Were there machine guns at the Deportation?

I was wrong!

I have been asked many times whether machine guns were present during the Bisbee Deportation. My answer has always been, “I have never seen any reference to them.” And I’ve read millions of words on the subject.

So, technically, I wasn’t wrong, I suppose, since I hedged my answer. But now, I have to change that response.

In my own defense, I have to say that I went through about a decade and a half of newspapers (and that is plural) in researching the story of the Deportation and other parts of the Epic of Bisbee. From about 1906 until 1921, over several lengthy periods, one can find articles about labor issues in Bisbee and the rest of the West.

With that many papers, it’s easy to miss something now and then. But this particular article I shouldn’t have missed. As I am editing All Women and Children Keep Off Streets Today and reviewing my sources, I found a mention today of machine guns.

In a July 13 article in the Bisbee Daily Review, datelined July 12, it was mentioned that the train of 24 freight and stock cars passed through Douglas rapidly, not stopping until it came to Lee, which is about 10 miles beyond Douglas, where the train crews were changed and water barrels were placed in the cars carrying the deportees.

At Lee, the article reported, “the train was guarded by about 200 armed citizens from Douglas, while machine guns on two knolls dominated the situation.”

The article added that early in the day (probably shortly after midnight), when the call went out for the deputized citizens who were in place for such an event, about 400 “heavily armed men” went from Douglas to Bisbee in automobiles.

“Most of them carried rifles as well as pistols, while seven machine guns were also taken from here,” referring to the dateline city of Douglas.

Well, that’s it. I’ll keep checking, but I don’t know of any further references. Admittedly, facts were being tossed around rather willy-nilly at this time (such as a front-page story that the deportees were on their way back to Bisbee), but it is a little more believable when specific numbers are mentioned, in this case two and seven.

Don’t show up in photos

During the Deportation event, many photos were taken in various parts of the community, from the roundup in Bisbee to the march through Lowell and Bakerville and on to the “bullpen” and embarkation in Warren. None of these photos shows a machine gun, not even in the most likely place, atop the rail cars that transported the men.

I would have to ask why the machine guns, if they were being used, would not have been a natural target for the photographers. Certainly would be today. And if the newspaper printed such a report, it’s unlikely that such photos would be hidden after the fact.

I’ll have to keep looking for more such information, and I hope that all of you will, too.

Dropped down a mine shaft

I also was told a story a couple of years ago, one that I’ll classify as a “miner’s tale,” (meaning of dubious authenticity, told for color; if such a term doesn’t exist, I’ll claim coinage rights here) about machine guns being dropped down an unused mine shaft in the early-mid part of the 20th century.

I did not give the story credence at the time (and I still don’t), but I should have documented more details, including who it was that told the tale.

If it was you, I apologize, but please let me know more of the details, so readers can hear them as well.

If you know other details, sources or stories about machine guns in the Deportation, please post them here so we all can benefit.


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