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William Caviness

Benton County, Arkansas, USA
Death 7 Nov 1877 (aged 38–39)
Apache County, Arizona, USA
Burial Eagar, Apache County, Arizona, USA
Memorial ID 91740046 · View Source
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William died November 7, 1877, near Springerville, Yavapai (now Apache) County, Arizona Territory. William was either hanged or shot at the "hole" which is now Becker Lake located near Springerville. William and Overstreet's bodies were recovered and taken into Springerville for burial. William had an alias of Bill Snyder. He ran with a band of outlaws.
source: United States Marshals of New Mexico and Arizona Territories, 1846-1912 by Larry D. Ball, p. 127

"While the Earps blackened the reputation of the marshalcy in southern Arizona, other deputy marshals earned the regard of the citizenry. In the northeast Deputy Corydon E. Cooley helped rid Springerville of a notorious band of desperadoes in 1877. In November Cooley and a posse of soldiers (this event occurred before the Posse Comitatus Act) arrested outlaw William Snider, alias Bill Caveness, and one henchman, near Springerville, much to the relief of the local populace. In December the people publicly thanked Cooley and his colleagues "for the gentlemanly, carefull [sic] and impartial manner in which they conducted their investigations and established peace in the eastern portion of Yavapai County." In the meantime, a terrible fate overtook the Caveness band. In the quaint words of one newspaperman, "Judge Lynch took them and cut them to pieces with knives." When the Springerville area became Apache County in 1879, Corydon E. Cooley became a county supervisor. At this very time, when marshalcy was struggling to bring federal law to remote camps in Arizona, technology, in the form of the railroads, was coming to the aid of the lawmen. As the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad slowly inched from New Mexico into eastern Arizona, the Bill Cavenesses had to seek other sanctuaries."
"William Caveness-THE ARIZONA MINER contains the following reference to William Caveness, well known in Southern Colorado: "Governor Hoyt, last evening received a telegram from C. E. Cooley, deputy United States marshal at Camp Apache, informing him of the hanging of two desperados on the Little Colorado. Cooley went with a detachment of soldiers to Springerville, and arrested William Snider, alias Bill Caveness, and E. M. Overstreet, and as their offense was a territorial one, he turned them over to William Milligan, deputy sheriff, to bring them to Prescott to jail. After Cooley had left Springerville with the soldiers, a mob arose and took the prisoners from Milligan, and, in the language of the telegram, disposed of them according to frontier law, which we presume means that they hung them. District Attorney Paul Webber received a similar telegram."
THE WEEKLY MINER, Prescott, November 2, 1977

"A band of horse theives and desperados have become a terror to the people of St. Johns in the eastern part of this county. They have their headquarters in and about Springerville, from whence they raid in different directions and are perfectly lawless, going out, helping themselves to whatever they want and wantonly destroying goods and other property.

Several citizens got together at or near St. Johns a few days ago to take measures for self protection against these outlaws, when they were met by a portion of the band and a fight ensued in which two citizens were killed and one wounded, the names of whom we have not learned, and one desperado killed by the name of "Pete."

These facts are learned by a telegram received last night by Governor Hoyt from Captain John A. Andrews, Eight Infantry, at Camp Apache. As we have before remarked, these gentry are becoming too plentiful in Arizona and should be shot down on sight, they are entitled to far less mercy than the Apaches, and if the officers of the civil law are unable to manage them the soldiery should be turned loose after them with all the Apache scouts that the service can command, with orders to employ all their most improved methods of torture. Anything is too good for such cattle."
"The dispatch received on Friday evening by Governor Hoyt from Captain Andrews, at Camp Apache, and which was noticed in Saturday's DAILY MINER, was, as we stated, with reference to the operations of a band of desperadoes, operating on the Little Colorado, near St. Johns and Springerville, where in a recent combat with the citizens they killed two good men, wounded another and had one of their own number killed. Finding themselves unable to cope with these outlaws, with the meagre supply of arms and ammunition on hands, parties representing themselves to be a Citizen's Committee went to Camp Apache, the nearest Military Post, and asked the commander to furnish them with arms, ect., with which to defend themselves. Captain Andrews, having no authority to loan arms to citizens telegraped to Governor Hoyt for authority to furnish arms on the credit of the Territory. The Governor at once gave the order to let them have arms, but, subsequently, information was received which left the matter in doubt as to the identity of the parties waiting at Apache to receive them, and the Governor countermanded the order until such time as he shall be assured that they are not going into the hands of the wrong party."
THE WEEKLY ARIZONA MINER, Prescott, Arizona, November 9, 1877
Captain Cramer and a party of soldiers from Camp Apache are now on the Little Colorado examining into the late difficulties between the citizens and a band of outlaws that are reported to be committing their deeds of murder and pillage all over the eastern protion of Yavapai county."
THE ARIZONA WEEKLY STAR, Tucson, Arizona, Thursday, November 15, 1877
"Pete" the Desperado Killed ____Two of His _____also killed____An Invitation For Governor Hoyt to Act."

