Skeleton Canyon Massacres
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- These events should not be confused with the Skeleton Canyon Shootout in 1896.
The Skeleton Canyon Massacres refer to two separate attacks on Mexican citizens in 1879 and 1881. Skeleton Canyon is located in the Peloncillo Mountains (Hidalgo County), which straddles the modern Arizona and New Mexico state line border. This canyon connects the Animas Valley of New Mexico with the San Simon Valley of Arizona.
First Skeleton Canyon Massacre
The first Skeleton Canyon Massacre occurred in 1879 when a group of Mexican Rurales were ambushed by rustlers. In July 1879, several rustlers attacked a rancho in northern Sonora, killing several of the inhabitants. After the attack on the rancho, the survivors reported the attacks to Commandant Francisco Neri and a detachment of Rurales were sent out, among them Captain Alfredo Carrillo. The Rurales illegally crossed the border into Arizona and as the Rurales entered in the canyon, shots were fired. Three of the Rurales survived the initial onslaught. Then the posse leader was killed by execution. No action was taken by the Mexican Government, but they did protest the killings to President Chester Arthur despite the fact that the Mexican policemen had crossed into a foreign country where they had no jurisdiction. Johnny Ringo reported that he was present at the ambush along with Old Man Clanton, Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, "Curly Bill" Brocius, Florentino Cruz, brothers Frank and Tom McLaury, Jim Hughes, Rattlesnake Bill; Joe Hill; Charlie Snow; Jake Guage; and Charlie Thomas as the murderers.
Second Skeleton Canyon Massacre
In July 1881, "Curly Bill" got word that several Mexican smugglers carrying silver were heading to the United States through Skeleton Canyon. Curly Bill and several other men including Johnny Ringo, Newman Haynes Clanton, Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Grounds, and Zwing Hunt hid in the rocks high above the trail. As the smugglers rode through the canyon the murderers opened fire, killing six of the nineteen. The rest were killed — some reports say tortured and killed  — before they could get away.
In August 1881, while driving a herd of cattle through Guadalupe Canyon, a group of rustlers led by Old Man Clanton were ambushed while they slept. At dawn several men opened fire on them, killing five; only two men escaped the ambush. This attack was later known as the Guadalupe Canyon Massacre. Although who shot the rustlers is not certain, researchers believe the attack may have been led by Captain Alfredo Carrillo and several Rurales from Fronteras, Mexico, in revenge for the First Skeleton Canyon Massacre.
- In 1958 the attack was portrayed in an episode of the TV series Tombstone Territory.
- In the 1993 film Tombstone the opening scene was supposed to be the Skeleton Canyon Massacre, but due to the injury of the character of Old Man Clanton, the scene was changed to a fictional wedding massacre.