On this date in crime history – April 30, 1867, western lawman Burton C. Mossman was born in Aurora, Illinois. Little is known about Mossman's childhood in Illinois, though he apparently learned to be self-reliant and resourceful at a young age. When he was 21, he left home and moved to Mexico, where he quickly began proving himself one of the most canny and successful ranchers in the territory. By age 30, he not only had his own spread in New Mexico, but was also the superintendent of a two-million-acre ranch in northern Arizona. As the size of the southwestern cattle industry increased, cattle rustlers began to take advantage of the lack of surveillance on the isolated ranges to steal stock. In 1901, the territory of Arizona responded by organizing a ranger force to rid the region of rustlers and other outlaws. The governor of Arizona convinced Mossman to sign on as the first captain of the Arizona Rangers.
Mossman was suited to the task. Courageous and skilled with a pistol, he had a knack for surprising rustlers while they were still in possession of stolen cattle. Though he could use violence to good effect when needed, Mossman preferred to trick his quarry into giving up peacefully when possible. After a long and adventurous career with the Arizona Rangers, Mossman eventually returned to the more peaceful life of a rancher. By the time he retired from ranching in 1944, he had business interests in cattle operations from Mexico to Montana, and more than a million cattle wore his brand. He lived out the remainder of his life at his comfortable ranch in Roswell, New Mexico, and died in 1956 at the age of 89.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the authors website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
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