This week’s story is about William Graham, a gunfighter who created havoc for a short time, and then disappeared under much controversy. You’ve never heard of William Graham? It could be because he went under a different name.
When William Graham was in a New Mexico cantina, the local female singer gave him a nickname he used for the rest of his life. It was “Curly Bill Brocius.” Curly Bill was a mean drunk. And, since he was drunk much of the time, he was mean much of the time.
In 1880, he killed Tombstone’s Marshal Fred White. Fortunately, Marshal White’s dieing words indicated it was an accident. As a member of Tombstone’s Clanton gang, he enjoyed taking over saloons, and making everyone undress and dance a jig.
In 1881 Curly Bill was drinking heavily when he had an encounter with Deputy Sheriff Billy Breakenridge, the climax of which Billy shot Curly Bill in the neck. Now, here is where the Curly Bill Brocius legend goes in many directions.
One says he left Arizona after being shot. But, according to Wyatt Earp, on March 21, 1882, after the O.K. Corral shootout, the shooting of Virgil Earp, and four days after Morgan Earp was killed, a posse led by Wyatt encountered Curly Bill and some of his co-harts and Wyatt said he killed Curly Bill with two blasts from his shotgun.
Again, legend says that Curly Bill went west, and years later learned of his death at the hands of Wyatt when he passed through Tombstone on the way to Texas. Another says Doc Holliday killed him. Yet another says he went to Mexico, got married, and became a rancher.
No matter what happened to Curly Bill Brocius, it is for sure that after March of 1882 no one in Arizona had to strip and dance at the point of his gun.
Dakota Livesay is the editor of the Chronicles of the Old West. For more information about the Old West, visit www.ChroniclesoftheOldWest.com You can hear Dakota 10 a.m. each day on KZUZ 93.5 in Show Low and KZUA 92.1 in Holbrook.