Deputy Sheriff GEORGE ADOLPHUS SCARBOROUGH Grant County Sheriff's Department End of Watch: Thursday April 05, 1900 Cause of Death: Gunfire
On April 2, 1900, Deputy George Scarborough received a telegram in Deming from rancher Walt Birchfield requesting help in searching for some cattle thieves. Scarborough joined Birchfield at San Simon, Arizona Territory, and the two men took to the trail on April 3. Late in the day, they were ambushed and both were shot; Scarborough in the leg, just above the knee (the bullet also killed his horse), and Birchfield in the arm.
Birchfield erected a small fort out of rocks to protect the deputy, and then rode for help.
He returned in the early morning hours of the following day and found Scarborough alive but suffering greatly. The Deputy was taken to the railroad station at San Simon and then on to Deming. Doctors operated in an effort to save the officer's leg, but they couldn't save his life. He never came out of the anesthetic and died early on the morning of April 5, 1900.
No one was ever arrested and charged with Scarborough's murder. An El Paso news item reported that a posse encountered "fugitive murderers" Burt Alvard, Bravo Johnson and William Stiles, who, it alleged, had "ambushed and murdered" George Scarborough. Stiles, it was reported, died in the gunfight. The problem was that the news item was in error on just about every count. Alvard, Johnson, and Stiles were in jail in Arizona when the officer was killed, and Stiles is known to have lived on for some years. Two other men, George Stevenson and Jim Brooks, were subsequently arrested by Grant County, New Mexico, Deputy W. D. "Keechi" Johnson and locked up in the jail at Silver City. They escaped in late May 1900, and were never recaptured.
Geroge Scarborough had served as a peace officer for most of his adult life; as a Texas sheriff and Ranger and Deputy U. S. Marshal, before he assumed his duties in New Mexico in 1897. As a deputy marshal, Scarborough killed John Selman (April 5, 1896) who was noted as the man who murdered Texas killer John Wesley Hardin by shooting him in the back (April 19, 1895). Note that in one of history's coincidences, Selman and Scarborough died four years apart, to the day.
Deputy Scarborough, a native of Louisiana, was 40 years old at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife, Mollie, and seven children. His son, 20 year old Ed, served for a time as a deputy sheriff, constable and Arizona Ranger, but was convicted of murder in 1915 and sentenced to prison, from which he escaped, never to be captured.
A newspaper of the day said this: "[George Scarborough's death] removes one of the best known characters in this section. He was brave as a lion. This is the universal testimony of all who knew him."
Albuquerque Journal Democrat, April 6, 11 & 15, 1900
Robert DeArment, George Scarborough, The Life and Death of A Lawman on the Closing Frontier, University of Oklahoma Press
Leon Metz, The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters, Checkmark Books
Leon Metz, John Selman, Gunfighter, University of Oklahoma Press
Dan L. Thrapp, Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, University of Nebraska Press.
Courtesy of Don Bullis (email@example.com); excerpted from
"New Mexico's Finest: Peace Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, 1847-2010"
with permission from Rio Grande Books, www.nmsantos.com