Florence-Kelvin Highway was scene of Old West murder - East Valley Tribune: Home

Florence-Kelvin Highway was scene of Old West murder

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Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2006 8:03 am | Updated: 3:51 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

There’s only one spot where the murders and prisoner escapes could have taken place. A steep stretch of road west of the Gila River is undoubtedly where sheriff Glenn Reynolds and deputy Hunkydory Holmes breathed their last.

It was a dark and cold November morning in 1889. The lawmen escorted seven Apache prisoners into a stagecoach and headed up the hill, bound for the train at Casa Grande that would take them to Yuma Territorial Prison.

The coach was too heavy. The driver ordered most passengers to walk while he negotiated the slope.

Reynolds was a crack pistol shot, but that morning he wore a long coat over his pistols. He carried a shotgun. Prisoners were manacled in pairs, one wrist to one wrist, one ankle to another ankle. They had mobility and free hands, and they used them. They jumped Reynolds and killed him with his shotgun. Hunkydory died of a heart attack.

The steep roadway is still there, west of the community of Kelvin, south of Superior, north of Kearny. Known as the Florence-Kelvin Highway, it offers a country drive through superb rolling desert terrain, ranch country and segments of Arizona frontier history.

The whole combination is a day-drive option for people who travel east on U.S. 60 to Superior, then south through copper mining operations on state Route 177.

Between mile markers 153 and 152, turn right onto Kelvin-Riverside Road and drive 1.2 miles to a bridge over the Gila River. Head west up the stagecoach route. Pick-up trucks, SUVs and other high-clearance vehicles are recommended. Desert washes may be running in wet weather.

Terrain here is pristine desert, populated with several ranches, including the Diamond-A and the Teacup. Look for signs of old mining operations near the road and up on hillsides, connected by skinny, washed-out trails. At the junction of Florence-Kelvin and Barkerville roads, intersect the former stagecoach route that came north from Tucson.

At several points on F-K Highway, sharp-eyed travelers can spot the Coke Ovens — five beehive-shaped structures miles to the north along the north bank of the Gila. In the 1880s, they burned mesquite to make fuel for mining smelters.

Follow the old highway 22.8 miles from 177 to Whitlow Ranch Road, turn right and drive 9.3 miles to historical Ashurst-Hayden Dam. Cross it and head west through farm country to Florence at state Route 79. Head north to U.S. 60 and home.

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