Johnny Behan
first sheriff of Cochise County Arizona Territory
Johnny Behan
John Harris Behan was from April, 1881 to November, 1882 sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona Territory. Behan was appointed the first sheriff of the newly-created county in February, 1881. The mining boomtown of Tombstone was the new county seat and Behan's headquarters. Immediately before taking office as sheriff, Behan had served five months as undersheriff for the southern area of Pima County, which included Tombstone, succeeding Wyatt Earp in this position.
Biography
Johnny Behan's personal information overview.
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The last gunfight - Monmouth Daily Review Atlas
Google News - over 5 years
Sheriff Johnny Behan, Wyatt's chief competitor, was easy-going, generally competent, and had a background in law-enforcement equal to Wyatt's — which is not to say that either was really qualified to deal with the complicated problems facing Cochise
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Special to the Brooklyn Eagle - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Google News - over 5 years
While traveling through Arizona Territory, she became bewitched with a local sheriff, 42-year-old Johnny Behan, an Irish-American father of two. Even though Behan was not divorced, they lived together, and then moved on to Tombstone
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Books | Legend loses its allure in 'The Last Gunfight' - Kansas City Star
Google News - over 5 years
Wyatt's plan put him at odds with the man who held the job, Johnny Behan, who was born here, in Westport. Wyatt's plotting, such as it was, included enlisting help from the very cowboys and ranchers with whom he and Virgil were often crossways
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I Married Wyatt Earp: A Woman's Point of View - Times Square Chronicles
Google News - over 5 years
The young Josie (Mishaela Faucher)leaves her comfortable Jewish home in San Francisco to join a theatre troupe when she meets Sheriff Johnny Behan, whom she follows to Arizona. When she catches Behan with one of her fellow cast mates and takes a near
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Review - I Married Wyatt Earp - Broadway World
Google News - over 5 years
Marriage in those parts was rather loosely defined, due to the unavailability of proper authorities and paperwork, so Josie doesn't see it as such a big deal when she breaks off from Sheriff Johnny Behan because she's fallen for Wyatt Earp,
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Slain from OK Corral shootout getting new epitaphs - Austin American-Statesman
Google News - almost 6 years
The Earps were Republicans, while Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan and members of the cowboy faction were members of Democratic Party, the one more closely aligned with former Confederates. Wyatt desperately wanted Behan's job — and its lucrative
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Wyatt Earp tends to unfinished business - White Mountain Independent
Google News - almost 6 years
Among the incidents leading up to the shootout Oct. 26, 1881 was one involving Frank Stilwell, who served as a deputy under Sheriff Johnny Behan. In September 1881 Virgil Earp, acting as a deputy US marshal, had ordered the arrest of Stilwell and Pete
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Wyatt Earp's Jewish Wife Gets Her Due - The Jewish Week
Google News - almost 6 years
After a romance with a deputy sheriff named Johnny Behan, Josie fell in love with Earp, who was to be her mate until his death almost half a century later. Wyatt Earp has been the subject of dozens of books and films, most of which make him out to be a
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Slain from famous shootout getting new epitaphs - The Associated Press
Google News - almost 6 years
The Earps were Republicans, while Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan and members of the cowboy faction were members of Democratic Party, the one more closely aligned with former Confederates. Wyatt desperately wanted Behan's job — and its lucrative
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Lash LaRue, 79, Western Star With a Whip
NYTimes - over 20 years
Lash LaRue, who expertly cracked a bullwhip in nearly two dozen low-budget westerns of the 1940's, died on May 21 at the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif. He was 79. He had recently undergone triple-bypass surgery and suffered from emphysema, said his wife, Frances Bramlet LaRue, of Gaffney, S.C. Mrs. LaRue said her husband
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ATOP THE O.K. CORRAL
NYTimes - over 35 years
.4,2TUCSON, Arizona. - The gun battle took place 100 years ago, on Oct. 26, 1881. It lasted no more than one minute. The 100 square feet of fighting space contained noise and smoke and confusion and, in the end, a lot of blood. On one side of the line, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton lay dead. Fleet feet and faint heart saved Ike Clanton
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Johnny Behan
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1912
    Age 67
    Behan died at St. Mary's Catholic Hospital in Tucson, Arizona on June 7, 1912.
