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Sat, May 25

Verde Heritage: Lawman JAMES F. ROBERTS

"ANOTHER KILLING: Jealousy and a Senorita the Cause; From the days 'when the world was young and the God's loved,' wine, women and song have figured up to the present just as conspicuously as ever as the basis of our earthly ills. ... In this section during the last few years a score of killings have taken place, and among nine-tenths of the unfortunate to go to the unknown, they can point backward to woman as the reason and the only reason of their ethereal flight. The last victim to decorate the blotted pages of illicit love is Miguel Montoya, of Jerome, who was perforated yesterday by a fellow countryman because he persisted in his devotions when warned not to do so. Whether he had the right to do so, does not matter, and as to the exact particulars of his ending of life's cares, they do not concern us or for that matter, are they particularly interesting. He was shot and killed by a jealous rival, and a fair senorita was the cause of it, as many of them have been in the past and will be in the future."

(Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner; October 9, 1895; page 4.)

Charles D. Willard, who came into the Verde Valley on June 1, 1879, farmed and had a dairy at the north end of Cottonwood. He delivered milk from his Alamo Dairy to residents in Jerome, knew Deputy Sheriff and Constable Jim Roberts, and told the following story to Herbert V. Young:

"An attractive-appearing woman came to reside in Jerome and took up with a young man and kept house for him. Another young man was attracted by her and attempted to invade the domain which the first man [Juan Garcia] considered to be his own. In order to make sure that he would have no interference, he [Juan Garcia] put a bullet through the second [Miguel Montejo]. The first man decided that flight was the wise course. He fled from Jerome into the nearby mountains. Roberts knew that he had acquaintances among the gangs of woodchoppers nearby and he traced him to the vicinity of the woodchoppers camp. His inquiries of the woodchoppers elicited no information. They claimed not to have seen the fugitive. Roberts thereupon left, but he was satisfied that he had not been told the truth and he came back to the vicinity of the camp under cover of darkness and spent the night in the undergrowth, figuring that if the fugitive was in concealment he would be contacted by the woodchoppers in the morning. At daybreak he took up a position where he could watch the camp."

(Herbert V. Young Collection; Courtesy of the Jerome Historical Society Archives.)

INQUEST: "James F. Roberts, being duly sworn, deposes and says, 'My name is James F. Roberts. I am Constable in Jerome Precinct. I had been given a warrant for the arrest of Juan Garcia for the murder of one, Montejo. I started after him immediately after he had killed Montejo, and had been after him 2 days and 3 nights. I went onto the Woodchute Mesa yesterday (the 2nd). I went to the cabin occupied by F. Mestos and 3 other Mexicans and laid behind a log for about 3/4 of an hour watching the cabin. I saw Francisco Mestos going from the cabin toward a canyon with a can in one hand and something under his arm and a 5 pound lard bucket in the other hand. I made up my mind he was taking Juan Garcia his breakfast. As soon as he was out of sight, I went around to the opposite side of the canyon from where Mestos went into the canyon. I was going down the canyon and made a little noise with my foot or a rock and out jumped Francisco Mestos and Juan Garcia from a bunch of brush.'"

"'Mestos saw me first. He pointed his finger at me and said something to Juan Garcia. I could not hear what he said. Mestos broke and ran around ..?.. Juan Garcia and hollered, "Come here Juan," loud enough for me to hear him. He stood and looked at me, probably 5 seconds, and started back into the brush where he had come out. He got back into the brush and all I could see of him was from the top of his pants upward, when I fired. He got into the brush where I could not see him. I jumped to one side out of the smoke of my rifle and fired 3 or 4 times into the brush. I then went about 20 yards to an oak tree and got behind it and hollered 3 or 4 times for him to come out. In about half a minute afterward he came out of the brush and started up through the top of a fallen tree and fell. After he fell I could see by his actions he had been hit. I asked him if he had a gun.'"

"'He said, "Yes, I've got it." He said, "Come on Jim. Come on Jim."'"

"'I told him to throw his six-shooter away and he threw it down the hill. He said, "Come on, I've thrown it away."'"