CAMP APACHE A. T., Oct 29, 1877
"EDITOR WEEKLY STAR---Last Tuesday there was quite a sanguinary struggle at St. John's, A.T., between the reputed leader of the band of murderers and cattle theives who have their headquarters in the neighborhood of Springerville, and some of the residents of St. John's, resulting in the death of the former and two fo the latter ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___. This man, "Pete" the desperado who got killed, came into St. Johns on a ___ ___, accompanied by a man named Spencer, the latter it is claimed being on business (?) and while travelling around town, it appears loud and frequent boasts were made that a few Mexicans were going to get killed by these parties before they returned to Springerville, or left the town. Some say that one of them boasted that the Unied States Marshal, backed by a posse of comiticus could not arrest any man connected with this gang, etc. etc., but as the onus probandi remains with the principals peadente lite, I shall say no more on the causes, etc. The people of St. Johns, fearing that these threats might be carried into execution, determined to put a stop to this man's crimes, and took into their own hands the task of doing that which their civil officers appeared powerless to do, arrest and punish a murderer and horse thief. As "Pete" was crossing the Plaza a shot was Fired at him by some unknown party, whereupon he fled, accompanied by Spencer, into the house of Morris Barth, Deputy Sheriff, at St. Johns. The house was immediatedly surrounded and Spencer was ordered out which he quickly obeyed, when the people demanded the surrender of "Pete." He replied to them by threats and two men who entered the room where he was were shot dead in attempting to arrest him whilst a third was seriously wounded in the neck and shoulders. Seeing that to capture him by entering the room by the door would be attended be too many fatal consequences they stripped the roof off the house, and, notwithstanding a desperate resistance continued to the end, one of the men of the roof, after having narrowly escaped two shots, one passing through the rim of his hat almost grazing his forehead, suceeded in hitting the desperado in the breast rendering him here de combat, and causing his death soon afterwards. Thus ended the life of a man who is reputed to have killed many men (some say he killed 27 before the last two) for the "fun of it" or for their money. It seems to be confirmation of the: "He that lives by the sword, etc." Unfortunately, for the peace and protection of the county, (and even of the Territory) the rascals ain't all dead yet, and the sooner they are cleaned out the better for all law abiding citizens.

Within the last two or three months, several men of money and means, principally stockmen, have passed through this section with a view of settling down on a good range, but, notwithstanding they have been perfectly well pleased with this country, around the neighborhood of Springerville, and even were anxious to settle, they could not do so on account of those desperadoes. How long this state of things is to be permitted "rests" with the Governor and the civil authorities in Prescott, for the civil officers in this secton, Justices and Deputy Sheriffs, are either incompetent or incapable (probably a little of both) to properly perform their legitimate duties. The latter defect can be readily excused, however, when we take into consideration the desperate men with whom they'd have to contend with in case of an attempt to arrest them in order to bring them to justice; particularly when the'd have to "go it alone", for the "rest of the inhabitants", fearful of direful consequences to themselves in case of failure of an attempt to capture the villians, will not have anything to do with them--meaning the desperadoes.

