William “Brazen Bill” Brazelton
William “Brazen Bill” Brazelton’s (died 1878) was born in San Francisco, orphaned at an early age, and grew up as a street urchin. In 1876, he arrived in Prescott, Arizona, and claiming that he would stage a show in which he would eat a wagon wheel, conned people into paying in advance to attend. He then left town to bring the rest of the show’s crew and stagehands, and never returned.
A year later, he graduated from grifting to armed robbery, and held up his first stagecoach in September 1877. Wearing a mask, Brazelton forced the driver to get down and secure the lead horses by the bit. He then ordered a passenger to throw down the express box, break it open with an axe, and hand him the contents. Over the following year, Brazelton committed at least another 8 stagecoach robberies in Arizona and New Mexico.
In the aftermath of his last robbery, on August 15, 1878, Brazelton’s horse threw a shoe, leaving a distinct print that allowed pursuers to follow the track to a horse corral. The proprietor was arrested, and offered to deliver the robber, disclosing that Brazelton intended to commit another robbery that night, and that a meeting had been prearranged for earlier that evening to deliver him supplies. The posse left as if riding back home, then doubled back to the meeting site to wait in ambush.
Brazelton arrived cautiously, and as he began to collect the supplies, something aroused his suspicion. Before he could react, the night was lit by a shotgun blast, followed by flashes from a fusillade of pistol shots. He shouted “you son of a bitch!” as he fell, then lay groaning “I die brave, my God! I’ll pray ’til I die!” On his body were discovered his trademark mask and some loot from previous robberies. His corpse was taken to Tucson, and displayed while tied upright to chair in front of the courthouse until burial the following day.