    More Details Hide Details His funeral was conducted by the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society, and their eulogy declared, "he held positions of public trust, and in all was active, faithful, and honest." The cause of death was arterial sclerosis, and secondarily syphilis, which he had contracted thirty years earlier (in 1882, while Sheriff in Tombstone). The source of some of the information on the death certificate was Behan's son, Albert. John Behan was buried on the day after his death in Tucson's Holy Hope Cemetery, in a grave whose exact location has since been lost. Enthusiasts of old west history placed a commemorative plaque near the site in 1990. Behan has been depicted in most films involving the Earps and the OK Corral gunfight – most notably in Tombstone (1993) by Jon Tenney, and in Wyatt Earp (1994), by Mark Harmon. In the 1967 film, Hour of the Gun, a character obviously inspired by Behan is portrayed as a corrupt county sheriff named "Jimmy Bryan".
  • 1911
    Age 66
    During 1911–12, he was head of the commissary for the Arizona Eastern Railroad.
    More Details Hide Details Long after the gunfight, Johnny Behan continued to spread rumors about the Earps. On December 7, 1897, he was quoted in a story in the Washington Post which reported that he was staying at the Riggs House, a local hotel. The story was reprinted by the San Francisco Call, which quoted Behan describing the Earp's lawbreaking behavior in Tombstone.
  • 1908
    Age 63
    While in El Paso during 1908, he campaigned for sheriff but lost.
    More Details Hide Details On December 14, 1910, the acting governor of Arizona Territory gave him a commission as a railroad policeman in New Mexico. He followed that with work supervising survey parties repairing levee breaks on the lower Colorado River.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1901
    Age 56
    After the war ended, he returned to Tucson in 1901, where he became the Business manager for the Tucson Citizen.
    More Details Hide Details He then moved to El Paso, Texas, where he worked as a purchasing agent for Texas Bitulithic, a paving company.
    In 1901, he was living in Willard's Hotel at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C..
    More Details Hide Details The census gave his occupation as “Promoter”.
  • 1900
    Age 55
    When this conflict ended, trouble in the Far East began, and in 1900 he served overseas during the Boxer Rebellion.
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  • 1897
    Age 52
    In 1897 he worked in the U.S. Patent Office, until at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Behan volunteered for and became corral-master or quartermaster at Tampa, Florida.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1894
    Age 49
    On March 12, 1894, he received a 50 percent pay increase and was elevated to the position of Chinese Exclusion Inspector. (Behan had been a founding member of the "Anti Chinese League" in Tombstone).
    More Details Hide Details For the next several years he traveled throughout the southwest arresting illegal Chinese immigrants.
  • 1893
    Age 48
    On July 3, 1893, he became an Inspector at Port of Customs at El Paso, Texas.
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  • 1891
    Age 46
    After twenty-seven years in Arizona, Behan moved east, and in 1891 was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and by 1892 was in a commission business in Washington, D.C. He worked in various government and commissary capacities to the end of his life.
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  • 1890
    Age 45
    He faced censure for misuse of public funds and for running the prison in a "coarse and brutal manner" in 1890.
    More Details Hide Details The complaint against him specifically cited the prison conditions afforded Manuela Fimbres, a woman incarcerated in the Yuma Prison. She was allowed to roam free within the prison, and she became pregnant, delivered a child, and got pregnant again while he was warden. Former Tombstone resident and writer George W. Parsons commented that he thought Behan was "on the wrong side of the bars".
  • 1888
    Age 43
    On April 7, 1888, he was promoted to prison superintendent, serving until July 1890.
    More Details Hide Details His management of the prison was marked by prison disorder and mismanagement of public funds, generating complaints by the press. The Arizona Republic noted that $50,000 had passed through prison official's hands without any accounting.
  • 1887
    Age 42
    In 1887, he moved to Yuma, where he became the assistant superintendent of the Yuma Penitentiary.
