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Visiting Hours

We are open seven days a week
8 am to 5 pm

2017 Events

For further information, contact the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce, 928.524.6558.

January

6 First Fridays Holbrook Depot Art Series

February

3 Holbrook Depot Art Series

7 Hashknife Pony Express Parade & Swearing In-Send Off Dinner

8 Hashknife Send-Off

March

3 Holbrook Depot Art Series

TBD NCHS Annual Board Meeting

April

7 Holbrook Depot Art Series

15 Holbrook's Almost Amazing Race 5 p.m.- Scavenger Hunt with challenges around town

May

5 Holbrook Depot Art Series- Local artist Dwayne Hawk (HHS art teacher) and students

June

Mondays - Saturdays/ June & July - Summer Cultural Dances

2 Holbrook Depot Art Series

9 Petrified Forest Relics Tour at the Petrified Forest Route 66 Dance Paint Party 9 p.m. - Midnight

10 Holbrook's Route 66 Festival & Gunslinger Car Show - Gillespie Park "Get your Pics" Scavenger Hunt, Car Races, and more...

11 Classic Cruise Though the Petrified Forest

July

4 - 4th of July Celebrations: Pop walk - 5k, Fun at the Park/Bike Parade Hunt Park, Fireman's BBQ at noon~ Fireworks at Navajo County Complex

7 Holbrook Depot Art Series

14-15 Wild West Days - Historic Courthouse: Bucket of Blood Races, Entertainment, Food, Vendors, Activities, Art & Quilt Exhibit

August

4 Holbrook Depot Art Series

12 Dirty Bird Mud Run

September

9 Dog Days of Summer: Dogs swim at pool

13-17 Navajo County Fair-Navajo County Fairgrounds

October

21 Petrified Forest Marathon - Petrified Forest

31 Halloween Bash - Fairgrounds

November

30 Festival of Trees - Our Lady of Guadalupe

December

1-2 Festival of Trees - Our Lady of Guadalupe

2 Parade of Lights - Downtown Holbrook

NCHS Logo

Commodore Perry Owens

OWENS-BLEVINS SHOOT-OUT

During the 1880s, Holbrook developed into one of the toughest and most lawless towns in the country. According to one source, in a period of one year, twenty-six gun victims were planted in Holbrook’s graveyard. Shooting brawls usually broke up dances and public gatherings, and at least several times each week drunken cowboys or badmen galloped their horses through town, firing their six-shooters, shattering store windows and wounding bystanders who were too slow to take cover.

Not only was the town being ravaged by outlaws, but by 1886 this lawless element was also running wild in the surrounding countryside. A bitter cattle-sheep war was in progress to the southeast of Holbrook; a small scale war, between the Graham and Tewksbury factions, was raging in Pleasant Valley in Tonto Basin to the south of Holbrook; and a wholesale rustlers' campaign was in full swing on the cattle range near Holbrook. Many outlaws chased out of Texas by the Rangers came to the Holbrook area and hired out to the Hashknife Outfit under an assumed name.

Possibly the most famous man in Holbrook’s colorful past was Commodore Perry Owens, newly elected Apache County Sheriff and a principal of the town’s best-known gun battle. Owens given name reflected his mother’s love of history; he was born July 29, 1852, on the anniversary of Commodore Perry’s victory on Lake Erie. When he was only 13 he ran away from his home in Indiana. He began working his way west on farms in Indiana, and on both farms and ranches in Oklahoma and the Indian Territory.

Owens came to Arizona in 1881 and was hired as a foreman by John Walker at Navajo Springs in Apache County. During this period, Owens held important positions with other large cattle companies, including the job of range foreman for the Gus Zeiger Outfit. In addition, he was employed to guard cavalry horses at Navajo Springs where Native American horse thieves threatened to steal the mounts. Owens quickly squelched the situation by killing so many Native Americans that the Navajos, who repeatedly tried to shoot him, called him “the Iron Man” and actually thought that he had a charmed life. They also believed that he had supernatural powers, that he was not human, but a devil, and that it was impossible for a bullet to enter his body.

