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 John Henry “Rimrock Henry” Thompson

John Henry “Rimrock Henry” Thompson

Bell County, Texas, USA
Death 2 Aug 1934 (aged 72)
Globe, Gila County, Arizona, USA
Burial Globe, Gila County, Arizona, USA
Memorial ID 19121117 · View Source
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Western lawman, prospector, and business man. Described by many as Arizona's most colorful sheriff, he arrived in the Payson area in the early 1880s and homesteaded 160 acres under the rim rock of the Mogollon Mountains and earned the nickname Rimrock Henry. This was in the bloodiest area and the bloodiest era in Arizona history. Arizona's most infamous feud, known as the Pleasant Valley War and the Graham-Tewksbury Feud lasted about 10 years, with the probable beginning in January 1883. The last Tewksbury killed the last Graham in 1892. The feud involved far more than just the two families, who were friends at the start of the feud, and grew to affect everyone in the Pleasant Valley area. The estimates of deaths in the feud range from 30 to 70. There is no evidence that Rimrock Henry was ever directly involved in the feud as was his predecessor, Glenn Reynolds. On January 12, 1887 he married Carrie L Nash and they moved into the town of Payson where he was appointed Postmaster. The Gila County sheriff, Glenn Reynolds, was escorting the Apache Kid and seven other renegade Apaches to the Yuma Territorial Prison when they broke free, acquired a rifle from Hunkydory Holmes, and shot Reynolds. Holmes died on the spot from a heart attack. Jerry Ryan was appointed to fill Reynolds term but drowned within six months attempting to save the life of a family friend. Thompson decided that he wanted the job, but needed a recommendation from someone with some importance. The only person he knew that could help him was a close neighbor, John W Wentworth. Wentworth was a miner and Thompson's cattle quite frequently wander onto his land and occasionally would destroy some of the mining equipment. Wentworth was also the Justice Of the Peace in Globe and a recommendation from him would go a long way. Thompson called upon his step-father, O N Cresswell to be a mediator. By the time the recommendation was needed, any ill-will had abated to the point that Wentworth made the recommendation. In June of 1890 Thompson took the oath and the family moved to Globe, the Gila County seat. As of 1967, Thompson had served longer than any territorial sheriff and Wentworth served as a public official longer than anyone in American political history. In November of 1890, Rimrock was elected on his own right by defeating George W Shute by a vote of 388 to 324. His popularity took off and in 1992 he defeated James Frederick by a vote of 517 to 194. He handily won reelection in 1894. In 1896 he decided to stay in Globe, but not to seek reelection. Bitten with the bug of gold fever, he made a long arduous trek to Alaska during that gold rush. He returned to Globe in 1890 and whether he actually struck it rich is unknown. But he did accumulate enough money to partner with Dick Barley in the Thompson and Barley Company in the feed, fuel, and livery stable business. Stating that "once a politician, always a politician", he ran again in November 1900 and was elected to replace W T Armstrong who decided not to seek reelection. In 1902, the livery business was successful, he had bought half a block of town property, built a home and some rental property. His thirty odd mining claims needed some attention, so he decided again not to run. In 1906, the county built a new four-story courthouse and the elegant sheriff's office rekindled the political drive. In 1908 and 1910 he was elected for the sixth and seventh time for a total of 8 terms. He resigned on January 8, 1912 at the request of the county supervisors. Thompson and friends were drinking in the Globe Saloon a few days before Christmas, 1911. A shot was heard and the bartender, Mike Juraskovich, was shot dead. What actually happened was never determined, but a coroner's jury found that Mike was shot to dearh by Thompson's gun and he and his friend, Harry Temple were bound over to a grand jury who indicted them. Frank Haynes was appointed to fill the remaining term as sheriff and had the responsibility to insure Thompson made it to court. Haynes soon became Thompson's son-in-law. Wentworth, who had served terms as justice of the peace, district attorney, clerk of the board of supervisors, and was now clerk of the court. The jury found both men not guilty. Rimrock Henry's spectacular career in law enforcement came to an end at age 51. By then, the dean of all Arizona sheriffs, had traveled farther, made more arrests, and attained more convictions than any sheriff in Arizona history. He lived 20 more years and worked for the state highway department, delved in real estate, mining, and cattle ranching. His wife died in 1926 and he lived alone until July 12, 1932 when he married Mrs. Allie Smith, a widow. Thompson and Wentworth had had a few more confrontations over the years as the sheriff had to sue the city for pay and allowances and Wentworth had represented the city. Wentworth didn't always agree with Thompson's methods. The marriage license was issued by Wentworth, and he was one of the many