    More Details Hide Details He killed one of several prisoners who died during a large escape attempt, saving a guard's life.
  • 1886
    Age 41
    Behan lived primarily in Tombstone through 1886.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1882
    Age 37
    Behan failed to gain the nomination and thus left office at the end of his term, in November 1882.
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    In September 1882, after the Earp Vendetta Ride, Behan had a feud with his own deputy, Billy Breakenridge.
    More Details Hide Details An investigation found that Behan had somehow set aside $5,000 in funds while he was sheriff from unknown sources. Due to public and legislative unhappiness with Behan's performance, he was last on the Democratic Party's list of nominees for sheriff, an unusual result for a seated sheriff.
    Behan's posse never caught up with the much smaller federal posse. The Earps left Tombstone under a cloud of suspicion. Sadie left Tombstone for San Francisco in early 1882, and Wyatt Earp followed her to San Francisco, where they began a lifelong relationship that lasted 46 years.
    More Details Hide Details Behan was arrested for graft and later failed to win reelection as Sheriff.
  • 1881
    Age 36
    After the Earps were exonerated, Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp was maimed in an ambush on December 28, 1881, and assistant deputy Morgan Earp was killed by assassins on March 19, 1882.
    More Details Hide Details The outlaw cowboys named as suspects in both shootings were either let go on a technicality or were provided alibis by fellow cowboys. Wyatt Earp killed one of the suspects, Frank Stilwell, in Tucson. Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt and his federal posse set out after other suspects, pursued by Behan and his county posse composed mostly of cowboys.
    Behan was a key player in the events immediately preceding shootout at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881.
    More Details Hide Details Behan went down to try to disarm the Cowboys carrying weapons in violation of city ordinance. Behan attempted to persuade Frank McLaury to give up his weapons, but Frank insisted that he would only give up his guns after City Marshal Virgil Earp and his brothers were disarmed. While Ike Clanton was planning to leave town, Frank McLaury said he had decided to remain behind to take care of some business. A letter written afterward by their older brother, William McLaury, a judge in Fort Worth, Texas, claimed that both Frank and Tom were planning to conduct business before leaving town to visit him in Fort Worth. Billy Clanton, who had arrived on horseback with Frank, intended to go with the McLaurys to Fort Worth. After Behan talked to the Cowboys, he saw the Earps and Holliday walking down Fremont Street. He walked about "22 or 23 steps" and intercepted them at Bauer's Butcher Shop. Wyatt said he gave them conflicting information. First, he told Virgil, "For God's sake don't go down there or you will get murdered." When Virgil replied, "I am going to disarm them," Behan said, "I have disarmed them." Later on Behan insisted he had said he went to see the Cowboys only "for the purpose of arresting and disarming them."
    In August 1881, Behan fired deputy Frank Stilwell for "accounting irregularities".
    More Details Hide Details Stilwell was arrested by a combined federal and sheriff's posse a month later for a Bisbee stage robbery, an action that would indirectly lead to the O.K. Corral gunfight.
    Behan's ex-wife Victoria remarried hardware merchant Charles A. Randall in Prescott, Arizona Territory on September 15, 1881.
    More Details Hide Details His mother sent Albert to live with his father in Tombstone sometime afterward. Behan was already living with Sadie in 1880, and Albert grew close to her. This relationship lasted for much of the rest of their lives. Wyatt Earp testified later saying that he had promised not to publicly campaign to the governor against the appointment (not election) of Behan, in return for an appointment by Behan as Behan's own undersheriff. But after being appointed, Behan appointed another man, Southern Democrat Harry Woods, to the position that Wyatt thought would go to him. At the preliminary hearing into Ike's murder charges against the Earps after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Behan explained that he appointed Woods rather than Earp due to an incident involving a stolen horse of Virgil Earp's, which was recovered by Wyatt from Billy Clanton. This happened sometime after Behan had been appointed undersheriff in November 1880, and his move to Cochise Country Sheriff the next spring. At the time, Wyatt was not a law officer, but had used the threat of Behan riding out to the Clantons' ranch as a bluff to get Clanton to turn over the horse. As it happened, Behan was riding to the ranch to serve a subpoena related to the ballot-box stuffing incident, not to recover the horse, and the incident embarrassed the Cowboys and also Behan who for a time had been made to look like he was supporting Earp against the Cowboys.
