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 John Harris Behan

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John Harris Behan

  • Birth 24 Oct 1845 Westport, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Death 7 Jun 1912 Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, USA
  • Burial Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, USA
  • Memorial ID 6682341

Lawman. Born in Westport, Missouri in what is now Kansas City, the third of nine children of Peter and Sarah Harris Behan. Johnny moved west to San Francisco, working as a miner and a freighter. During the American Civil War Johnny was a 19-year-old civilian employee of Carleton's Column of Union Volunteers in California. He fought in the Battle of Apache Pass on July 14–15, 1862. In 1863, he decided to settle in Arizona and first worked at a freighter at Fort Lowell, then at the Cerro Colorado Mine in Pima County, before moving on to the Prescott area, where he worked in various jobs. While prospecting along the Verde River, he and about five other men were attacked by Indians, but successfully fought them off in February,1866. He was also hired as an undersheriff by Yavapai County Sheriff John P. Bourke in 1866. During this time, he also joined with civilian groups in investigating Indian attacks and married Victoria Zaff in 1869. The couple would have two children. By 1871, he was made the sheriff of Yavapai County, a position he held for two years. In 1873, he was the Prescott representative in the Seventh state assembly. In 1875, he and his wife divorced and Johnny moved to Mohave County, where once again he was a state assembly representative, this time for Mohave County in 1879. When the southern area of Pima County containing Tombstone was split off into the new Cochise County in early 1881, undersheriff Behan was appointed first Sheriff of Cochise County by Governor Fremont, and confirmed by the upper house of the Territorial Legislature, in February, 1881. Wyatt Earp would later say that he had promised not to campaign against the appointment (not election) of Behan, in return for an appointment by Behan as Behan's undersheriff. But after being appointed, Johnny appointed another man, Southern Democrat Harry Woods, to the position. Shortly after Johnny became sheriff, Virgil Earp became the city marshal of Tombstone and recruited brothers Wyatt and Morgan as "special deputy policemen." The Earps almost immediately came into conflict with the Clantons and the McLaurys, to whom Johnny was an advocate. This naturally pitted him against the Earps. Adding further fuel to the fire, was Johnny's interest in Josephine Sarah Marcus. After the gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, Johnny arrested Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp, as well as Doc Holliday for the murder of Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury. However, the judge decided that the Earps and Holliday had been justified in their actions. In September, 1882, after the Earp Vendetta Ride, Johnny had a feud with his own deputy, William Breakenridge, which made him unpopular with Cochise County citizens. Losing the nomination, he was forced out of office in November, 1882. He would never serve as a peace officer again. After twenty-seven years in Arizona, Johnny moved east, and in 1891 was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and by 1892 was in a commission business in Washington, D.C. He worked in various government and commissary capacities to the end of his life. He died in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 67.

Bio by: Shock


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: James Crawley
  • Added: 12 Aug 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6682341
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Harris Behan (24 Oct 1845–7 Jun 1912), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6682341, citing Holy Hope Cemetery and Mausoleum, Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .