Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years

Tombstone History Archives

Letter from Robert Boller to Frank King

 

Fifty-two years after the death of Ringo, Robert Boller,
a member of the coroner’s jury, wrote the following letter.

 

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September 20, 1934

Mr. Frank M. King

Los Angeles, California

 

My dear Mr. King:

 

In your letter of Sept. 17 you asked me if I noticed powder marks on Ringo’s head. I am going into detail quite a bit.

 

I was driving team for McGregor–seven yoke of cattle. Smith’s outfit was just ahead with five teams, seven yoke to the team. If they beat us to the mill we would be delayed a day in getting our load. They would get the mining timbers which was the choice of loads. Just before we reached the camp grounds, John Yoas stopped his team and called to the teamsters he had found a dead man. They had driven by and didn’t notice him. He, Yoas, hesitated to go near the corpse until I got there. The first word he said after looking closely at the corpse was “My God, it’s John Ringo!” The body had turned black and was smelling. Yoas said, “Some more dirty work of the Earps.” I said, “John, you are crazy to think the Earps would dare follow Ringo. Hasn’t he made them take water in their dumps in Tombstone, when Fred Ward and Bull Lewis went into the saloon and lead Ringo out telling him the Earps would shoot him in the back. You have heard Lewis and Ward both tell how he cowed Doc Holliday and three of the Earps singlehanded, then run them out of the territory.” The Earps learning Ringo was one of Sheriff Behan’s posse they hightailed out of Arizona.

 

Three trees had grown around a boulder about eighteen inches across and to this day looks like they’re planted there to make a chair. Leaning against the tree on his right was his Winchester rifle. His hat, a light colored Stetson about three inch rim, lay beside the rifle. He sat on the rock. He had taken his boots off. He had drawers, tore them up and wrapped them around his feet. He had on two belts, one was upside down. That was his rifle cartridge belt, only seven cartridges in it. The other belt was full, if I remember rightly, Colt’s 45. He wore no coat. He had on a vest. He wore a very heavy silver link watch chain attached to a very heavy silver watch. The hook on the chain was hooked into his vest on his right side. The vest was unbuttoned. In his right hand he held his 45 Colt’s. The sight on the barrel had caught on his watch chain and held his hand from dropping into his lap. He had held the sixshooter against his head about an inch above his right ear and pulled the trigger. That is the way we all agreed that it happened except John Yoas, and he too was convinced when I showed him where the bullet had entered the tree on his left side. Blood and brains oozing from the wound and matted his hair. There was an empty shell in the sixshooter and the hammer was on that.

 

I called it suicide fifty-two years ago. I am still calling it suicide. I guess I am the last of that coroner’s jury.

 

With my best wishes, I am,

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Robt. M. Boller

Box 567, Ajo, Ariz.

 

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