    When the state created Cochise County, Governor John C. Frémont appointed and the territorial legislature approved Behan as Sheriff on February 10, 1881.
    More Details Hide Details In a back room deal with Wyatt Earp, he promised Wyatt Earp a position as Cochise County undersheriff, if Earp (the only other previous undersheriff for Tombstone) would not oppose Behan's appointment. Behan took office in the new position in April, with his offices in the county seat, Tombstone, but reneged on the deal with Earp, appointing prominent Democrat Harry Woods instead. Later that year, Behan gave a contrived explanation of his actions during the hearings after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He said he broke his promise to appoint Earp because of an incident shortly before his appointment. Searching for a stolen horse belonging to him, Wyatt learned in late 1880 that the horse was in nearby Charleston. Wyatt spotted Billy Clanton attempting to leave town with the horse and, hand on his gun, persuaded Billy to release it. Behan was in Charleston to serve a subpoena on Ike Clanton. Billy carried the subpoena from Behan to Ike using Wyatt's horse. Ike was hopping mad when Behan finally found him, for Earp had told Clanton that Behan "had taken a posse of nine men down there to arrest him." Behan took offense at Wyatt's tactics and changed his mind about appointing Wyatt. Holliday reported in an interview in 1882 that "from that time a coolness grew up between the two men."
    The Dunbars used their influence to help Behan get appointed Sheriff of the new Cochise County, in February 1881.
    More Details Hide Details Behan had already served two terms in the Territorial Legislature and was more politically connected than Earp.
    On February 1, 1881, during the vote counting investigation, the eastern area of Pima County containing Tombstone had been split off to form the new Cochise County.
    More Details Hide Details Behan's partner in the Dexter Livery, John Dunbar, through his family in their home town in Bangor, Maine, was "close family friends" of the powerful Senator James G. Blaine, one of the most powerful Republican congressmen of his time.
  • 1880
    Age 35
    Meanwhile, a week after the election on November 9, 1880, Earp resigned.
    More Details Hide Details The position of undersheriff was now open, and Shibell immediately selected Democrat Johnny Behan to serve as Tombstone area undersheriff. In February 1881, the San Simon results were thrown out by the election commissioners, but Shibell filed an appeal. Shibell was finally removed from office in April and replaced by Bob Paul. But the election was now moot.
    When Behan first arrived in Tombstone in September 1880, he also got a job bar manager in the Grand Hotel, a favorite of the outlaw Cowboys, and a good place to make political connections.
    More Details Hide Details He also bought part interest in the Dexter Livery Stable with John Dunbar, where local businessmen could rent horses. Wyatt Earp had been appointed undersheriff for the eastern section of Pima County by Pima County Sheriff Charles Shibell on July 29, 1880. The Cowboys, mostly Southerners, supported the Democratic ticket and Shibell. Elections were held on November 2, and it was expected that Democrat Shibell would be defeated by Republican Bob Paul, who Wyatt had supported during the campaign. Shibell won the election by a 46-vote margin. Opponent Bob Paul filed suit on November 19 alleging ballot box stuffing in the San Simon Cienega precinct, since the precinct delivered a 103 to 1 vote for Shibell in a precinct estimated to contain only 15 eligible voters. James Johnson later testified for Bud Paul in the election hearing and said that the ballots had been left in the care of Democrat Phin Clanton.
    Albert, who had a hearing impairment, had been living with his mother, grandmother and his uncle John Bourke Jr. in Prescott in 1880.