attending Rimrock's funeral service and giving tribute to a worth adversary. One of the convictions that Thompson did not get was for Phineas Clanton of the Tombstone Clantons. There were just no good witnesses when Clanton was accused of robbing a Chinese fellow and he was found not guilty. Of the many episodes in Thompson's career, two were of particular note to the writer. Two of Globe's prominent business men, Alfred Hillpot and Fred Kibbe, were murdered while on a hunting trip on the San Carlos Indian Reservation. They were murdered by two United States Army deserters, William Stewart and James H Steel (who's real name was John B Goodwin). Tracking the killers toward Holbrook where it was expected they would jump a train and flee the territory, the sheriff suddenly had a brilliant hunch. He told the posse he didn't think the killers would go into Holbrook and take a chance on running into the Navajo County sheriff who, like every lawman in Arizona was on the look out for them. Instead, he thought they would head for an isolated station and try to catch a train in the dark. Adamana, AZ was the nearest station and the posse set a trap to catch them, figuring they would try to board the train at the last minute and in the dark. The murderers walked right into the trap and were arrested without incident. The two men carried a bag that contained the guns of the victims which were used in the killing, and on their bodies was found watches, wallets, and money belonging to the victims. They were tried one at a time in the Globe District Court and were each represented by the silver-tongued, top-rated defense attorney of his time, Thomas E Flannigan. Sheriff Thompson meticulously entered every piece of evidence into the trial of the first defendant, Goodwin. Mrs. Kibbe had the heartbreaking job of identifying who was the true owner of each item stolen from the victims. Altogether the poor woman would have to go through the ordeal five times. After the prosecution had presented its case, Flannigan made a bold move. Knowing his client could not stand up to cross examination, he rested his case and presented no evidence or witnesses. The jury deliberated for two and a half days and returned a verdict of guilty with life imprisonment as punishment. Wentworth, the district attorney, was furious to find pout one of the jurors had lied during question and would never vote for the death penalty. With the overwhelming evidence, this was considered a victory as Goodwin could be out in 15 years. The Stewart trail went exactly the same way as before, except the jury only deliberated for one hour, with the same verdict. Then Flannigan made the brilliant decision to appeal based on the fact that the crime was committed on the Indian reservation and was therefore under the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts and a lighter sentence was a possibility. The plan backfired to the detriment of the killers. They were both found guilty, sentenced to death, hung in Globe, and buried side by side in the Globe Cemetery. At the camp were Roosevelt Dam was being built, a black man, William Baldwin, reported to Arizona Ranger Jim Holmes that two Mexicans had killed Laura Frances Morris and Aminta Ann, her four and a half year old daughter. When Holmes found the two Mexicans, they had alibis and were eliminated as suspects. That only left Baldwin as a possibility. Holmes, Al Sieber, and two Apaches, Rabbit and Yesterday followed tracks from the crime scene to the lake. They found footprint impressions in the sand that indicated the killer had thrown something. Picking up stones, they begin to make tosses and search the area of the landing. On the second toss they found the murder weapon and it was identified as a knife recently sold to Baldwin. Sheriff Thompson was called to take charge of the prisoner. Just outside the camp, Thompson faced the first mob that was to try to take the prisoner away from him. The mob, without real leadership, and facing the sheriffs armed guards decided it wasn't a good idea. In the city off Globe, the mob mentality was running high and this time they were not so easily discouraged. Thompson turned the keys to the jail over to the mob and though they ransacked the jail and searched every office in the courthouse, Baldwin was not to be found. One of the deputies, under cover of darkness, had snuck thee prisoner out and hid him in the outhouse of the First Baptist Church, a block away. After the mob dispersed, they snuck the prisoner down to the railroad bridge and him under it. Early in the morning he was placed on the floor of a hand-operated car and was taken about three miles to meet the train, Thompson took him to Solomonville (now Solomon) where he was tried convicted and hung. His record of never losing a prisoner was still in tact and would remain so as long as he was in office.

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  • Created by: Tom Todd
  • Added: 27 Apr 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19121117
  • Tom Todd
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Henry “Rimrock Henry” Thompson (19 Dec 1861–2 Aug 1934), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19121117, citing Globe Cemetery, Globe, Gila County, Arizona, USA ; Maintained by Tom Todd (contributor 46900975) .