James “Alex” Rudd was born December 21, 1854 in Clarksville, Arkansas. Raised during the Civil War, his harsh childhood made him into a man you didn’t want to cross. His father, William Rudd, started out as a tanner and harness maker and later became a respected doctor and lawyer.
In 1876 the family was forced from their home in Arkansas by Union soldier’s habit of burning everything in their path, including crops. The starvation caused by the lack of food as well as the scorched earth policies drove people west. The Rudd’s crossed the plains in a wagon train, encountering tremendous herds of buffaloes, surviving lightning-set wild fires and barely missing the Sioux Indians rampages. Alex rode point and used his skill with a gun to provide game for the pioneers. Alex’s mother, Eliza Rudd, was called the Madonna of the Trail. The family settled in the Springville, Arizona area and started ranching. During this time they stood off Apache war parties, survived the Pleasant Valley war and dealt with outlaw Ike Clanton and his gang, who rustled their cattle and then demanded fifty dollars to return them.
In May 1886, Alex, his brother Davis Rudd and friend J. D. Murray were involved in a dispute over cattle with a Mormon rancher by the name of E. S. McCaw. Unfortunately, McCaw didn’t adhere to the rule of never bringing a knife to a gunfight and was shot dead by Alex. An arrest warrant was issued April 21, 1888 by the Apache County District Court.
It was reputed that Alex had a bit of a temper and when the Marshal came to arrest him and his brother, there was a confrontation and shots were exchanged. Another warrant was issued shortly thereafter for violently resisting a peace officer. His bond was later set at one thousand dollars, a lot of money in those days.
His father, William, had earned his law degree and arranged to have the warrants dismissed, arguing that it was self-defense. Not wanting a repeat of the Pleasant Valley war, Alex quickly left the area and was reported to be a Texas Ranger for a short time in 1895. He moved to Glendale, Arizona, in 1905.
In 1912 the Glendale News listed the requirements for a town marshal as his ability to take command of the citizens; to be able to lead an army of Mexican troops to the Glendale prison to guard the cells from within; he must have the skills to kill a stray dog with ten rounds of ammunition; be able to track a robber after the theft is made; he must be able to keep would-be landlords from collecting undue rent; be able to keep and maintain peace on the streets; he must be equipped with guns, knives, handcuffs and muzzles in order to protect himself from vicious dogs belonging to his patrons; he must be swift of foot as to make his escape in case he gets into trouble; he has to be a great bluffer but still honest and true to his calling and be able to hear and see in the dark.
Alex was considered a man’s man, in a time when the measure of “the best man” was his ability to pull the trigger first and Glendale hired him for his expertise. He quickly became the John Wayne of his time, a hard-faced marshal that held off the bad guys almost single-handily. His full head of gray hair also earned him the nickname of “Dad” by the Anglos and “Tio” (uncle) by the Mexicans.
The roaring twenties were just that. Bootlegging was a big business in Glendale and Alex blamed alcohol for society’s ills. “Dad” on horseback or using a borrowed new-fangled automobile busted the stills and arrested every bootlegger he could find. His driving skills of the high-powered machines were so poor, the crow-hopping so bad, that his deputy refused to ride with him. He felt walking was safer. Getting his witnesses to trial also proved to be difficult, as they kept disappearing.
The Glendale News’ 1920 account of Marshal Rudd’s capture of Martin, the “wild man” of Peoria, after his escape from insane asylum in Phoenix. The “wild man” was armed with a knife and had tried to assault several people. The posse’s searches lead them to the sugar beet factory where the “wild man” leapt from his hiding place and attempted his get-a-way. Ever quick on the draw, Marshal Rudd and Marshal Booth pulled their guns. According to the paper, a humorous scene took place after the “wild man” had been winged. It seems neither Booth nor Rudd were anxious to claim the honor of hurting the man. They both insisted the other man had shot him.
During his twenty-four years as a peace officer, Alex repeatedly arrested three half-breed brothers for public drunkenness. Because of his Civil War experiences, James became concerned for the welfare of their elderly Apache mother. During their stays in jail he would take her food and do small chores around her house.
The Apache woman repaid his kindness by telling him the story of her tribe’s attack on an Army pay train headed to Fort Grant. She said that the Arivaipa warriors had killed the soldiers and buried the gold in a cave ten miles east of Mammoth. To repay her debt to “Tio”, she would take him to the gold.
In 1933, looking for a little adventure, Alex took the Apache woman up on her offer. And at the ripe old age of eighty, driving an old Model T, Alex headed out to the Galiuro Mountains to hunt for the treasure. It didn’t matter that his guide was ninety, half-blind, extremely overweight and ill.
Because of the rugged terrain, they were forced to borrow mules from a local rancher near Copper Creek Canyon. As they rode out of camp, Alex realized they were being watched closely by the rancher and other locals. Seems they had heard of the lost gold and was suspicious of Alex’s story of taking the elderly woman back to the site of her old village. The trip proved to be too hard for the old woman and he left her at some old adobes ruins, while he scouted the area. Worried that he might lead the rancher to his treasure, James marked the area on his map and took the ailing woman back to Glendale. He never found the gold and his family continue to search for it to this day.
After ninety years of adventure, James Alexander Rudd died June 9, 1945 at the Pioneer Home in Prescott. The family later reburied him in the Rest Haven Cemetery in Glendale.
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