Days Past: ‘Innocent Am I’ — Charles P. Stanton
Between Congress and Yarnell lies the ghost town of Stanton, Arizona. For years during the 1860s, the town was called Antelope Station and served as a stagecoach stop.
In 1863, pioneer Pauline Weaver and other miners discovered gold along Antelope Creek. A tracker named Alvaro tripped over a pile of gold nuggets “as big as potatoes.” From that time on, the area became known as Rich Hill. Eventually, it would yield nearly $500,000 ($7 million in 2019 dollars) in gold. The town soon grew to 3,500 people, all hoping to strike it rich.
About 1871, Charles P. Stanton arrived in town determined to take control and eliminate competitors.Through various schemes, Stanton nearly succeeded. Before long, he became postmaster, deputy sheriff and justice of the peace. He even changed the town name to Stanton. Not willing to stop there, Stanton began concocting schemes to get rid of his competitors.
On June 18, 1879, Prescott residents reading the local newspaper, the Arizona Miner, read that miner and businessman Charles Stanton was claiming that, “a powerful combination of unscrupulous parties….is hell bent on framing me for murder or having me killed”. Stanton had been arrested on March 6 for allegedly stealing a gold specimen, but Stanton believed the arrest was a ruse to get him behind bars.
He added in his letter to the Miner that prisoner Nicanora Rodrigues was offered a free pass from jail if he named Stanton as the murderer of a man named John Timmerman. Timmerman’s body had recently been found in the desert outside town. Eventually, Stanton would be acquitted of both theft and murder due to the testimony of several false witnesses who were allegedly bribed by him.
Seven years later, Stanton was implicated in two more murders. William Partridge shot and killed a man named George Wilson who let his pigs run amok on Partridge’s property. Stanton may have helped matters along by telling Partridge that Wilson was to blame for the pig problem. While Partridge served a life sentence for murder in Yuma Territorial Prison, Barney Martin was hired to operate Partridge’s businesses.
In August 1886, Martin and his family left the Rich Hill area for a business appointment in Phoenix, carrying $4,000 in gold coins and gold dust. They never arrived.
The Martins were later reported missing and, after three weeks of searching, were not found. It was well known that Martin had received death threats, and his house and barn had burned down.
Charles Stanton was arrested for complicity in the Martin murders but was later released due to a lack of evidence.
Town gossip had Stanton hiring the infamous Vega gang to murder the Martins and split the $4,000 profits from the robbery, which was later confirmed by the gang’s cook and another Vega gang member.
A later search party found the murder site near Black Tanks, Arizona. The bodies of the Martin family had been set on fire by their killers. The burned bodies were later brought to rancher Frederick Bill’s home three miles southeast of Wickenburg for burial.
Stanton’s control of the town ended in 1886. A gunslinger named Lucero entered Stanton’s store and shot him dead for insulting his sister. Despite his unsavory reputation, Stanton was never convicted of any crime during his lifetime.
Today, the town of Stanton is owned by the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association, which uses it as an RV park where recreational prospectors can hunt for gold. The stage stop is the camp office, the saloon has become a town hall and the Stanton Hotel is now a small library with a kitchenette and game room.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at https://www.sharlot.org/articles/days-past-articles.l. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.