Gila County History Corner: Tales from the Silver Belt

The ‘Little Hatchet’ is famous in local lore for its exploits over the Pacific.

100 years ago — Feb. 24, 1919

Henry Early became the subject of a posse when he was charged with the deaths of two Apache men and severely injuring an Apache woman leaving her for dead near Roosevelt Lake. Sheriff Shute and Deputy Wilson trailed the escaping Early into the surrounding mountains. The report came from a woman calling for help from the sheriff and a physician.

The dead men were identified as Taylor Mayne and Frank Custer. The injured woman was identified as Mrs. Henry Early. The shootings occurred during a tulapi party at their road camp last eve. Excessive drinking led to trouble brewing between the Earlys and she was shot twice by her husband. When the two men tried to stop Early, they were fatally shot for their efforts.

Early was an accomplished cornet player and had provided some entertainment before the trouble began. He was popular among the Natives and highly educated. He high tailed into the mountains. Sheriff Shute formed a posse and divided it into two sections to enhance the capture. Early was not apprehended at the time of this report.

Both Mayne and Custer were survived by wives and children. A child belonging to Early was transported by the sheriff’s department to the county hospital. The child was uninjured.

75 years ago — Feb. 24, 1944

Lt. Van Buskirk Bests Eight Zeros

Lieutenant F. L. Van Buskirk piloted a Liberator into a dogfight with Japanese Zeros. Despite losing two motors in the action, Van Buskirk dispatched eight Zeros into the depths of the Pacific Ocean. His co-pilot was Lieutenant Vidal Cortez.

Excerpt from Associated press:

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Feb. 12 (AP)---Eight Zeros made rapid-order passes for three minutes at a Liberator named the “Little Hatchet” piloted by Lt. F. L. Van Buskirk, 148 Kirkstall road, Newtonville, Mass., severing the electrical conduit of two engines.

Nosegunner T/Sgt. Albert Taran shot down one Zero. The ball turrent gunners and top turrent gunners both got another Zero listed as probably destroyed.

The “Little Hatchet” bombardier Lt. J. W. Owens, Ridgeland, S. C. said Japanese interceptors got close to the bomber despite the effective cover provided by Lightning Fighters.

Lt. Van Buskirk received his training at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson last year. He received additional training for specialized combat at Blythe, Salinas and El Paso.

The ship known as “Little Hatchet” was issued to the lieutenant and deployed to the South Pacific last summer. By December of 1943, the ship had made 25 successful combat missions over Japanese installations in the Solomons.

50 years ago — Feb. 27, 1969

Go fly a kite

As spring approaches this year, the same holds true that held then. Arizona Public Service, the utility company we well know as APS, issued a warning about flying a kite. Among the activities that the approaching spring brings is the fun of kite flying. The electric company desired that everyone enjoyed this activity, but to exercise caution around the highly charged wires that brings us comfort. Benjamin Franklin found long ago that kites will conduct electricity and that remained true back in 1969 as well as today.

APS recommends that when making a kite, always use dry string, wood and paper and avoid using wires or metals on kites. Keep your kite flying away from electrical wires and antennas. Rainy days and the roadways are also unsafe. Avoid fallen wires and never try to untangle your kite should it get hung up in a power line.  I am sure APS will be glad to free your kite if you call them.

Upcoming happenings

Tour n’ Talk on Saturday, March 16: Federal Building (post office) guided tour beginning at 10 a.m.

Museum Annual Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22 at the museum.

Gila County Historical Museum

1330 N Broad St, Globe, Ariz. 85501


Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. M-F

Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Sunday

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