had seen the girls and a man swimming in the river. He reported that they were clad only in their underwear and he believed them to be on a family picnic, so rode on paying them no mind.

It wasn’t long before the cowboys had followed the bloody trail of Kingsley Olds to a cabin where they found him nursing a gunshot to the chin. Olds told the men that a man had tried to shoot both he and the girls as they waded in the river. He said that Myrtle had fled into deep water and that the girls had both drowned when Lou tried to help her sister.

A search of the river was executed and the bodies of both girls were found washed into some driftwood near the riverbank down stream from the picnic site. The men could see no evidence that the girls had been abused, but all were sure that there had been foul play. Why hadn’t Olds returned to the ranch and reported his story to Wes, or to the law? Olds was arrested and taken to Globe to be held for trial.

There was talk of a lynching, so the trial was held without delay. The jury found that the drowning of the girls was, if not at the hands of Olds, a direct result of his conduct. They had been in his charge! Olds was never sentenced.

At this point in the story, I am again going on what I learned from my granddad Floyd as was related to him by Giles Goswick. It so happened that from the judges’ chambers on the third floor of the Globe Courthouse, one could look out a window into the cell in which Olds was being held. Both buildings are still standing. It also happened that Wes and Mary Goswick had raised a host of good and beautiful daughters that had married into ranching families, all the way from Globe to Payson. In addition, Wes had friends all along the way from Globe to Camp Verde who would be happy to give him the loan of a fast horse for a few days.

Now Wes was born in Tennessee at a time when boys started carrying a rifle as soon as they could keep both ends off the ground, and his daughters were his pride, his happiness and his sacred trust. So, Wes paid a visit to his brother, George, in Camp Verde and some friends and son-in-laws in Payson and the Tonto Basin country.

Then one evening, Wes tied up a fast horse outside the Globe Court House and spent a little time in the judges’ chamber. That same evening, smoke, fire, and chunk o’ hot lead belched out of the barrel of a 30-40 Craig through the chamber window into a jail cell and Olds was ready to be fitted with a wooden overcoat!

Wes made it to his horse and out of town. He had a lead on his pursuers, a good horse under him, and a clear road to Roosevelt. There he changed horses and sped on to Tonto Basin where he again got a fresh horse. From there he rode into Payson where a son in-law, Alfred Packard, was waiting with a well rested horse. Then it was on to Camp Verde. He had out-distanced, if not totally lost, all pursuit.

In Camp Verde Wes again traded horses, and this time he traded guns! Brother George also was the owner of a 30-40 Craig. Without stopping to rest, Wes was on the trail back to Payson. He would allow himself to be caught if a posse had tracked him that far. After all, he hadn't been seen and the gun he was packing had not been fired in some time.

Payson held no more notoriety for Wes than before, so he rested up for a couple of days and rode on down to Tonto Basin to return the horse that he had borrowed. No, there hadn't been anyone there looking for him, so he saddled the pony he had left there and rode back to Roosevelt. No posse, so one more time he changed horses and rode into Globe.

Folks did not know who had shot Olds, nor did they give an airborne rodent’s derriere! If someone cared to ’fess up to the shooting, though, they would see what they could do about getting some sort of medal to pin on him.

Alfred Packard (my great-great-uncle) and his wife, Belle, moved from Payson down on Tonto and Wes went to live with them. Wes and Alfred hunted lion for the government and did a little prospecting. Wes died in 1943 of natural causes.

We will never know the total story of what happened that day at Horseshoe Bend. Family histories I have read dealing with the Goswicks never list the names of Lou or Myrtle among Wes and Mary Goswick’s children. Gila County criminal records in the cases of Myrtle and Lou Goswick and Kingsley Olds still list the cases as “unsolved.” Further muddying the waters is the fact that I have not been able to locate the girl’s graves.

And so, most of what I have written here originated from a story told from one old cowboy to another across a camp fire some sixty years ago.

Still, I believe that there are people who can add information to these events. If so, I would appreciate hearing from you. I would also like to have a photo of Wes Goswick.

*Story told by late great historian Jinx Pyle

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