“BORDER TOWN HEIST”

— THE HIGH FIVES —

On a sleepy Tuesday afternoon, August 6, 1895, five men on horseback entered the border town of Nogales, Arizona Territory, followed the railroad tracks along Morley Avenue, and made their way to the front of International Bank.

WILL "BLACK JACK" CHRISTIAN
Black Jack
 Christian, the leader of the group, noticed the street was quiet since most folks were at lunch. He gave a quick nod to the others.

As planned, Christian, Bob Hayes, and George Musgrave, dismounted and walked into the bank. Christian’s brother, Bob, and Code Young stayed with the horses.

The Christian brothers were no strangers to crime. Earlier in the summer, authorities arrested them for killing a police officer in Guthrie, Oklahoma, but they escaped.

The brothers headed to New Mexico and Arizona territories, organized a gang called The High Fives, named after a favorite card game at the time.

The gang robbed stagecoaches, trains, post offices, small stores, and banks.

Black Jack had learned about an area cattle rancher who planned to complete a transaction at the bank the same day that involved between $10,000 and $30,000 in cash.

Once inside the bank, Black Jack chambered a bullet into his Winchester and pointed it Major Fred Herrera, the cashier.

Musgrave a circled the counter and held bank president John Dessart at gunpoint. Hayes herded others into a back room.

While Herrera stuffed money into a feed-bag Black Jack gave him, Dessart suddenly make a break for the door.

During the confusion, Herrera grabbed his pistol from beneath the counter and fired, wounding Musgrave in the knee. When the customers and patrons in the back room heard the disturbance, they escaped through a back door.

Black Jack Christian retrieved the bag of money but dropped it as he fled through the front door.

The foiled robbery alerted other citizens, and things turned even uglier for the High Fives.

A customs inspector by the name of Frank King, standing across from the bank, sprang into action. Taking out his gun, he began firing. The bullets missed gang members but wounded two of the horses.

Musgrave, injured and without a horse, managed to swing aboard Black Jack’s horse. A posse pursued The High Fives to Skeleton Canyon, but they eventually escaped.

One member of the posse said now one knew if the gang got away with any of the money. But newspaper reports in both Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, said: “not a cent was lost.”

A few days later, a posse organized by Sheriff Bob Leatherwood of Tucson gave chase, but Bob Christian, Hayes, and Young ambushed them.

During the gunfire, Deputy Frank Robson took a bullet and died and the High Fives succeeded in escaping again.

Two years later the gang returned to Arizona Territory and resumed robbing stagecoaches and trains.

The gang now included Black Jack and his brother Bob, Musgrave and his brother, Calvin, and an outlaw named Sid Moore.

The five of them, hid out in a desolate canyon, about twelves miles from Clifton.

On the morning of April 28, 1897, a posse of five men, headed by Deputy U.S. Marshal Fred R. Higgins of Roswell, New Mexico, spotted the emerging from the canyon.  

An exchange of early morning gunfire forced the gang to flee, but one of the High Fives didn’t make it this time.

The lawmen found Black Jack Christian face-down in the dirt, his body riddled with bullets.

_______

Join the StoryTeller Posse
and receive a FREE copy of
“When the Smoke Clears: Gunslingers and Gunfights of the Old West.”

Tom Rizzo invites you to “Discover the Historical West” and read about the characters and events that shaped the American frontier. If you enjoyed the story above, please share it with your friends. Better yet, saddle up for Tom’s VIP Readers Posse in the box above to receive occasional dispatches about adventures on the High Plains & beyond.
___________________________________________________________________________

2 comments to “BORDER TOWN HEIST”

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>