by Mary Kasulaitis
This is a tale of two murders that happened near Old Oro Blanco, down near the border south of Ruby. In those days there was local law enforcement: Justice of the Peace McClenahan presided. There were Arizona Rangers, Deputy Sheriffs and line riders. But in neither crime was the perpetrator caught. Here’s what happened:
Jasper Scrivner was a miner of the old school who had lived in The Lower Country for a number of years. He was best known for his unusual methods of gold extraction. In a certain spot on his mine the gold was bound up in some hard clay deposits. Scrivner would break up the clay by beating it till it became a fine powder, then pan it. A.H. Noon reported that this was the first time he’d ever seen gold thrashed out with a stick.
A.C. (Alf) Lamb was also a miner who had come to Tombstone in 1888 and worked there for a time before moving to Tucson. He was employed by Wells Fargo as a driver, but maintained his interests in mining. In 1905 he was prospecting in the Old Oro Blanco and Tres Amigos area and had interests in several mines there. Apparently he also had enemies. On the night of April 2 he was blown up as he slept in his bed. The Arizona Daily Star reported: “Some persons having a grudge against Lamb, as is conjectured, on the night of April 2, placed a stick of giant powder, connected by a fuse far removed. The explosion that followed blew out the side of the cabin where Lamb slept. Lamb’s body was found to be terribly disfigured with part of his head being torn away.”
A.C. Lamb was known to have had some disagreements with Jasper Scrivner. In a memoir published in 1959, Jack Ganzhorn, nephew of Lamb, told of a story in which Lamb and Scrivner both claimed the same mine. In 1896 Lamb had allegedly inherited a mine called the Beehive from an old man named Silvernail. Scrivner claimed Silvernail owed him money and thought the mine should belong to him. In Tucson, one night in 1896, as Ganzhorn related, “three strange men were heard to say they were leaving on the morning Oro Blanco stage to run Alf Lamb off the property and take possession.” Only 15 at the time, Ganzhorn was enlisted to ride out ahead of the stage and warn Uncle Alf. He started out on horseback, early in the morning, carrying with him a quantity of extra ammunition for his uncle. Alf and Jack barricaded themselves in the mine tunnel with their dutch oven, supplies, blankets and a barrel of water. The men arrived the next day, carrying plenty of fire power. Not realizing that Alf had been warned, they were surprised when they found themselves facing a couple of rifle muzzles pointing out of the mine tunnel. They backed down quickly, but not before they had mentioned Scrivner’s interest in the mine. Jack always felt Scrivner had some connection with the murder. In addition, just before Lamb’s murder, he and Scrivner had allegedly quarreled, so when Lamb was found dead, the first person accused was Jasper Scrivner.
A couple of weeks after the murder, Scrivner was in Montana Camp (Ruby) when he was arrested by two Arizona Rangers, who shackled him and set a guard. Justice McClenahan, who was living in Old Oro Blanco and was acquainted with Scrivner, held a preliminary hearing and charged him with the crime. Other than the known bad blood, there was really no evidence to charge him with the crime, as the Star reported. “There are those who say that there is undeveloped evidence which points to other parties.” This did not surface, but neither did any evidence against Scrivner that was conclusive. Everything presented was circumstantial.
After a few months in jail in Nogales, Scrivner was cleared. But as the Oasis reported: “Scrivner did not enjoy his freedom long enough to take a stroll around town, however as Deputy Sheriff Cook was on hand with a warrant sworn out of the Justice Court of Oro Blanco, charging him with a misdemeanor. The charge was based on the accusation made by a woman of Oro Blanco that Scrivner had threatened her. This was in regard to other evidence provided in the former hearing. In a second indictment, he was charged with rape, the victim being her 14 year old daughter. Apparently he had argued with Lamb over the girl too. This information had come out in the hearing, complicating the whole affair. Scrivner’s attorney asked for a change of venue, but Justice McClenahan declined to grant the change, stating that “he was running his own court.”
After some more time in the Nogales jail and several lawyers later, Scrivner was again exonerated of any crime, a physician asserting that there was a physical condition rendering guilt impossible on such a charge. No other evidence had come to light.
Scrivner went back to mining and later ran a store in Old Oro Blanco. Years went by. Then, on the night of March 5, 1914, Scrivner was seated in his room, by an open window. He had closed his store for the night. The Citizen reported: “Benito Carrizoza heard shots at the store and ran to the Warsaw for help. On reaching the store, all was quiet. They went around the house to see what had happened and they saw Mr. Scrivner through the back window. He was lying on the floor and apparently had been murdered…Mr Scrivner had been sitting at a table reading a mining journal. They shot him twice through the window, the bullets entering the back of his head and neck. He just fell over sideways, but remained in the chair, his glasses and book falling on the floor. The house was ransacked for money and gold. They found some, but missed a pint beer bottle almost full of gold which he had hidden among some quilts…the robbers did not find it but after searching for it they tried to set fire to the house by pouring oil around and laid the lamp down and covered it over with quilts, but in their rush, they smothered the flame. Mr Scrivner always showed his gold to everyone that came in and no doubt that was the only motive for the crime as nothing else was disturbed. Mr. Scrivner was over and had Mr. Dillon melt some gold for him into a bar on the third of the month. That was gone. Mr. Dillon thinks about $400 was gone according to what Mr. Scrivner told him on Tuesday that had been there.” (Tucson Daily Citizen, March 10, 1914.)
The criminals were never found, but Scrivner’s wife believed that Mexican bandits were to blame, the border only being two miles away and similar murders having subsequently happened at Ruby. Scrivner left behind a wife and sons. A.C. Lamb left a wife and four children. Neither murder was solved.
Nowadays, topographic maps show a canyon named in Jasper Scrivner’s honor. At least, I feel certain that his must be the name on the canyon that lies near Warsaw Canyon in the area where he used to mine. The only trouble is, they spelled it Scribner.
References: Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen, Nogales Oasis newspapers. I’ve Killed Men: an epic of early Arizona by Jack Ganzhorn. Thanks to Al Ring for his help.
Note: these murders happened near Old Oro Blanco, which is about two miles from the border, not the Oro Blanco on the Arivaca-Ruby road.