By Bob Baker
Around 9:00 P.M on Friday, February 12, 1875, gunshots rang out on Montezuma Street (Whiskey Row) in Prescott, Arizona Territory. The gunfight resulted in the death of Jim Carroll and the wounding of John Evans, both employees of the California and Arizona Stage Line.
On February 15, 1875, the Arizona Weekly Miner reported the verbatim testimony of William Reid to the coroner’s jury on February 13. Reid, a stage driver, witnessed the gunfight between John W. Evans, the Station Agent, and Jim Carroll, a stage driver, in front of the California & Arizona Stage Line office on February 12.
“Jim had been drinking, and I got the team out of the barn; the horses scattered over the corral and I got them in place; Evans came out of the office, saw the state of affairs, and told Jim he was in no fit condition to go out with the mail, and that he (Evans) would drive to Wickenburg himself, and went into the office to dress for the night trip; I hooked the team up and Jim got on the box and took the lines; Evans came out and told him that he could not go out with the mail, that he was not capable of driving, and said ‘If you don’t get off I’ll put you off.’ Jim replied, ‘You will put me off will you?’ Evans said, ‘I will if you don’t get off!’ and just as Evans uttered the last word, Jim fired at him three times, and Evans then began to shoot, and fired several times, can’t say how many; Jim fell down between them (horses), and said ‘Bill, get me out from between these horses!’ I was getting him out and I had him in my arms and was trying to get his pistol away from him, when Evans again came out and looked at him, Jim saw him and fired at him; Evans again shot and hit him in the head while he was in my arms …”
Jim Carroll died 4 hours later. Constable Leonard arrested Evans who was wounded in his left arm which later had to be amputated. The grand jury’s verdict was “Death from a pistol shot fired by the hand of J.W. Evans.” On May 21, 1875, Evans was tried for the murder of Jim Carroll. However, J.A. Rush, the District Attorney, told the Court that after hearing grand jury testimony there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the defendant (Evans) and the court directed the jury to find him not guilty.
Evans continued to appear in the news. On January 5, 1877, the Arizona Weekly Miner reported “Much credit is due Messrs. Standefer (U.S. Marshal) and Evans for their activity and determination in arresting the stage robbers.” Then, on May 25, 1877, the newspaper again reported that Evans suspected Tom Johnson and John Sutter of robbing a stagecoach near Wickenburg. After a gunfight, both outlaws were captured. The newspaper again lauded Evans’s work stating, “Mr. Evans has done his duty nobly in this, as did he in the stagecoach robbery last winter.”
In late 1877, despite his disability, Evans left the stage line to work as a detective for Wells Fargo & Co. On December 20, 1878, the Weekly Arizona Miner credited him with the capture of “Roudepouc” a notorious stage robber. On Sep 17, 1880, Evans, now a Deputy U.S. Marshal, reportedly captured “Martinez”, a key member of a bandit force operating in Sonora and on the border.
In the mid-1880s, John W. Evans left a successful law enforcement career for a real estate business in Phoenix, where he died in 1902.
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