The Sheriff is wanted here to stir up his present sleeping, or very passive, Deputies, or to make new ones. Springerville wants a weeding out of some of her "white" citizens of "cow-boy" lineage, cattle thieves from the Rio Pecos who have ___ there and afford a rendevous to all the desperadoes from Texas who desire to "prospect" in this section."
THE WEEKLY ARIZONA MINER, Prescott, Friday, November 16, 1877
Gov. Hoyt, last evening received a telegram from C. E. Cooley, Deputy U. S. Marshal at Camp Apache, informing him of the hanging of two desperados on the Little Colorado. Cooley went with a detachment of soldiers to Springerville, and arrested Wm. Snider, alias Bill Cavaness, and E. M. Overstreet, and as their offense was a Territorial one, he turned them over to Wm. Milligan, Deputy Sheriff, to bring to Prescott, to jail. After Cooley had left Springerville, with the soldiers, a mob arose, and took the prisoners from Milligan, and, in the language of the telegram, disposed of them according to frontier law, which, we presume, means that they hung them. District Attorney, Paul Webber, received a similiar telegram.

This disposes of the entire gang of outlaws that have infested that county for several months, maintaining a reign of terror over the people. Some time ago, two were killed in a fight among themselves: afterwards, another, known as "Pete" killed two citizens who were attempting to arrest him, and was himself killed in a house where he had taken refuse, the pursuing party being obliged to remove a portion of the roof in attempting to arrest him. He was shot and killed from the top of the house.
C. E. COOLEY, ONE OF THE MEN WHO DID MUCH TO BRING the White Mountain Apaches under subjection, and now a resident of Show Lou [sic] 28 miles north of Camp Apache, has been doing some excellent work in the way of capturing outlaws for which he should receive the thanks of every law abiding citizen in th eastern portion of our territory. Five of these desperadoes have recently been killed, which, it is thought, constituted the whole band."
THE WEEKLY ARIZONA MINER, Prescott, November 23, 1877, p. 4, col. 2

"The following which is handed us by Dodson, who has just returned from Springerville, was furnished by Deputy Sheriff Milligan, and shows that there have been nine instead of five killed as heretofore published. Milligan (?) says that on the 7th of November, Mrs. Snider came to the court house in the evening while I had charge of the prisoners and said, "Mr. Milligan, you and posse will be mobbed tonight, and that she would hold my life responsible for Snider in the morning. I asked Snider if he thought there would be danger of a mob and he said yes, we will all be murdered tonight. Feeling a little uneasy I ordered a two horse wagon and started with the prisoners for the military camp fifteen miles down the river, and after going about three miles we were surrounded by a large body of masked men, the prisoners taken from me, and I was ordered to leave there. About that time they commenced shooting and I left without waiting to ask what they were shooting at.

I went to the military camp, and reported to Deputy U. S. Marshal Cooley what had happened. He immediately put me under arrest, and, next morning, he and Captain Kramer brought me before them and asked me if I thought there was any further danger of violence. I said there might be: they told me to go home and if there were any further disturbances, to let them know immediately. They appeared to be anxious to proceed to St. Johns to investigate the troubles there. As I returned, I saw the prisoners, dead, near where they were taken from me. When I got to Springerville, I summoned a posse of men to bring in the bodies and burry [sic] them.

Those who have been killed are Pete Godfrey, who killed a German near Horsehead Crossing October 24th. Sam Godfrey, killed by a horse throwing him against a house while drunk; Frank Owen, killed by Pete. Will Sheppard, killed by Overstreet, who stabbed him seven times about a woman.

The following list was obtained from Snider, alias Bill Cavaness: Sam Blanton killed by a horse at Springerville. (There is where the trouble commenced as we got to fighting among ourselves. Pete Blanton, (brother of Sam) killed Frank Owen, and wounded me: this happened in Gonzales store: Abe and Sam Goddard, supposed to have been killed by Pete Blanton and Charley Carr alias Wheeler.

The horses belonging to Goddard are in the hands of Overstreet. Pete Blanton and Charley Carr killed a German near Horsehead. (Cooley has strong proof of this.) Carr was wounded badly and he is still at large. E. M. Overstreet killed Sheppard while in bed. Pete Blanton was killed by a mob at St. Johns. Joe Spencer was killed fifteen miles above St. Johns. We are assured by Mr. Dodson that the question of race or nationality cuts no figures in the case. The Mexicans simply have assisted the better class of citizens to rid the country of these outlaws, all of whom were Americans."
WEEKLY ARIZONA MINER, Prescott, Arizona, December 7, 1877
"At a meeting held at Springerville, a few days since, the citizens of that place and surrounding country resolved to tender their sincere thanks to Capt. C. E. Cooley, Deputy U.S. Marshal, Capt. A. Kramer, and Dr. G. S. Oldmixon, for the gentlemanly, carefull and impartial manner in which they conducted their investigations and established peace in the eastern portion of Yavapai County."
THE BLANTON GANG, 1877 (Taken from an interview with Gustav Baker in September, 1938, as told to his son Alvin Becker) research by Jack A. Becker

When Pete and Sam Blanton drifted into Round Valley, about 1877, they were fiery "Gun Toters" with a record back of them.