    More Details Hide Details Depending on which version of events is correct, Sadie said she first arrived in Tombstone as part of the Pauline Markham troupe on December 1, 1879, for a one-week engagement. The Pauline Markham troupe put on more than a dozen performances of H.M.S. Pinafore from December 24, 1879 through February 20, 1880. Sadie, possibly using the stage name May Bell, may have played Cousin Hebe. The city of Prescott, Arizona, fell in love with the troupe, and they stayed for nearly six months. Sadie reported later in life that Behan pestered her in San Francisco with letters from Tombstone, bragging about the growing town and promising to marry her. She said she thought Johnny’s marriage proposal was a good excuse to leave home again. She wrote, "life was dull for me in San Francisco. In spite of my bad experience of a few years ago the call to adventure still stirred my blood." Josephine arrived in Tombstone in mid-October. When Behan avoided setting a wedding date, she was ready to end the relationship, but Johnny persuaded her to stay. They lived together as husband and wife, and Josephine signed her name as Josephine Behan for a period of time, but no marriage record has been found. Sadie later said she lived with a lawyer and his wife during this time period. Considering that Josephine said she first arrived in Arizona with the Markham troupe on December 1, 1879, and she joined Behan in Tombstone in October 1880, her reference to "my bad experience of a few years ago" means she must have actually been in Arizona for some time before 1879.
    In August 1880, Behan sought the nomination as County Recorder in Yavapai County once more, but was defeated.
    More Details Hide Details On September 15, The Epitaph noted his arrival with his eight-year-old son Albert in Tombstone.
    On June 2, 1880, Behan was counted in the 1880 census in Tip Top, Arizona as a saloon keeper.
    More Details Hide Details His was initially the only one of six saloons without a prostitute. But 19 year old Sadie Mansfield, whose occupation was given as "Courtesan", the same person that his former wife Victoria had named in their divorce five years earlier, was also living in Tip Top. On June 2, 1880, the U.S. census had recorded Sadie Mansfield, whose occupation was "courtesan", as living in Tip Top. On June 1 or 2, 1880, William V. Carroll, the census enumerator for the 9th ward in San Francisco, visited the Marcus home. He lived about two blocks from the family. He recorded Josephine as a member of the Marcus household, information that may have been offered by her parents. Sadie Mansfield and Sadie Marcus also were both 19 years old, born in New York, and their parents were from Prussia.
  • 1879
    Age 34
    In the middle of 1879, he relocated to Prescott where he opened a business providing services to local mines and exercised his skills as a lawman by joining several posses.
    More Details Hide Details While in Prescott, he got into a skirmish with some Chinese laundry men, and outnumbered, was clubbed and beaten by the business men.
    He was elected to represent Mohave County at the Tenth Arizona Legislative Assembly, which met beginning January 6, 1879, in Prescott.
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  • 1877
    Age 32
    He then moved to the northwest Arizona Territory, where he served as the Mohave County Recorder in 1877, and then deputy sheriff of Mohave County in Gillet in 1879. in October 1879 the Weekly Journal Miner reported that Behan was planning on opening a business in Tip Top, a then fast-growing silver mining town in central Arizona, and in November 1879, Behan opened a saloon there.
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    In January 1877, he was selected as sergeant at arms for the Ninth Legislative Assembly while it met in Tucson.
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  • 1876
    Age 31
    In the fall of 1876, he ran for Yavapai County sheriff and lost by 78 votes.
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    In April 1876, Johnny became the census marshal for Yavapai County and spent several weeks covering the district and completing his census chores.
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  • 1875
    Age 30
    On May 22, 1875, Behan's wife Victoria filed for divorce, complaining that Behan "at divers times and places openly and notoriously visited houses of ill-fame and prostitution at said town of Prescott."
    More Details Hide Details Witness Charles Goodman testified, "I saw the defendant Behan at a house of ill-fame … at which resided one Sada Mansfield, commonly called Sada, a woman of prostitution and ill-fame, and the said defendant did at the time and at the house spoken of, stay all night with and sleep with the said Sada Mansfield, and I know of the defendant having committed similar acts at the same place and at various times than at the particular time referred to." The divorce action also cited Behan's threats of violence and unrelenting verbal abuse. Victoria told the court, Behan approached her in a “threatening and menacing manner calling me names such as whore and other epithets of like character and by falsely charging me with having had criminal intercourse with other men, threatened to turn me out of the house, quarreling with, and abusing me, swearing and threatening to inflict upon me personal violence."
