Most tales of the old west are best told in the words of those directly involved in the story. Here is a shortened story of the 1900s killing of Shorty Dallas near Clifton, Arizona taken from the notes of a settler of the area.
“The cause of Shorty’s death was the plan of two teen-age boys, William Allender and Wm. Trailer, son of an ex-gunman and killer, [Trailer was] used by the C. & L. Cattle Co. to get rid of homesteaders who moved in on grass and water [of that Company] by virtue of first possession.”
“The boys went to Shorty’s camp to get [steal] three horses to ride to Wilcox [AZ] where they [planned to] sell them and buy train tickets for themselves and a saloon girl who wanted to return to California. Shorty had just returned home [on Silver Creek] with 5 or 6 horses he had bought in the Gila Valley and surprised the boys with the horses and refused, of course, to let them take them.
“They reported their failure to Wood Poland, the brother-in-law to [young] Trailer. He also was a three-time killer in New Mexico, and he said if he wanted horses he would take them. [He] loaned the Trailer boy his 30-40 rifle and the boys went back, hid in a cave about 80 yards away and across the creek from the cabin, and shot Shorty as he came out, I think, to take his clothes off the line, as Shorty had done his washing after they left.
“Shorty had stayed with me in town on Wednesday night, with John [my brother] on Thursday night, and we knew something was wrong when Shorty didn’t show up on Saturday, [so] John went over to Shorty’s Sunday A.M. and found him dead. A Mexican working for me came to my home and said a couple of kids remarked to a prostitute in a saloon they guessed they had better ride as they had killed an old guy up in the hills, and it might be Shorty.
“I phoned the Sheriff at Solomonville [AZ] as to who did the killings, that the killer had a brother-in-law on a ranch above Solomonville, and the Sheriff was waiting there when Trailer rode in.
“It took two terms of court to get Trailer convicted, using the Allender boy as Territorial witness. Trailer was sentenced to 14 years, but a year later he was pardoned by the Governor. I received word from the Warden at Florence that the Trailer boy had said what he would do to those who sent him to the Pen. John and I met him at the train. I drew a fenceline [line in the sand] for him at Poland’s cabin, and any time he was caught in [the] Sycamore [trees] below the cabin, he would figure he was making his war talk good. Sheriff Patty overheard me and told Poland if he pulled any more tricks like getting Shorty, there would be a necktie party, which he would[n’t] investigate [until] a couple weeks later.”
“Poland died of cancer a couple of years later, and greatly to my relief. Ancient history, but just one of several things I’ll sketch for the children to read someday of early settlers in Greenlee County.”
There never was anybody who faced any court action on the true murder of Shorty Dallas, and the folks of Florence lived relatively peacefully, kind of, afterward.