Straw-yellow hair falling almost to his waist gave Owens a singular appearance. He was of average height and had steel gray eyes. He was extremely sensitive about his hair as well as his two guns, and any derogatory remarks about either prompted a fight. However, since he was greatly respected, no one who knew him made the mistake of making fun of his hair, which he would sometimes let stream behind him as “a standing invitation to the Navajos to come and get me — if you can.”

Many fabulous stories are told about the Commodore’s shooting. He wore twin forty-fives at his hips and carried a Winchester repeater in his saddle scabbard. As he usually shot from the hip, he often got the drop on a man.

As the Pleasant Valley War threatened to involve the whole area and rustling was rampant, many persons felt the need of a “fighting sheriff,” and Owens was soon elected sheriff of Apache County. This man was well liked and The Argus in Holbrook described him as “a quiet, unassuming person, strictly honorable and upright in his dealings with all men and enjoyed the respect and confidence of all who knew him.”

Owens is best remembered in Arizona as the hero of Holbrook’s gun battle. The other man who was to take such a leading role in the “Blevins Shootout” was Andy Cooper, whose real name was Blevins. He had changed his name when he came to Arizona because he was wanted by the law in Texas. Cooper had been suspected for some time as the leader of a gang of horse thieves operating in Northern Arizona. His father “Old Man Blevins” had recently been found dead. He was thought to have organized the band of rustlers when he moved to Arizona. Blevins had six or seven sons, with Andy Cooper, alias Blevins, being the most audacious of any of them.

Apparently pressure began to build on Sheriff Owens to serve a warrant for horse stealing on Cooper. The officers of the Stock Growers Association protested long and loud to the county supervisors in St. Johns about the failure of the sheriff to get busy. So many complaints about Owens' lack of action reached the supervisors that they finally determined to call the sheriff before them and question him on the subject of several unserved warrants. Naturally, it was a ticklish situation that the board felt they had a sworn duty to perform but none of them were eager to undertake the job. To their great surprise and great relief, Owens agreed to act soon. He explained that he had not served the warrants because he felt that Cooper would resist and it would end in the death of one or both of them.

On September 4, 1887, Sheriff Owens rode into town to serve the warrant for Cooper’s arrest. Owens stopped at the drugstore owned by Frank Wattron, the constable of Holbrook and Owens’ deputy, and talked with Wattron for a few minutes. Wattron said later that when Owens told what he was going to do, he offered to assist the sheriff either alone or with a posse. This help the sheriff refused. Owens said, “I don’t want anyone hurt in this matter – I’ll show them that I am not afraid." Owens then mounted his horse and rode over to the livery stable. He asked Sam Brown, the owner of the stable, where Cooper’s horse was located and Brown stated that he was in the yard back of the stable. Owens then went into a small room that was used as an office, shut the door, and began to clean and oil his Winchester rifle. While Owens was still in the room, John Blevins, Cooper’s brother, came and led Cooper’s horse to the street and tied him to a cottonwood tree, in front of the Blevins house.

When Owens finished cleaning his rifle, he asked Sam where the Blevins House was located. Sam told him it was down the block and this side of the blacksmith’s shop. About 4:00 p.m. Owens came out of the stable and walked with his Winchester in the bend of his left arm to the Blevins place. He stepped on the porch and knocked at the front door on the east side of the house. The Apache Critic stated that several eyewitnesses to the shooting said when Sheriff Owens knocked, Andy Cooper answered while John Blevins went to the door of the west front room. Cooper and Owens saluted. Owens said, “I have a warrant for you and I want you to come along with me." Cooper replied, “What warrant is it, Owens?” The sheriff answered, “The warrant for stealing horses.” Cooper seemed to think for a few minutes and Owens said, “Are you ready?” and was answered by Cooper, “In a few minutes.” Owens said, “No! Right away,” then fired the ball from the Winchester and Cooper fell to the floor.

