Classic Gunfights

Devil Canyon Shoot-Out

Winslow Lawmen vs. William Evans and John Shaw

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APRIL 9, 1905

Navajo County Sheriff Chet Houck and his deputy Pete Pemberton hop a train from Winslow, Arizona, to Canyon Diablo (Devil Canyon), 26 miles west of Winslow. A saloon robbery the night before at Winslow’s Wigwam Saloon netted two suspects less than $300. After a search of the small railroad town turned up nothing, the lawmen discovered seven silver dollars in the dirt next to the railroad tracks and surmised the robbers jumped a slow moving freight and the coins must have spilled out of overloaded pockets.

Arriving in Canyon Diablo at dusk, the two lawmen question trader Fred Volz, who confirms he has seen two strangers in town earlier that afternoon. As the three stand talking beside the trading post porch, the two suspects, William Evans and John Shaw, appear on the street and are seen heading toward the depot.

The lawmen step lively as Sheriff Houck pulls his pistol and loudly identifies himself, at the same time commanding the suspects to halt.

“Nobody searches us,” one of the two outlaws snarls as they turn to face the lawmen. As the lawmen rapidly approach, the robbers pull their pistols and all four begin firing at point-blank range. Houck advances as close as four feet. A thunderous volley splits the evening air, with all four adversaries emptying their weapons. The taller outlaw, John Shaw, is hit in the head by one of Houck’s bullets and goes down. Pemberton wounds the other suspect in the left leg, and he goes down but aims point blank at Houck. A split second before he fires, Pemberton, with his final shot, hits the outlaw in the left shoulder, throwing off his aim. The outlaw’s bullet goes through Houck’s coat on the left side, skimming his stomach and cutting an exit hole through the right side of the coat.

The quick fight is over in a flash of muzzle fire, with one of the outlaws dead and the other seriously wounded. Both lawmen escape without a scratch.

The Devil’s Town

An the end of the track, a town sprang up at Canyon Diablo when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad track layers reached the formidable canyon in 1880. Construction was halted until a bridge could be built over the canyon. The first delay happened when the pre-fabricated bridge arrived at the site and was found to be a foot short. A...

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