The Wild West In The Rim Country

Chapter 19: Shootout On Main Street, Part 2

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In part one of the Jack Lane story (The Rim Review May 2), newcomer cowboy Jack Lane spent his first weekend in Payson getting drunk and then racing his horse up and down Main Street, shooting his gun in the air. Finally stopping in front of the 16-to-1 Saloon, next door to JP Colonel Randall’s office, he and the judge had an argument about his behavior. As Lane waved his pistol in the air, threatening the judge, Bill Colcord arrived on the scene with his own pistol drawn.  When Lane swung suddenly and pointed his pistol at him, Colcord shot Lane. Witnesses heard up to four shots, but it could not be determined at the time if some of them were from Lane shooting at Colcord.

With Lane still erect in his saddle, his horse bolted up the street toward Gallaghen’s blacksmith shop. As he fled, Lane turned and looked at Colcord while aiming his pistol. Bill Colcord shot two more times at the fleeing rider, who then leaned over his pummel and fell to the ground. Colcord and Sam Stewart went immediately to the spot where Jack Lane lay motionless. He breathed for about thirty seconds and then expired. They called Payson Doctor J. F. Sweeney out of the saloon to pronounce the stranger dead, and the judge then ordered Stewart to get up a coroner’s jury. Bill Colcord turned himself over to the judge and he was held overnight. Lane’s body remained where it fell, and Elwood Pyle was solicited to watch over it so that nothing was touched until morning when the jury could meet.

The aftermath of the shooting was as follows.

Sam Stewart quickly recruited the jury, consisting of J. W. and N. W. Chilson, H. Williams, Arthur Neal, Floyd Lockwood, Fred Powers, E. F. Pyle, E. S. Tompkins, and F. H. Conners. Judge Randall took charge of the jury and held a preliminary inquest Monday morning, January 31st.  The jury proceeded to the scene of the killing, where Dr. Sweeney found Lane had been “shot in the head to left of center; the bullet came out two inches left of the left ear.” Another shot was to the left breast, above the fifth rib, and exited the back. Both wounds were considered fatal. That afternoon Lane’s body was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery and the jury went home for a couple of days to catch up on family and work.

They reconvened Wednesday February 2nd to hear testimonies from the numerous citizens who had observed various aspects of the drama.[1] When Lane’s pistol was examined it was found to be empty, while Colcord’s Luger had five bullets still in the magazine. The big question remained whether Lane had fired at Colcord. No one could tell for sure but Sam Stewart, who had been standing right next to Colcord at the time, believed he saw smoke and a bullet come from Lane’s gun. He said he heard the whiz of a bullet go past him. Colcord also was sure that Lane shot at him at least once.

J. O. Hill, who had employed Jack Lane, brought the victim’s personal belongings from the ranch to the hearing. There wasn’t much: a 32-20 six shooter in a .45 frame, two packages of tobacco, an old pocket knife, nine cartridges for the pistol, one pair of hand-made spurs, two silver dimes and one “block of matches.” The court gave Hill Lane’s horse and saddle to use in exchange for its keep, until some family member of Lane’s might claim it.  

The witnesses were called one by one. Their testimonies would be significant in sorting out the facts.

Elzie Brown, the boy Lane picked up on the road to Payson, told how he had first met Lane at a dance in Cliff, New Mexico, six months before. The youth had observed then how “crazy” Lane would become after he had been drinking.

Mart McDonald was owner of the store where Lane bought a pair of overalls about 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon, just before his rampage. He had stepped out at hearing the shots and saw Lane race east through the croquet court, still shooting into the air. He heard Mrs. Stewart yell at the children to get inside, and Lane was yelling back at her as if she was talking to him. “Ma’m?” he said, and turned his horse to head west while he shot into the air some more. McDonald was able to identify each of the buildings where Lane had fired another shot. The merchant went into his store to get his own gun, and returned to observe the action down at the 16-to-1 saloon. His account was harmonious with that of Colcord and others.

Mr. William Bright was a carpenter from Prescott, upstairs in the 16-to-1 when the commotion drew him to look out the window. Watching the action from overhead, he was able to describe in detail what happened and to recount the words between Judge Randall and Jack Lane.

Curtis Neal from Gisela told about seeing Lane at the dance Saturday night and that they had played a game of pool together. It was Sunday when Neal and Lane met again on Main Street. They struck up a wager on which of their horses could win a race. After inspecting their horses at Pieper’s livery stable, then drank together at the bar. It was then, reported Neal, that Bill Colcord had come in and shook hands all around, except when he came to Lane he would not give him his hand for some reason. Later that day Neal observed the wild ride and the killing from McDonald’s store.

Napoleon Chilson had examined the pistol, and found it empty, but did not see the killing.

Carrel Wilbanks had watched the action from the porch of Pieper’s Saloon,

Clara Hilligas was visiting with Mrs. Stewart, saw the wild ride and heard the random shots. She had turned to run when Colcord and her husband approached Lane and the deadly shooting commenced.

Inez Brown was visiting Mrs. Herron. They came out, watched the action and heard portions of the exchange between the judge and Lane. The two ladies ran back into the house when Colcord came with pistol drawn. She watched through the window as he shot Lane.

The witnesses droned on and on, each having seen the action from different perspectives. The final testimonies were given by Benjamin Butler, James Callaghan, Sam Stewart, and finally Judge Randall and Bill Colcord themselves. Few of the witnesses could be certain about the number of shots they heard fired, and most reports were different from one another.

Immediately after the coroner’s inquest, members of the jury took Lane’s body to the Payson cemetery for burial. His full name was Jackson White Lane, born in 1884 at San Gabriel, Texas, a small farming community northeast of Austin in Milam County. He was 25 or 26 when he was killed. His father, William Walker Lane, had died when Jack was just two years old, leaving his mother Martha to raise him. He had older siblings, and four years after his death, in 1914, his family came to Payson, exhumed the body and returned it to Texas for final burial. The original gravestone remains in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

[1] Sources for this article include oral histories by Sara Lockwood, Ira Murphy’s interview with Teresa Boardman and other Murphy articles. Also from the author’s interview with Charlie Chilson and Sarah “Babe” Lockwood; an interview with Lena Chilson; the transcripts of the Coroner’s Jury were found in the Arizona State Capitol’s Department of Library, Archives, and Public Records.

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