"'I went to where he was and looked for the six-shooter and found it. It was loaded all around. I asked him why he did not come to me.'"

"'He replied, "You s-- of a b----, I don't go to you. If you didn't shoot when you did, I'd get you all right, you s-- of a b----. Shoot me again you s-- of a b----. Shoot me through the head you s-- of a b----. Kill me. I'll die anyway."'"

"'I then went to the cabin and got Francisco Mestos and 3 other Mexicans to help me pack him to the house. When we got back to him, he had out a big knife trying to cut his throat.'"

"'He said, "Shoot me again!"'"

"'We carried him to the houses. He lived an hour after he was shot. He was shot about 7:30 and died about 8:30 a.m. He cussed me all the way to the house and called me' ..."

"'I shot Juan Garcia while trying to serve a warrant on him for murder and while acting in my official capacity.' (signed) J. F. Roberts."

(Courtesy of the Jerome Historical Society Archives.)

Charles Willard continued: "I was in town that morning delivering milk and had heard the story. On my route I met Roberts coming down from the mountain. I asked if he had found his man."

"'Yes,' he said, 'I found him.'"

"Why Didn't you bring him in? I asked."

"'Oh,' said Roberts, 'he's coming along behind me.'"

"Soon after I saw that he was right. Two men followed Roberts into town bearing the body of the fugitive on a stretcher."

(Herbert V. Young Collection; Courtesy of the Jerome Historical Society Archives.)

"THE MURDERER OF MONTOYA RESISTS ARREST: A telegram received to-day by Under Sheriff Dillon says that Deputy Sheriff Roberts, of Jerome, had run down Juan Garcia near that place this morning, and the latter, in resisting arrest, was fired upon by the officer and killed. Garcia was armed and while endeavoring to use his weapon Roberts fired with fatal effect. The crime which Garcia committed was a cold blooded one, his victim being cruelly and cowardly murdered, and that too with no other motive than petty jealousy."

(Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner; October 9, 1895; page 1.)

Charles Willard told Herbert Young, James "Roberts was one of the last survivors of the famous Tonto Basin cattle and sheep war. He had succeeded in coming through the war unscathed, and following the termination of that series of bloody events he was stationed as a deputy sheriff in the town of Jerome. I knew him well during his stay there."

"He spent his last days as a town watchman and came into real prominence the last time by preventing the escape of 2 men who robbed the Clarkdale bank. He proved his prowess with a gun by coolly shooting the driver of the car in which the robbers with their loot were attempting to escape. Jim Roberts died on duty a few years ago in Clarkdale."

(Herbert V. Young Collection; Courtesy of the Jerome Historical Society Archives.)

January 8, 1934: While on duty, Deputy Sheriff James Roberts suffered a heart attack as he was walking back of the drug store in Clarkdale about 11 o'clock Monday night. He was found about an hour later, then died on the way to the company hospital in Jerome. James F. Roberts "typified the story-book character of a western deputy sheriff and many are they who regret his passing. Even in the end he upheld tradition by 'dying with his boots on.'"

(Prescott Evening Courier; January 10, 1934; pages 1 and 2.)

Re-enactments of the robbery of the Clarkdale branch of the Bank of Arizona will take place at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 on Saturday, April 8, in connection with the 8th Annual Clarkdale Historic Building and Home Tour. See your local friends and neighbors as they portray lawman James Roberts, bank manager David Saunders, robbers Willard Forrester and Earl Nelson, and many others who just happened to be on Main Street to witness the gunfire and exciting events on June 21, 1928.

See: The Verde Independent; "HERITAGE: Sheriff James Roberts was the Real McCoy;" by Steve Ayers; July 28, 2005; "1894: JEROME; Deputy Sheriff Jim Roberts' Substitute for a Jail;" August 23, 2013; "1895: JEROME; Jealousy and Murder;" October 13, 2015.

See: The Daily Courier; Prescott; "SON OF A GUN: Descendants of YCSO officers loan memorabilia for exhibit marking units 150th anniversary;" August 18, 2013.

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