Steve Gatto
Another Contemporary Account Of John Ringo's Death
Sun Oct 24, 7:18

When discussing the death of John Ringo, people often cite the Tombstone Epitaph for details of his demise. Below is a contemporary account that originated with the Tombstone Independent and was picked up and published by the Kansas City Times, on July 26, 1882, that has some interested details about his life and death including a mention of the hammer of his pistol being on a shell, his skill with weapons, his above average intelligence, his recent threats of suicide, and his reported wife in Arizona.

A Shining Mask

Death of John Ringo – the Cowboy Chieftain
Sketches of His Life and Theory of His Death.
(Tombstone Independent.)

On Sunday evening Messrs. Fred Ward and Jack Lewis arrived in town from Morse’s mill, in the Chiricahua’s, bringing with them the intelligence that the lifeless body of John Ringo, who is probably as well known as any man on the frontier, had been found near the mouth of the canyon leading to Morse’s mill. The lifeless body was found by John Yost, on Friday last, at about 3’ o’clock, a short distance from the road. The finding was accidental, Yost having been attracted to the spot by the barking of his dog. When discovered, the body was in a sitting posture, at the foot of a tree. A Colt’s 45-caliber pistol, with one chamber empty, and the hammer on the shell, was tightly clutched in his right hand, the barrel resting on his left arm. An examination disclosed a ghastly wound in the head, the bullet having entered the right temple and emerging near the center of the crown. The skin was blown off for several inches. By the side of the corpse lay a Winchester rifle, the magazine full and a cartridge in the chamber. On the person was found a watch and chain, $2.60 in money, some few trifles, and two cartridge belts, the pistol belt being turned upside down. Neither horse nor foot tracks were found in the neighborhood, a heavy rain of the night before having obliterated them, had they existed. It was thought that the body had been there for about twenty-four hours, and the parties living at the house of B. F. Smith, distant about 500 yards, claimed to have heard a shot in that vicinity about 2 o’clock on the previous day. The deceased had no boots on when he was found, his feet being encased in flannel moccasins, made from his undershirt.

Hastily summoning a few of the neighbors, Yost stated the facts, as previously given, and after an informal inquest the body was assigned to the grave, within a few feet from where found. The general opinion of those present was that Ringo had lost his horse; that while trying to catch him he had become foot-sore, and removed his boots and put them away, intending to return for them after recovering his horse; that he did not succeed in getting his stead, and proceeded to Morse’s mill to procure one from one of his many acquaintances in the vicinity; that he became exhausted by travel and lack of water, and committed suicide while laboring under temporary aberration of the mind. The theory of suicide is rendered probable from the fact that deceased has on several occasions recently threatened to take his own life, stating that he was broken up, and saw no chance to mend his shattered fortunes.

John Ringo was a native of Missouri, and aged about 33 years. He came to California when a boy of 15 years, and resided from that period to about 5 years ago, in the Santa Clara valley, near San Jose, engaged in the occupation of ranching. Coming to Arizona a few years since, he has since then been engaged in the cattle business, and at one time was possessed of considerable means. His occupation naturally threw him in the company of the cowboys, and ‘twas but a short time until, from his hardihood, wonderful skill with weapons, and utter scorn of danger, that he was their recognized leader. Unlike Curly Bill and others, he was not a swaggerer, and save when under the influence of liquor, rarely engaged in broils. His natural intelligence and information was far above the average, and in person he was a striking figure, standing over six feet in height, and well proportioned. He has an uncle and two married sisters living in San Jose, the uncle being Col. Coleman Younger, the well-known breeder of fine cattle. A married sister, Mrs. F. M. Jackson, resides in Portland, Oregon. Deceased was a first cousin of the notorious Missouri outlaws, the Younger brothers. ‘Tis reported that he has a wife living in Arizona, but her whereabouts is unknown to the Independent.
Kansas City Times, July 26, 1882

    • More on Ringo from the Tombstone IndependentMike Mihaljevich, Mon Oct 25 20:30
      The Tombstone Independent struck again days later (as printed in the Jul 29, 1882 Tucson Citizen) "A son of Mr. B.F. Smith found John Ringo's horse on Tuesday last, about two miles from where the d... more
    • Most interesting is no mention of pistol caught in watch chain, much stronger report of suicidal utterances on Ringo's part, and mention of the loss of what is described of "considerable means". Also,... more
      • It seems to me that this reporter dug a little further to get some details about his death and his background. This is the only contemporary reference to Ringo reportedly having a wife that I can rec... more
        • Great bit of historyRoy B Young, Thu Nov 04 13:24
          Thanks, Steve. Nice to have this piece from the KC Times. I know there is currently a work in progress, by a credible Georgia author who is claiming to have new evidence of who "killed" John Ringo. ... more
          • Re: Great bit of historySteve Gatto, Fri Nov 05 11:18
            Hi Roy, I guess we'll see what he has to support his conclusion that someone killed John Ringo. Personally, I believe that the evidence that Ringo killed himself continues to get stronger. I'... more
            • Re: Re: Great bit of historyBob Cash, Wed Nov 10 21:48
              Steve, if you don't have this already, you may find it interesting. Fort Worth Record, PAGE 37, Sunday, April 13, 1913, by Taylor Thompson. It's available on I will try to summarize it... more
              • Re: Re: Re: Great bit of historySteve Gatto, Thu Nov 11 14:35
                Bob, Yes, I've seen this article. I pretty much search on a weekly or even daily basis.
        • Great work, SteveCasey Tefertiller, Tue Oct 26 7:18
          This is a terrific find, Steve. I have never seen a reference to a wife, either.
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