Burton Mossman Biography
Burton C. Mossman, the first captain of the Arizona Rangers, was single-handedly responsible for the capture of the infamous bandit, Augustino Chacon.
Burton C. Mossman was born in 1867 in Illinois. He was raised in Minnesota. Mossman moved to Arizona and became a rancher at the Hashknife Ranch in Northern Arizona. He was in charge of more than 60,000 head of cattle. In the early 1890's, he stopped a gang of rustlers who local lawmen could not catch. The Hashknife Ranch went bankrupt a few years later, and Burton Mossman then became a meat cutter.
Around the same time, the Arizona Legislature was getting many complaints about train robbers, murders, cattle rustlers, and horse thieves. Citizens of the territory of Arizona asked for a type of peacekeeping. In 1901, the Legislature created the Arizona Rangers. This group of people was picked from law, military officers, and ranchers. It was a copy of the successful Texas Rangers, which started in the 1880's. There were no more than twenty-six Arizona Rangers at a time. From 1901 until 1909, the Arizona Rangers apprehended lawbreakers, stopped disturbances in Ajo, Gila Bend, Globe, Williams, and Holbrook. They also stopped the Morencci Miners' Strike of 1903. These Rangers helped make Arizona a state in 1912 by stopping crime on a large scale.
Burton Mossman agreed to be the first captain of the Arizona Rangers. He recruited the first force. He shot down murderers such as Juan Saliveras in face to face combat. He also captured bandits and brought them in alive.
Mossman liked to play poker. One Saturday night in 1902, he sat in on a poker game at the Brewery Gulch Oriental Saloon. One pot reached $400. The winner of the round called Ranger Bert Groover a "piss poor gambler and a cocky son-of-a-bitch." Mossman tried to cool tempers but failed. Bisbee policemen had to arrest them, but Ranger Groover escaped that night. The brawl made publicity in the newspapers, which in effect was bad publicity for the Arizona Rangers.
At this time there was a famous bandit named Augustino Chacon. He lived in Sonora, Mexico, but did most of his mischief in Arizona. He led a gang that held up stagecoaches, robbed a casino in Jerome, Arizona, and committed many other crimes. After each raid, he would take sanctuary in Mexico where he was safe from the American people and their law. In 1869, Chacon killed a deputy named Pablo Salcido in Moreci. Lawmen caught Chacon and he was found guilty. He was sentenced to be hung.
In jail, Chacon smuggled a hacksaw into his cell by hiding it in the binding of a Bible. Other prisoners played music to disguise the sound of the filing of the bars. A lady friend seduced the guard, allowing Chacon to escape. Chacon continued to be an outlaw until 1902.
Mossman got information about Chacon's location from some of his gang members. On September 4, 1902, a disguised Mossman rode into Chacon's camp at dawn with a member of Chacon's gang. The gang member told Chacon that Mossman had just broken out of jail. Mossman asked Chacon for a cigarette. He pretended to burn his hand when he lit it. Mossman rubbed his hand against his leg next to his gun, grabbed his gun, and captured Chacon. It did not matter that his role as captain of the Arizona Rangers had expired four days earlier or that he was across the Mexican border. He took Chacon back across the border on horseback, took a train to Benson, and put Chacon in jail. From there he was put into jail in Solomonville. When at the gallows, Chacon said, "Adios, todos amigos," which means, "Goodbye, all of my friends."
During the last years of his life, Mossman was confined to a wheelchair. On September 5, 1956, Burton C. Mossman died in Roswell, New Mexico.