Murder In Tonto Basin

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The Rim country has its dark side, as every community does, and it sometimes interrupted the fun of rodeos and dances, or the hard work of cattle roundups. The dark side showed its face in 1892.

Annie Narron was infatuated with a handsome young cowboy named John See, two years older than she was. At 19, she was living with her parents, John and Adis Narron, at Grapevine near today's Roosevelt. John See lived with his family on Spring Creek in the Sierra Ancha, but these two young people met at community dances. John started visiting the Narron ranch, where the families had much in common, since they both came from Missouri to settle in the Tonto Basin.

John M. See was the son of John Shelby See and his wife Louisa. He had an older brother Bob, and four younger sisters, Lizzie, Fanny, Becca and Beulah. Their cousin, Julian Journigan also lived with them since his mother died. He was 15 years younger than John.

Annie's family did not encourage her courtship because John See was known to be pretty wild. He bragged about his disrespect for the law, and once when he shot up a dance, he had to pay a fine and serve time in jail. Nevertheless, Annie ignored her parents' warnings and they were married in 1890. The couple moved into a cabin on the Narron ranch and in due time their son, Charlie, was born.

However Annie suffered from John's abuse from the beginning.

In the spring of 1892, a Wells Fargo stage was robbed of two bars of silver bullion worth $1,500. One of them had been found, and Gila County Sheriff Henry Thompson was scouting for the robber. It is not certain that Annie See knew about the holdup, but the sheriff was convinced John See was the highwayman. One version of the story claims that Annie had left her husband and returned to her parents. After the robbery, the sheriff urged her to go back to him and try and find out where the silver was hidden.

On the afternoon of May 18, Thompson stopped by the See ranch to chat about the robbery, but John was not there. Present were Annie's father, John Narron, and her sister, Alice, along with Alice's husband, W. F. Gann. When the sheriff left, Annie handed baby Charlie to her sister and went to the corral to milk the range cows. It was dusk when John came riding in, very angry and cursing. He stormed to the corral where Annie was milking, then turned and went into the cabin. In moments, he was back wielding a pistol, and he shot Annie twice, killing her.

As John See broke into a run, he shouted at his father-in-law, "I have got all of this I want and I'm going home to die." They thought he meant he was going to flee to Missouri, but in spite of an intensive manhunt and a reward of $150 offered by the county, Sheriff Thompson had to chalk up the solving of this crime as one of his failures. John See was never apprehended. See's parents made a home for little Charlie and raised him along with Julian Journigan and their other children. Julian and Charlie became close friends, fellow prospectors, and honored citizens of Payson and the Tonto Basin.

It was Julian who told the rest of the story.

After the murder, John M. See raced for his parents' ranch and confessed, "I've just killed Annie and I'm going to Mexico." His mother insisted that his older brother, Robert, go with him, so Bob left his own wife and 4-year-old son Jack to accompany his brother on the flight to Mexico. Bob may have brought a Mexican girl back with him because the 1904 school record for Cline School shows that he and his wife Caroline were responsible for an 18-year-old girl named Candelaria Hidalgo.

John See remained in Mexico for the rest of his life, changed his name to Juan Moreno, married an aristocratic woman, and raised a second family. One suspects that the bar of silver bullion had gone with him and helped set up his life in Mexico.

A couple of decades later, Charlie See received a strange letter. It was from a college student in the States named Rosie who claimed to be his half sister. She was writing for their father who wanted very much to see his son Charlie, and asked him to come to Mexico for a visit.

So it was that Charlie See, accompanied by his cousin Julian Journigan, made the trip and found that John M. See had become a prosperous landowner and rancher. The meeting was strained between the father and son. It seems that John's Mexican children, who now stood aloof, had been sent to school in the United States. The eldest, a son near Charlie's age, showed disdain for his half brother and stalked out of the room.

The two Americans returned to Payson, where Charlie sought out his mother's grave at the old ranch, which has since been called "The Martin Place." There, Charlie built a concrete curbing around her grave and placed a head stone which read, "Mother, Annie See, 1869-1892." The marker was reported missing in the spring of 1967, but Annie's grave is there, and memories of Rim country tribulations remain.

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