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William Llonzo "Lon" Parker
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Birth: Apr. 26, 1892
Santa Cruz County
Arizona, USA
Death: Jul. 25, 1926
Santa Cruz County
Arizona, USA

by Ed Pyeat DCPA Tuscon Sector

The United States Border Patrol was created in May, 1924. Lon Parker was the 7th Border Patrol Inspector slain in the line of duty. The first Patrol Inspectors were selected from a civil service register of prospective postal employees. Subsequent Border Patrolmen were local lawmen, cowboys, ranch hands and country boys recruited from border towns and ranches. The tough work of the young Border Patrol demanded a tough breed of man. Lon Parker fit the demand.

Born William Lonn Parker on April 26, 1892, at Parker Canyon, Arizona Territory, "Lon" was grade schooled at Parker Canyon and attended high school at Tombstone. Lon's nickname of "Skinny" followed him when he joined the U.S. Army during World War I. Parker served on the front lines with the 89th Infantry Division, 340th Field Artillery, Battery A. Lon Parker went to war in the same outfit as many other southwest youths, including future Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Carson Morrow.

Lon Parker took the Border Patrol examination in Los Angeles, California, and entered on duty with his last outfit on September 26, 1924. Young Parker acquitted himself as well in the Border Patrol as he had in the U.S. Army. His Chief Patrol Inspector, Walter Miller, once said of Lon Parker that he "was not afraid of the devil himself!"

"Too Late for the Fun!"
Just two weeks into his Patrol career, Lon Parker took up the trail of three suspected liquor smugglers near Wills Ranch, on the west side of the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona. After a short ride Parker came under steady rifle fire from the mescal runners. Lon emptied his pistol, then charged one of the smugglers, threw him to the ground and took his rifle. With the smuggler's rifle, Parker shot both the others through the "loin of the leg."

Several nearby Border Patrol officers were alerted by the sounds of the gunfire and hurried to assist. They found Lon Parker seated on a rock. Lon told them, "Sorry, but you're too late for the fun." parker discovered the rifle he had wrested from the smuggler had been stolen from his Dad's ranch earlier that same day.

"Inspector Bill McKee Killed by Smugglers"
A liquor smuggling ring was known by Border Patrol Inspectors to be operating near the Alambre Ranch, northwest of Nogales, Arizona. On April 23, 1926, Inspectors Herbert Wood, Philip Raymond, Quince Leatherman, Billy Gates, Lon Parker and Bill McKee were lying in ambush to catch the traffickers.

As the Arizona spring day was turning to dusk, the inspectors surprised three mounted "rum runners" driving six pack horses loaded with illicit alcohol. The bootleggers deserted the pack animals and fled. The officers unloaded the pack horses and loaded the alcohol into one of the two "machines" (autos) in which they had arrived, then lit out after the smugglers. The inspectors in the loaded automobile led the pack horses, while the others drove ahead after the smugglers.

Two miles away a brief but fierce gunfight occurred. The smugglers again fled. Lon Parker and Quince Leatherman mounted two of the pack horses and followed, but were unable to overtake the better-mounted assailants. Bill McKee was found a short distance away from one of the inspectors' vehicles. He had been shot through the heart.

Two of the killers were arrested by Border Patrol Inspectors and local lawmen at the Perron Ranch, near San Javier, six days later. The third was arrested in Casa Grande that same day. Chief Patrol Inspector Walter Miller said Lon Parker's tireless investigative efforts were "largely responsible" for the identification and arrest of McKee's killers.

"July 25, 1926"
Lon Parker joined friends and family for a Sunday afternoon picnic at the McDaniel place on the north side of Korn Canyon, about seven miles southeast of Canille. On today's maps you'll have to look for "Canelo", not Canille. A nephew of Lon Parker blames the U.S. Forest Service for the "mongrelization" of the old community's name.

A rancher and tracker named John Merritt told Lon Parker at the picnic that he had seen sign of a rider or riders and a pack animal headed toward Fort Huachuca. Lon Parker left the gathering around 4:30 p.m. to head off the smuggling load. A Parker family member related that Parker asked Patrol Inspector Herbert Wood if he would ride to assist. Wood declined as he worried his wife and family would have to get themselves home to Patagonia in the face of a building summer storm. Lon Parker went alone.

