|Born||November 7, 1861
|Died||May 7, 1947 (aged 85)
|Occupation||Texas Ranger, Deputy sheriff, Express messenger|
Jeff Davis Milton was born on November 7, 1861. His father committed suicide toward the end of the Civil War, when it became evident the south would lose. After the Confederate surrender, Jeff Milton was raised on a once proud family estate called "Sylvania", near Marianna, Florida. At age 15, he moved to Texas where he worked as a cowboy, then lied about his age and joined the Texas Rangers in 1878.
After serving with the Rangers for four years, he moved through west Texas and into New Mexico, where he became a Deputy US Marshal in 1884. For a time in the 1880s he worked under Sheriff John Slaughter in Cochise County, Arizona, during which time the two were involved in several manhunts and shootouts with outlaws.
Capture of Jack Taylor Gang
One of their most well known accomplishments was their pursuit of the Jack Taylor Gang in late 1886 to the middle of 1887. Milton and Slaughter trailed the gang to the home of Flora Cardenas in Mexico. The bandits, however, had been tipped off that the American lawmen were after them and they left before Slaughter and Milton could reach the Cardenas' home.
Returning to Arizona, the two lawmen traveled to Willcox on the outlaw's trail, then to Contention City, where they found gang member Manuel Robles and one of the others asleep. When Slaughter shouted at them to put their hands up, a gun battle ensued. Guadalupe Robles, Manuel's brother, joined the gun battle, but he was killed quickly. Manuel Robles and Nieves Deron tried to run away and while still firing back, one of their bullets hit Slaughter's ear. Slaughter's next bullet killed Deron, but Manuel Robles escaped. Jack Taylor was soon arrested in Sonora, and Robles, along with Geronimo Miranda, were killed by the Mexican police in the Sierra Madre mountain area.
Capture and death of Martin McRose
On June 21, 1895, while working alongside lawman George Scarborough, whom Milton often partnered with, Scarborough shot and killed Martin McRose, a Texas rustler. McRose is buried near John Wesley Hardin, and Texas Ranger Ernest St. Leon. Milton was, at that time, Chief of Police in El Paso, Texas, and Scarborough was a Deputy U.S. Marshal. McRose had been captured and was killed while being brought back from Mexico by the two lawmen on an outstanding warrant. Outlaw and gunman John Wesley Hardin claimed that he had paid Scarborough and Milton to kill Martin McRose. Milton and Scarborough were arrested, but Hardin later withdrew his comments and the two men were released.
In July, 1898, working again with Scarborough, the pair tracked down, shot and captured "Bronco Bill" Walters near Solomonville, Arizona, and scattered Walters gang from their hideout, killing another gang member in the process.
Fairbank train holdup
On February 15, 1900, Milton substituted for another Express Agent who was sick. When the train arrived in Fairbank, Milton was handing packages to the station agent when former lawman-turned-outlaw Burt Alvord and five other robbers attempted to rob the Express Car of its cash. Milton shot outlaw "Three Fingered Jack" Dunlop, badly wounding him, and he died days later. Milton also shot and wounded Bravo Juan Yoas during the gunfight, but was seriously wounded in his left arm. Milton improvised a tourniquet, stopping blood loss from a severed artery. He then managed to throw the keys to the express car safe into a pile of packages at the far end of the car before Alvord and his men boarded the car. The gang were about to shoot Milton again when the train engineer intervened, saying he was already dead. They were unable to open the safe and escaped with only a few dollars.
The railroad dispatched a special engine and boxcar to transport Milton from Benson to Tucson for treatment. Dr. H. W. Fenner tied the shattered bone together with piano wire. When the wound wouldn't heal, he sent Milton to San Francisco where he could be seen by experts at the Southern Pacific Hospital there. They wanted to amputate his arm at the elbow, but he refused and got a ride to his friend Dr. George E. Goodfellow's office. Goodfellow cleaned and treated Milton's wound but told him he would never gain use of the arm again. Milton's left arm was permanently disabled and shorter than his right arm.
Milton retired to Tombstone, Arizona and then to Tucson, Arizona in 1932, where he lived the remainder of his life. Louis L'Amour wrote in his book Education of a Wandering Man that he met Milton, who bought him breakfast and a gave him a ride to Tucson.
In an interview with journalist David Leighton, published in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, Chris Milton a great-grandnephew of Jeff D. Milton, had this story to share: “My father, Lt. Col. Ronald A. Milton, told me Jeff’s wife shared with him that each night after dinner, he would ride his horse up to the top of a small hill behind their home in Tucson, where he would sit on his horse watching the sun go down. She said this was Jeff’s quiet time to reflect on the day.”
- Jeff Milton, lawman
- Jeff Milton Kills Three Fingered Jack
- Three Fingered Jack Killed
- Fairbank Shootout
- David Leighton, "Street Smarts: Road namesake first to patrol border," Arizona Daily Star, Oct. 28, 2014