Rock Island, Illinois
|Died||c. 1888 (aged 39–40)|
|Occupation||Cattle rustler, outlaw|
|Known for||Membership in various gangs in U.S. Southwest and suspect in attempted assassination of Virgil Earp|
Charles "Pony Diehl" Ray (possibly "Deal") was an Old West outlaw who crossed paths and associated with some of the most famous western characters in American history. He was probably the son of German Americans Jeremiah and Mary Hagler Ray and was born about 1848 in Rock Island, Illinois.
He first appeared in New Mexico during the 1870s, riding with the John Kinney Gang, then later with the Jesse Evans Gang. While with the Kinney Gang, on December 31, 1875, Diehl, John Kinney, Jesse Evans, and gang member Jim McDaniels entered a saloon in Las Cruces, New Mexico. There, they became involved in a brawl with US Cavalry soldiers from Fort Stanton. A Private was beaten so badly he died four days later. Kinney was also severely injured and his friends carried him outside, only to turn around and shoot through the doors and windows of the saloon at the soldiers. According to different accounts, they killed one or two soldiers and a civilian outright and wounded three soldiers or two soldiers and another civilian. Diehl rode with the Kinney Gang through 1875.
In early 1876 he left the Kinney gang to join Jesse Evans, who had also left Kinney to form own gang. The men were actively involved in cattle rustling and armed robbery, and were joined for a while by Billy the Kid. They were enlisted into supporting the "Murphy-Dolan Faction" in their feud with John Tunstall in Lincoln, New Mexico. Billy the Kid, a friend of Tunstall, left the gang. When the remaining gang members killed Tunstall, they sparked the Lincoln County War, during which Evans and his gang fought Billy the Kid and his "Regulators". After the Lincoln County War, Diehl departed New Mexico and ventured to Tombstone, Arizona, where he became one of the outlaw Cowboys that included Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Johnny Ringo and "Curly Bill" Brocius. He went to Arizona Territory on a cattle drive with "Curly Bill" Brocius and "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson in late 1878.
Diehl's name is often mentioned in the records of the events leading up to, and following, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He was suspected of being involved in numerous robberies and cattle rustling, and was suspected of being involved in the theft of U.S. Army mules with Sherman McMaster, who Diehl may have known as a child. Pony Diehl, Ike Clanton, and Phineas Clanton were the primary suspects in the attempted assassination of U.S. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp, who was left maimed. A posse led by Wyatt Earp searched for the three men in Charleston and surrounding areas but failed to locate them. In February 1882, Diehl was running from the law once more when Wyatt Earp obtained a warrant for Diehl's arrest for his alleged participation to a January 1882 stagecoach robbery. Once more, Pony dodged the law when Earp could not find him.
Diehl later claimed to have killed gambler and Earp supporter Michael O'Rourke in 1882, after O'Rourke allegedly killed his friend, Johnny Ringo, but his involvement was never proven, and he was never charged. He eventually was arrested for numerous crimes, to include cattle rustling and robbery, and sentenced to five years in prison at Santa Fe, New Mexico. He escaped in February, 1885, but was only out for only four days before he was recaptured. He was returned to prison and was finally released in March, 1887, where his name disappeared from public records, though there are some accounts he died in a gunfight.
- Weiser, Kathy (December 2012). "Pony Deal – Outlaw & Gunfighter of the Southwest". Legends of America. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- Nolan, Frederick (1998). The West of Billy the Kid. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0806131047.
- Johnson, David (2008). John Ringo, King of the Cowboys : His Life and Times from the Hoo Doo War to Tombstone. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-1574412437.
- "Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Posse". History Network. January 29, 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2012.