When the Wills family returned to their ranch home at 6:00 p.m from the picnic, they found Lon Parker lying mortally wounded against their wood pile. His horse and dog stood guard over their fallen partner. Parker died moments later without divulging any details of his ordeal.

Heavy summer rains on the night of July 25, 1926, challenged lawmen in their attempt to retrace Lon Parker's trail. It was a first unknown if Parker was killed in Santa Cruz or Cochise County. Officers from both counties took part in the search and investigation. On Monday afternoon, July 26, Patrol Inspectors, county lawmen and local ranchers found a dead man a dead packhorse 2 1/2 miles from the Wills Ranch. Both were shot once only. Newspaper accounts citing Chief Inspector Miller and the Sheriffs of Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties agreed that Lon Parker had caught the liquor smuggler and was shot from ambush by a second smuggler. Lon Parker then shot and killed the liquor runner and the horse, which was carrying 20 gallons of mescal.

Pat Patterson, undersheriff of Santa Cruz County, said Parker was covered with mud on one side as he was unhorsed by the mortal wound. Chief Miller surmised from empty shells and sign found some distance from the dead man that Parker had reloaded his weapon before remounting his horse. Lon Parker's guns were loaded when he died at Wills' Ranch.

A report in a Tucson newspaper identified the dead man as a Mexican liquor smuggler named Cruz. Immigration and Naturalization Service documents identify him as Artilio Espinosa, a well known Mexican smuggler. Another news article from Tucson claimed Cochise County Sheriff J.F. McDonald put officers on lookout for Manuel Reyes, a 19 year old Mexican whom he believed to be Lon Parker's killer. McDonald said two of his deputies fired rounds at Reyes on Monday, July 26, in a canyon near where Parker was slain. Reyes escaped in a heavy rain. There is no evidence to indicate that Parker's killer was brought to justice.

Lon Parker was, by all accounts, a brave man. His courage and modest approach to life on the border were best reflected in a story told by a fellow Arizonan and, finally, in a simple entry from his daily Border Patrol work log.

Fred D'Albini was also born a southern Arizonan. He recalled a day when he was riding across Campini Mesa, on the south side of the Huachuca Mountains, with a "half-breed" Mexican boy who was working the trapping trade with him. D'Albini said he carried a .22 pistol to kill game. On this day the boy had asked to carry the gun. Fred said he thought it made the boy "feel big."

D'Albini and the youth met Lon Parker and his partner Albert Gatlin, "horseback, going the in the opposite direction." The boy jerked the gun out of his chaps pocket, pointed it directly at the two and said, "hands up!" Fred said Lon Parker and Albert Gatlin did nothing but sit their horses calmly and Parker said, "You better put that gun away before somebody gets hurt." He said the kid did so immediately, realizing he'd made a big mistake. D'Albini said it scared "hell" out of him as he knew they were Border Patrolmen and armed with pistols and rifles.

Fred D'Albini swore his great respect for Lon Parker and Albert Gatlin. He later joined the Border Patrol himself and served with distinctio

Patrol Inspectors kept a daily log of their activity, time worked and miles traveled by horseback or by "machine". Lon Parker's entry for the eventful day he mounted a pack horse and chased Bill McKee's killers simply read,

"Apr 23 - '26"
Scouted to Sierra Prieta Mts
9 AM - 1 AM 80 miles"

William Lonn Parker was laid to rest on Tuesday, July 27, 1926, in the Nogales, Arizona, Cemetery. 
Family links: 
  William Andrew Parker (1860 - 1946)
  Eva Louisa Landers Parker (1866 - 1899)
  William Llonzo Parker (1892 - 1926)
  William Llonzo Parker (1892 - 1926)*
*Calculated relationship
City of Nogales Cemetery
Santa Cruz County
Arizona, USA
Maintained by: Mary(Coggin)Russell
Originally Created by: Thelma
Record added: Jun 22, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 71838866
William Llonzo Lon Parker
Added by: Dawn Cote
William Llonzo Lon Parker
Cemetery Photo
Added by: William Tatum
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- Jones-Marcum Family
 Added: Jul. 17, 2015
God bless you today and always. Rest in Peace.
- Thelma
 Added: Apr. 28, 2013
Blessings my cousin.
- Thelma
 Added: Jun. 22, 2011

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