See Family Tragedy Revisited



It may be difficult to understand this column without first reading my last two columns, both on the See family tragedy. The first story I wrote was on information given to me by Marguerite Noble, who proved to be right. The second version was by Ira Murphy who apparently got the See murder mixed up with another tragic murder in Gila County. But both versions of the See story lent some light to the facts. We learned about the stolen silver bullion from Murphy. This explains how John M. See could move to Mexico and become an "aristocrat."

Marguerite, being a cousin to Julian Journigan, had an inside line. She knew what happened. Julian's mother was Emma J. See, a sister to John M. See. Emma See married Marion Journigan and moved to Flagstaff, Ariz. According to the Rim Country History book, Julian was born in 1884. Eleven days after his birth, his mother died, so he was raised by his grandparents, John and Louisa See. He was eight years old when the murder occurred. He remembered.

In 1968, Jess Hayes wrote about the See murder: "Sheriff Thompson (John Henry "Rim Rock") rode to the Salt River area where a number of ranchers and farmers lived. His specific mission was to search for a heavy bar of silver bullion valued at $1,500 that had been taken by road agents from a Wells Fargo stage a few months before. He already had recovered one of the two bars taken by the robbers.

"He stopped to rest and chat at the ranch place of John See on Spring Creek, a tributary of Salt River. See, who previously had been arrested for shooting and breaking up a country dance, was not at home. He had paid his fine so the sheriff was not looking for him, but he tarried awhile and chatted with Annie See, John's wife, who had a son about six months old. Mrs. See's sister and brother-in-law (W.F. and Alice Gann) were present as well as her father, J.C. Narron.

"It was customary practice for Mrs. See to milk range cows as there were no purebred milk cows. It took about four range cows to supply enough milk for a family and allow enough milk for the calves. Shortly after Thompson had left that day, See came home and became angry. Whether he misconstrued Thompson's mission or became angry for some other reason will never be known. At any rate, Mrs. See had not done the usual milking, and at milking time, shortly before dark, See agreed to help with the chore. After milking one cow, See excused himself and said he would be back in a minute or so. He walked into the house, seized a pistol, returned to the corral and without a word fired two shots into his wife's body, killing her instantly. See fled, and as he passed his father-in-law he shouted, ‘I have got all this I want and I am going home to die.'"

"The murder occurred on May 18, 1892, and on the next day an inquest was held before Justice of the Peace Strong. Witnesses were Alice Gann, W.T. Gann, and J.C. Narron. All told the same story about seeing two flashes of light from a gun barrel in the semidarkness and hearing two shots. They were emphatic in testifying -- ‘John See did it!' Then the coroner's jury rendered its verdict: ‘The name of the deceased was Annie See, that she came to her death on the 18th of May 1892, in this county and we further believe John M. See to be the person by whose act the death of the said Annie is occasioned, that the said John M. See did unlawfully, maliciously and feloniously with a pistol shoot the said Annie See twice through the body thus causing her death.'

"Sheriff Thompson closely watched the homes of See's relatives attempting to get some lead, but nothing material developed. In a final effort to catch the fugitive, the sheriff posted the following notice: ‘On motion by the Board of Supervisors, the sheriff of Gila County is authorized to offer a reward in the sum of $150, for the arrest of John M. See to be paid by Gila County if arrested alive, or upon duly authenticated evidence of his having been unavoidably killed by any officer or person attempting such arrest or capture.' The award was never claimed. Close relatives of See later revealed that he escaped into Mexico where he changed his name to Juan Moreno. He married and reared two children.

"Annie See was buried on a mesa about a hundred yards from where she died, among the flowers. Some years later her son returned to the grave and curbed it with concrete. He placed a headstone with the inscription on it: ‘Mother -- Annie Narron See -- 1869-1892.' (The marker was in place as late as February 22, 1967, but was missing on March 1, apparently having been removed by vandals.)"

Now, by putting all three stories together and eliminating what I have found to be incorrect (written records), the story that surrounds the murder of Annie See is coming together. My cousin, Jayne Hatch, and I drove to Globe and spent a day at the Gila County Court House searching through all kinds of records pertaining to the See family, the Narron family, and the Gann family. These three old ranching families who lived in the lower Tonto Basin very early are not in the history books. They were almost lost to history, but no more. I have done quite a bit of genealogy on each family and plan to do more.