  • TWENTIES
  • 1874
    Age 29
    Behan returned to Prescott on November 11, 1874 but had lost the election.
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    The Prescott Miner reported on October 6, 1874 that "J.H. Behan left on an 'electioneering' tour toward Black Canyon, Wickenburg and other places" north and east of present-day Phoenix.
    More Details Hide Details Behan was gone for 35 days campaigning for the Sheriff's office. Some accounts state that Sadie Marcus ran away from her parent's home in San Francisco in 1874 and traveled to Prescott, Arizona. She and her friend Dora Hurst and other passengers on a stage coach had been forced to hole up in a ranch house near Cave Creek by Apache Indians who had escaped the Cave Creek reservation. Indian fighter Al Sieber was tracking the Apaches. Sadie said the famous Indian scout led them to safety. According to Sadie, she first met "John Harris" here, who she described as, "young and darkly handsome, with merry black eyes and an engaging smile". She said "my heart was stirred by his attentions as would the heart of any girl (would) have been under such romantic circumstances. The affair was at least a diversion in my homesickness though I cannot say I was in love with him."
    On September 28, 1874, Behan was nominated as Sheriff at the Democratic convention in Yavapai County.
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  • 1873
    Age 28
    He was elected to the Seventh Arizona Legislative Assembly, representing Yavapai Country, in 1873.
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    Behan was elected to the 7th Arizona Territorial Legislature, which met in Tucson on January 8, 1873, for a six- to eight-week legislative session.
    More Details Hide Details The Territorial Legislature met in January once every two years for four to six weeks, and Behan attended his first session in January 1874 held in the territorial capital of Tucson.
  • 1871
    Age 26
    While living in Prescott with this wife and children, Behan served as sheriff of Yavapai County 1871 – 73.
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    Victoria and Johhny had a son, Albert Price Behan, born in Prescott on July 7, 1871 or 1872 (d.
    More Details Hide Details January 27, 1949).
  • 1869
    Age 24
    Fourteen-year-old Victoria caught Behan's eye, and three years later in March 1869, he married her in San Francisco, her step-father's home town.
    More Details Hide Details The couple returned to Prescott, Arizona Territory, where John had been working, and only three months later, on June 15, 1869, had their first child, Henrietta.
  • 1866
    Age 21
    Yavapai County Sheriff John P. Bourke hired him as an undersheriff in 1866, and after two years Behan resigned to run for Yavapai County Recorder, which he won in 1868. Whenever he wasn't holding office, Behan worked in various saloons or mines. In 1860, Bourke had married German immigrant and widow Harriet Zaff, who had four children from her two prior marriages: Benjamin, Catherine, Victoria, and Louisa.
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    While prospecting along the Verde River February 28, 1866, he and a five other men were attacked by Indians.
    More Details Hide Details Behan helped fight them off and gained a reputation as a brave man. He also operated a sawmill.
  • 1865
    Age 20
    In 1865 he moved to Prescott, the new capital of the Arizona Territory, where he speculated in real estate and prospected for minerals.
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  • TEENAGE
  • 1864
    Age 19
    In 1864 he served as a clerk to the First Arizona Legislative Assembly in Prescott, the territorial seat.
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  • 1862
    Age 17
    He fought in the Battle of Apache Pass on July 14–15, 1862 and in 1863 settled in Tucson, where he found work delivering freight to military installations.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1844
    Born
    Johnny H. Behan was born in October 24, 1844 in Westport, Missouri in what is now Kansas City, the third of nine children.
    More Details Hide Details His parents, who had wed on March 16, 1837, were carpenter Peter Behan from County Kildare, Ireland, and Sarah Ann Harris, a native of Madison County, Kentucky, in Jackson County, Missouri. John Harris Behan was named for his mother's family and his maternal grandfather. Behan moved west to San Francisco, working as a miner and a freighter. During the American Civil War Behan was a 19-year-old civilian employee of Carleton's Column of Union Volunteers in California.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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