That no injustice be done to the sheriff and in justification for the shooting, Mr. Owens stated later that Cooper refused to go and that he said, “No, I will not go,” coupled with a movement to raise his six shooter, which Cooper held in his right hand.

Sheriff Owens stepped off the front porch, turned as he did so as to face the door of the west front room, and fired the second shot, which passed through the right shoulder of John Blevins. At this time, the sheriff retreated to the corner of Armbruster’s blacksmith shop and caught Moss B. Roberts escaping through the east bedroom window, six shooter in hand. Owens fired again, the bullet striking Moss B. Roberts in the left shoulder; the ball entering from behind, passing through his left lung, carrying away a part of the left collar bone, and finally it buried itself in a spoke of a wagon. Roberts rounded the corner and entered the kitchen where he fell in a heap and lay weltering in a pool of his own blood.

After shooting Roberts, the sheriff stood in his last position perhaps ten seconds, when Sam Blevins, a youth of about fifteen years, rushed out, his mother after him, through the same door in which Andy Cooper was killed, with Cooper's six shooter in his hand. The boy and his mother were about four feet from the door; seeing the sheriff, she screamed, grabbed hold of her son and rushed for the door, but too late to save the life of the boy, as Owens’ unerring rifle fired again and the boy fell dead in his mother’s arms. All this took place in about three minutes.

After firing his last shot, Sheriff Owens coolly threw his rifle across his left arm and calmly walked back to the livery stable where he had left his saddle horse. As soon as the firing ceased, several citizens went to the house, where a horrible sight met their eyes. Dead and wounded in every room, and blood over the floor, doors, and walls. The agonizing groans of the wounded, the death rattle of the dying mingled with the hysterical screams of the females made a shocking and unforgettable scene. In addition to Mrs. Mary Blevins, the widow of Mart Blevins and mother of the Blevins boys; Eva Blevins, wife of one of the Blevins boys, and Mrs. Amanda Gladden, and her nine year old daughter, who was splattered with blood and gore, were in the house that day.

The coroner’s jury cleared Owens in the death of Cooper and Sam Blevins. However, many persons say that the killing of the young Blevins, practically in his mother’s arms, always weighed heavily on the sheriff’s conscience. Dry-eyed and grim, the mother testified briefly that the attack was unprovoked, that not a shot was fired from the house, that Sam Houston Blevins, the dead boy was her son and was fifteen years of age. Cooper, Roberts, and John Blevins were wounded. Cooper died about midnight the same day; Roberts died several days later and John Blevins recovered in three or four weeks. The whole battle had occurred in a little less than five minutes. John Blevins was found guilty of assault with intent to murder Owens. He was given a five years sentence to the territorial prison in Yuma. However, he was pardoned by the governor before serving any of his sentence. At least one shot came from the house, because it struck and killed Cooper’s horse tied to the cottonwood tree in the street in front of the Blevins house.

Probably as a result of the Blevins fight controversy, Owens did not seek re-election as Apache County Sheriff in 1888. Instead he took a job with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad as a guard for its passenger trains from Albuquerque to Seligman.

Later, Owens was appointed the first sheriff of Navajo County when it was formed in 1895. He served from March 25, 1895 to December 31, 1896. During this period, he also served as county assessor. About 1900, he moved to Seligman where he opened a store or saloon. Soon after this, Owens met Elizabeth Barrett and the couple was married April 30, 1902. Owens was nearly 50 years of age and his wife only 23. They had no children.

The memory of the Blevins shoot-out probably haunted Owens to his grave. He is said to have seen the ghosts of the men he had killed before he died of pareses of the brain at the age of 66 in Seligman, Arizona, on May 10, 1919. People in Arizona would long remember Commodore Perry Owens as the man whose “coolness and determination” made him a terror to the criminal element in the Southwest. Holbrook became a peaceful town after the Blevins fight, with only an occasional killing to break the monotony.



Copyright ©2014 by The Navajo County Historical Society