"Sam didn't last long. Gus Becker had a horse, which when saddled, would start off at a run the instant a foot was put in the stirrup. Sam, who was still in his early twenties, boasted that he could ride that "damned horse" bareback. Bets were placed and Sam jumped on the "critter," which started off on a run towards the log granary completely out of Sam's control. Within a few feet of the building, it plowed it's feet and whirled, throwing Sam against the logs smashing out his brains.

Pete was a daring fellow and good outlaw leader. So he quickly drew others around him, often having a band of seven or eight. They did little stealing here, usually going away on foraging trips, north, south, east, or west, and often coming back with bands of horses or the proceeds from selling bands they had stolen. They would lay around here, drinking, gambling and carousing.

There was a young kid in the band who was a cold blooded devil and Pete was afraid of him. So on one of their return trips, stopping at Baca Flats (Reserve) over night, Pete agreed that if the Kid started an argument with him, one of his henchmen, Overstreet, was to stab him in the back.

Drinking that evening in the saloon, the Kid began to get mean and tried to pick a quarrel with Pete. Then Overstreet sneaked up behind and stabbed him in the back.

1877, 1878 and 1879 were hot years. Individual or outlaw bands passed through heer continuously, some who felt they had lost their posses, staying over, others staying just long enough to get enough to move on with, and keeping ahead of their posse. Posse's passed through on the pursuit and passing back through annouced that they had gotten their man, or men, but they never fooled with them. They just dropped them and either buried or left them in the open, taking his saddle and guns back as evidence.

In 1877, Pete and friend were carousing in a saloon in St Johns when Pete shot a Mexican. A Mexican posse chased him and partner to a granary where he barricaded himself. They finally agreed to let the partner out of the room to go on, but refused to give Pete any quarter. A half-breed French-Mexican, crawled up in the rear door over some grain sacks, and yelled at Pete to put them up. But Pete merely whirled and shot him through the heart. Another Mexican crawled up on the roof and worked loose a board, through which opening, he saw and shot Pete.

The rest of Pete's gang stayed around Round Valley, raising hell, until 1877 the Government sent in a troop of cavalry and declared martial law. After staying a couple of weeks and holding a Court of Inquiry, they arrested Overstreet and Snyder (who belonged to another gang) and turned them over to Deputy Sheriff Milligan to take to Prescott, the County Seat.

The soldiers left at noon and Milligan started for Prescott just at sundown, apparently an agreed upon time. A group of men were waiting for them at the "hole" (now Becker Lake) and as they drove up, poured a bunch of lead into Overstreet and Snyder. Overstreet fell over dead, but Snyder, jumped and ran to the bottom of the "hole" before he fell.

This scared a number of the other outlaws in the county and they moved away, one at a time some giving up their land. New ones soon drifted in however, but the balance of the Blanton gang was busted up."
William married Telitha WILLIAMS most likely in 1860 in Cherokee, San Saba Co., TX. To this union were born these known children: William C., Sabra Jane, Henry, Bell and Benjamin F. Caviness.

Telitha WILLIAMS Caviness was born in May 16, 1841 in Arkansas and died December 31,1916. After the death of William, Telitha married Alexander Morrison on April 24, 1879 in Tucson, Pima Co., Arizona Territory. Third, Telitha married James R. Davidson on December 29, 1893 in Cochise Co., Arizona Territory.

(This bio was supplied courtesy of Connie Weeaks Pace. Many thanks!)





  • Created by: Jan
  • Added: 11 Jun 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 91740046
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Caviness (1838–7 Nov 1877), Find A Grave Memorial no. 91740046, citing Snyder/Cavanaugh Burial Ground, Eagar, Apache County, Arizona, USA ; Maintained by Jan (contributor 47388195) .