Arizona Retro

Like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, Perry Owens played a major role in Arizona history with taming the Wild West. Born in 1852, Owens was a well-known and feared gunfighter and lawman. In his early years, he was a ranch foreman, when three Navajo warriors tried stealing horses while under his watch. Owens killed two and wounded the third warrior, earning him the nickname among the Navajo as Iron Man.

Owens later began to homestead near Navajo-Springs and raise Purebred horses. Owens had many dealings with the Navajo before his role in the Pleasant Valley War. Almost always without permission, he would go onto the Navajo reservation to capture and arrest known horse thieves and ring them to justice no matter their age.

Throughout his early years, there were three Navajo chiefs of different bands who claimed to have killed Owens during ambushes & gunfights later earning him the nickname Ghost Man. When the Navajo would cross paths or even see Owens while on the trail, they would run or nervously let him pass without incident of any kind.

By the time the Pleasant Valley War was in full swing, Perry Owens was now a respected and feared lawman. Not many men resisted when Owens came to arrest them, those who did were always brought back dead.

The most famous gunfight that Owens took part in was the Andy Cooper shootout in Holbrook Arizona.

It was September 4, 1887, when Owens approached the Blevins house and demanded Andy Cooper to present himself and that he was taking him in. 12 people were in the house that day, including Andy Cooper, the eldest and youngest Blevins brothers. Owens stood alone outside the home and against 4 dangerous outlaws. The shootout took less than a minute and four men (known outlaws and participants in the Pleasant Valley War murders) and one was wounded. Owens was praised as he walked down the streets of Holbrook for his killing of the dreaded Andy Cooper and therefore bring a swift end of the range war to a close.

After the Blevins shootout, Owens was elected again as sheriff as the outlaw days were coming to a close and there was no more of a need for someone of his metal. Owens left the Sheriff’s Office in 1888.

Commodore Perry Owens played a pivotal role In Arizona history and sadly he is almost completely forgotten about. It is my hope that his legend and story doesn’t slip into history. Because without Owens, the Pleasant Valley War might have dragged on for many more years if Andy Cooper was left alive.

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Mustangs by the side of Hwy 99

East of Winslow, AZ

Horses have roamed free in the American West since the Spanish brought these animals to North America in the 1500s. For years, wild mustangs were rounded up and used for anything from cutting horses to rodeos to dog food, until a 1971 Federal law made it illegal to kill or capture them. You can “adopt them” from BLM. It’s important to put them in a pasture with other horses so they can socialize. Horses are very social animals.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Northwest Colorado is home to at least three locales where wild horses are found in large numbers. During hard winters they die in large numbers. There is an ongoing problem with overgrazing. Whenever the BLM tries to cull the herds there are screams of outrage.
    One answer to lessen the problems is to capture and geld the stallions.

    • Burros die in large numbers during dry years when the springs dry up. Adoption is a solution and so is letting nature cull them.

  2. Sheriff Owens was one of a special breed of men. They are what made this country great. I wonder what people like Owens or Earp would think of today’s goings on.

    I feed my neighbors horses the occasional carrot. That is about as close to adopting one as I want to get.

  3. i’ve often wondered how wild mustangs manage to survive when every little thing will kill a domesticated one. it costs a fortune/takes a lot of work to keep a horse alive in captivity. its a close race between horses and dogs as to which is more connected to the soul of man. …owens was john wick in real life. thanks for the info.

  4. Stupid enviroweenie rule about not shooting or capturing wild horses. Considering it was the indigenous people waaaay back when that killed off the original American horses (way back, way way back,) the modern horse is just an invasive species and should be treated as such.

    As to the hardiness of the wild horse vs the raised horse, the die-off of weak and sickly horses is rather high.

    The high country would be much greener without all those horses running around.

    • There are herds between Holbrook and Winslow. You can see them feeding and watering by Clear Creek Reservior. There are also herds along State Route 260 between Payson and Heber/Sho Low/Pinetop. I’ve seen them from the highway. They’re not pets, they’re wild.

  5. During the restoration of the last remaining Overland Trail stage station, pulled the sagging ceiling down and discovered stuffed in the eaves a bunch of old clothes, been there since 1900, even a pair of Levi’s 201’s. All the pants had a 28-30″ inseam…shorter than modern man, as most were in that era. But toughness doesn’t always mean “tall”.

    • Where’s that station located, Paul? We went to the one up by Virginia Dale, but after a short hike, there wasn’t much to see!

    • I get a steak in Hollbrook whenever I pass through at a little cafe, I mentioned on the blog. There’s not much of a “present” in Hollbrook, but it had a very lively past. The stories of the Hashkinfe Cattle Company alone will keep you at the edge of your seat. All true.

  6. My wife’s aunt and uncle used to live in the house in Holbrook where the Blevin’s shootout occurred.
    One morning her aunt was cooking when her foot went through the kitchen floor.
    When her uncle started repairs he found a kind of shallow basement with quite a few Colts and Winchesters stashed under the house.
    Later in life, at a different location, he built a walk-in gun safe\room to house his collection.
    Unfortunately, his entire collection was lost in a tragic canoe accident after his death.

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