William Whitney Brazelton drifted into the Tucson area (the Old Pueblo) in September of 1877, via California and claimed he was a native Missourian by birth. There is little doubt that he had already pulled off multiple stagecoach robberies in New Mexico Territory and in Northern Arizona in the 1870s. He worked alone and had by this time become sort of trademarked by the linen mask he wore. He was a pretty darn good at keeping a low profile and he practiced the notion of keeping secrets by telling no one. But then he slipped up. . .
He was a large framed man for his day. He stood slightly over six feet tall and went just over 200 pounds.
Most historians characterize him as a jovial man and not given to violence for its own sake. Not so sure. We have an account by a friend of his while in Tucson, Ben Williams, who while attending a dance at which Brazelton was also present:
". . . got into a little trouble with a man who drew a knife." Brazelton seeing it, came over immediately, yanked a sixgun, and put the knife wielder to route with a threat of death. Williams went on to write that Brazelton had definitely saved his life. Later, he claimed Brazelton told him he wanted "to die with his boots on." Indeed Bill always went about well armed. He was suspected by authorities to be an army veteran because of his arms and spurs (?). Here is a quote from an internet site about Bill, give it your own truth value:
". . . fast, deadly gun hand and reports indicate he feared no man. He usually wore his pants tucked in his boots. Authorities assumed he might have been in the military at one time because his pistols were Colt army issue and he wore small brass spurs, also used by the army. His arsenal also included a Spencer Carbine."
The images are meant to be representative of stagecoaches per se. Here is a backdrop on Tucson area stagecoaches and why they appealed to road agents:
In 1877, in response to increased mining activity in southern Arizona, Wells-Fargo
Express Company, transporter of valuables, reestablished its Tucson office that had been
briefly operational in 1860 for the Butterfield Overland Mail. Wells Fargo began leasing
space on stagecoaches to carry “treasure boxes,” a good source of income for stage lines
but somewhat risky.
According to the fascinating book, Encyclopedia of Stage Robbery in Arizona, there were
129 stagecoach robberies in Arizona between 1875 and 1903. Eleven of these occurred
in Pima County, including two robberies near present day Marana, single robberies near
Patagonia and present day Green Valley, and a robbery of the Tucson-Quijotoa stage.
The Marana robberies in 1878 were committed by highwayman Bill Brazelton, who
supposedly turned his horse’s shoes around to confuse trackers, but was later shot dead
by a pursuing posse."
We shall get to Old Bill's backwards horseshoe trick shortly. . .