One thing that greatly hampered my research on John M. See is that the workers in the Gila County Superior Clerk's office will not give me access to a file on John M. See. On a computer index, a worker found: John M. See - murder -- case 539. The woman told me that the file was secret. I told her I thought it was public record -- that I am a Payson Town historian trying to do my job. I told her that John M. See would be 138 years old today, if he was alive, but actually, he had fled to Mexico where he died in 1920. She then explained that if he was never arraigned, his file would be secret. In a few days, I will have more time to check on this. I think it is public record at this point.

If I could see the case file, I would know exactly where John See killed his wife, Annie. By most of the records I have read, it appears that he killed her on lower Tonto, somewhere close to Pinto Creek, Spring Creek, or Campaign Creek. These three creeks are all close together. If he killed Annie in this area, then she is buried in the area and deserves a memorial stone of some sort. If he killed her at the See Ranch up above Christopher Creek, as Marguerite Noble reported, then rode to his parent's ranch on the lower Tonto, Annie is buried somewhere in See Canyon and deserves a memorial stone there.

Jess Hayes wrote that Sheriff Thompson was riding on Spring Creek when he stopped by the See Ranch to visit with Annie. But I wonder if Jess Hayes knew that John M. See (husband of Annie) had a father named John S. See who had a ranch in the Spring Creek area? He may have assumed it was on the See Ranch on Spring Creek instead of the See Ranch at See Canyon. Marguerite Noble knew about the two different See ranches.

Both Jess Hayes and Ira Murphy told of the silver bullion -- that Sheriff Thompson thought might have been stolen by John M. See. Marguerite Noble told of the jealous fit of rage that overcame John M. See. I wonder, was he jealous of Sheriff Thompson's visit? Was silver bullion really involved? Murphy said, "Rim Rock never did catch John See, although he wanted him more than any man he ever chased."

Murphy said that Sheriff Thompson had involved John See's wife (who he incorrectly called Mary Narrow, a common-law wife) in the plot to find the silver bullion. Cousin Jayne Hatch and I both saw the marriage record of John M. See and Annie Narron. They were married March 3, 1889 in Globe. John M. See's wife was Annie, not Mary.

This may not be good for history, but I will say what I think happened at this point (I can always be corrected): Both John M. See and Annie Narron were raised in the lower Tonto Basin. Census records, land records and school records support this. After they married, they moved to a canyon above Isadore Christopher's Ranch. Later it would be known as See Canyon, in their honor. There is also See Springs. Maybe John M. See was mixed up in stealing some silver bullion. If he had one bar worth $1,500 in 1892, he could have bought quite a bit of land in Mexico. Or maybe he was accused of stealing the silver bullion because a certain sheriff was in love with his wife. Or maybe John See did abuse Annie and she left him and went to live with her folks on the See Ranch on lower Tonto. Maybe Sheriff Thompson acted like he cared for her to get her to go back and live with John See long enough to find out where the silver was. But if this is true, why didn't Sheriff Thompson get the silver? Was he attempting to get it the late evening that John See rode in and found the sheriff visiting with his wife? Looking at the arrest record of John See can probably clear up some of this. It depends on how involved Sheriff Thompson was.

I wonder why John See said to his father-in-law, "I have got all this I want and I am going home to die"? Was he tired of the marriage? Tired of Sheriff Thompson interfering? Something caused this man to snap and kill his wife who was milking a cow. Also, he left a baby son. Jess Hayes said the baby was six months old. According to census records and See family genealogy records, the baby, Charles Frank "Charlie" See was born May 17, 1890, so he would have been 2 years old when his father killed his mother. He could not remember it.

Charlie was raised by his grandparents, John and Louisa See of Tonto Basin. He married Esther Roxie Thomas and had five children. They lived at Wheatfields. Charlie and his cousin Julian Journigan had a stage and mail line between Globe and Payson from 1920 to 1932. I found where both Charlie and his wife died in the 1950s and were buried in Ventura, Calif.

Jayne Peace-Pyle, Arizona Historian, recently released her first novel, "Muanami -- Sister of the Moon." The story relates the trials and struggles of a Comanche medicine woman and shows that motherhood transcends all cultures and times. Cost of the book is $15. Other books by Jayne Peace-Pyle and Jinx Pyle: "Looking Through the Smoke," "Mountain Cowboys," "History of Gisela," "Rodeo 101 - the History of the Payson Rodeo," "Blue Fox," and "Calf Fries and Cow Pies." The books can be purchased at Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral in Payson and from Lorraine Cline in Tonto Basin.

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