Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Burt Mossman

 

(April 30, 1867 - September 5, 1956)

 

Born in Illinois with a Scots-Irish Ancestry, raised in Minnesota, Burt Mossman reached New Mexico at the age of sixteen and began drawing a cowboy's wage.

 

At 21 Mossman was a foreman in New Mexico for an outfit running 8,000 head. At 27 Burt managed a larger spread and at 30 became superintendent for the Aztec Cattle Company better known as the Hash Knife outfit. This large holding company ran 60,000 cattle.

 

In spite of or maybe because of it's large size, the Hash Knife outfit was about to go bankrupt because of the rustling. As Mossman was riding to his new job one of the Hash Knife foreman met him on the road with news of stolen cattle. The two followed the trail and captured three rustlers. So ended day one for the new superintendent.

 

In a move to make the operations profitable, Mossman fired 52 of the 84 cowboys. These 52 were suspected of being or helping the rustlers. The Aztec Land Company would start making a profit with Burt at the helm. However in 1901 after an extended drought a horrific blizzard devastated the large herd.

 

From 1897 to 1900 there were six trains robberies in northeastern Arizona, payrolls for the mines were ambushed and rustlers boldly stole cattle in broad daylight. In 1901 Arizona raised a force modeled after the Texas Rangers. This group was called the Arizona Rangers. The first Captain of this group was Burt Mossman.

 

The Rangers worked undercover disguising themselves as cowboys and only showing the star when an arrest was being made. During Mossman's year and a half tenure the Arizona Rangers brought in 125 bandits and only killed one of the law breakers. Also, only one Ranger lost his life. The Arizona Rangers were effective partly due to the good relationship with the Rurales - the Mexican enforcement force. Neither side bothered with formalities and the border did not provide a sanctuary. Both the Rangers and Rurales crossed the border in pursuit of their foe. The Rangers even used saloon girls in the border towns to supply information or slip a mickey to the bandit.

 

Burt's last capture prior to resigning was the capture of Augustine Chacon. Although Chacon was becoming a local folk hero of sorts, he was a vicious killer claiming 52 dead. Because Chacon was elusive, Mossman enlisted the help of Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles. Alvord was a one time lawman turned outlaw. Both men were hiding out in Mexico and wanted to return. Burt Mossman struck a deal whereby if Alvord and Stiles helped him locate Chacon, he would testify on their behalf as to their good behavior. The meeting took place with Mossman posing as a fugitive, but Chacon was wary, his hand was never far from his gun and he did not let anyone get behind him. Mossman did not sleep a wink that night. In the morning homemade cigarettes were passed around and Mossman saw his chance. He let his cigarette go out, reached for a burning stick re-lit his smoke and as he tossed the stick back into the fire, his right hand drew his gun and covered Chacon. On the trip back to the states Chacon balked as they crossed the border. Mossman threw a lasso around Chacon's neck and stated he would be dragged all the way. Chacon dtsrted moving and was eventually hanged in Solomonville, AZ.

 

Burt Mossman re-entered the cattle business as owner of the large Diamond A ranch near Roswell, NM. He was wild, restless and quick tempered, but respected by all who worked with him. The 5 foot 10 inch hell-for-leather cowman cracked skulls when required, got the Arizona Rangers off to a good start and did much to clear the area of the lawless.

 

Burton Mossman died in Roswell, NM, but is buried in the Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, MO.

 

 

 

Gravesite Map

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org