Chauncey Gilbert Webb

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About Chauncey Gilbert Webb

Under the Media Tab above there is an image of a painting done by Remington of the Wham Paymaster Robbery. One of the least known, least written about, yet most unbelievable crimes in Arizona territorial history. The accused were charged only with armed robbery, yet eight men, all U. S. soldiers, suffered gunshot wounds of varying severity. Shortly after midday on Saturday, May 11, 1889, a band of robbers ambushed U. S. Army Paymaster Major Joseph W. Wham and his military escort along the Fort Grant - Fort Thomas Road about 15 miles west of Pima in the Gila River Valley of Arizona. Following a hard-fought gun battle, the bandits made off with more than $28,000 in gold and silver coins.

The daring robbery and the subsequent manhunt and trial of suspects in the heist created a sensation throughout the Southwest. Questions of guilt and innocence, and of what happened to the money, still linger more than a century later. Within days of the robbery, U. S. Marshal William Kidder Meade, with the assistance of soldiers and the Graham County Sheriff, had 11 men under arrest, most of whom were residents of the nearby village of Pima. After a hearing, seven of the prisoners were bound over for trial at the fall session of United States District Court for the First Judicial District Court, in Tucson. The defendants included Gilbert Webb and his son, Wilfred, Lyman and Warren Follett (brothers), David Rogers, Thomas Lamb, and Mark Cunningham. May 11, 1889.


The following information is from Find A

Chauncey Gilbert Webb was born December 15, 1836, in Kirkland, Lake County, Ohio, to Chauncey Griswold and Eliza Jane Churchill. He died in 1920 in Colonia Juarez, State of Chihuahua, Mexico and was buried in the cemetery in that area. Webb was a follower of the Mormon faith. He was a hardworking, enterprising man, and worked his way up into Brigham Young's favor. He was a self-professed member of Young's Avenging Angels. Whether he was in on the murders of the Mountain Meadow's Massacre is not known for certainty.

He and Brigham had a dispute over a contract and Webb left Utah in 1879 and went to work for a time laying track on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in Arizona. He soon moved to the Gila Valley in Arizona where he became a member of the first town Council, was Mayor of Pima and was active in the Graham County Democratic party. Webb did well for a time with his store, cattle ranch, stage line, and real estate operation. He helped build Pima's first school. He helped families in need (for a purpose) and was considered a later-day Robin Hood.

Many people began to owe him money that they couldn't pay. He became overextended and had no capital to fulfill several government contracts. At 52 years old, he was in debt and needed cash. Although no one was ever convicted of one of the most daring crimes to happen in Arizona, Chauncey Gilbert Webb was thought to be the mastermind of the Wham Robbery.

The U.S. Army and Major Joseph Washington Wham lost $28,315.10 in gold and silver coin that was to have been used for payrolls at several Army Forts. Eight of Major Wham's men were wounded in the fight. U.S. Marshall William Kidder Meade and the Graham County Sheriff arrested eleven men. They included Webb, his three sons and eight other men. They were put on trial in Tucson, Arizona. After a lengthy trial, they finally were acquitted. The money was never recovered, but it was thought that Webb took it to pay off massive debts.

He and two of his sons left in 1891 for Mexico. He was ordered into exile there, never to return to the United States. His wife and other children stayed in the U.S. He sought work on the building of a railroad in Chihuahua and lived in Colonia Dublan. This is where my father knew the Webb's.

My father was a just a young man in his late teens and out of respect for older people, he always spoke of the old man as Uncle Gilbert. He said that Uncle Gilbert told him much of what went on in Utah and at Pima. He gave my father lots of good advice, telling him, "Son, don't ever do anything that will cause you to loose your family and your country. It just isn't worth it . I will never get to go back and I'll never see my wife and family again". I guess the old fellow had lots of time to reflect on the things he had done wrong. "Uncle Gilbert" died in 1923 in Colonia Juarez, Mexico.

The following letter was sent to me. I have not read the fictional book, "The 19th Wife", as I tend to enjoy truth more than fiction, but it was suggested I mention it here in case someone has read the book.

Hi: C.G. Webb is a fairly major character in the bestseller "The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, a novel that centers mostly around a highly fictionalized version of Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young. The "biography" of Gilbert in that book is far more fiction than fact (e.g. he's illegitimate, conceived by an interlude twixt a station conductor and his mother [who is portrayed as a teen-aged prostitute on the Mississippi River before converting to Mormonism when in fact she converted at 15 in upstate New York]).

There's a fairly lengthy section of purple prose in the novel that's supposedly written by Gilbert as a deposition, though the same book completely ignores his possible involvement in Mountain Meadows and the payroll robbery and other matters that are not only more probably but far more interesting.

Anyway, just wanted to mention this in case you wanted to put a "the namesake character in the recent novel by David Ebershoff is nearly complete fabrication," style disclaimer on Find-A-Grave. Even though it's fiction, many people who've read the book may assume it's true since Gilbert and his sister really existed.

Thanks for the photos and the bio.





Wilford Taft Webb (1864 - 1938)

Created by: Nancy E Brown

Record added: Jan 08, 2008

Find A Grave Memorial# 23855687


According to a Report of the Death of An American Citizen - American Consular Service, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, December 26, 1923, Chauncey Gilbert Webb, born December 15, 1836, in the United States of America passed away on December 11, 1923, in Pearson, Chihuahua, Mexico, of Old Age and Pneumonia. He was buried at Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. According to local law as to disinterring remains: Permission from Governor necessary and compliance with laws. Regarding disposition of the effects: The deceased's son, Percy, was present and took charge of what little effects he had at the time of death. Percy Webb was living in Pearson, Chihuahua, Mexico, at the time of his father's death. Remarks: The family originated in Pima, Arizona, and any mail addressed to a member of the family in care of the Bishop of the Pima Ward, Pima, Arizona, will reach them.


More from Find A

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Six, page 177

Elder Franklin Richards and a party of elders returning to Salt Lake City had witnessed the plight of the Willie Company. The best thing they could do, they felt, was to hurry on to Salt Lake and report the conditions, that relief might be sent. They arrived in the city as October conference was convening, and President Young addressed the people, saying in part:

There are a number of our people on the Plains who have started to come to Zion with handcarts and they need our help. We want twenty teams by tomorrow to go to their relief. It will be necessary to send two experienced men with each wagon. I will furnish three teams loaded with provisions and send good men with them and Brother Heber C. Kimball will do the some. If there are any brethren present who have suitable outfits for such a journey, please make it known at once so we will know what to depend upon.

Women collected bedding and clothing and provisions were gathered. That evening twenty-seven young men met and received final instructions to prepare them for their errand of mercy. Among this group were George D. Grant, William H. Kimball, Joseph A. Young, Cyrus H. Wheelock, USMB James Ferguson, Chauncey Webb, Thomas Bankhead, Daniel W. Jones, Stephen Taylor, Joel Parish, Charles Grey, Amos Fairbanks, Thomas Ricks, Edward Peck, William Broomhead, Ira Nebeker, Able Garr, Harvey Cluff, and Heber P. Kimball, nearly all trained scouts. The others were equally trained to rescuing, (USMB Clark Allen Huntington).

When the relief party reached Fort Bridger and had not yet met the handcart company, they became alarmed, as they had expected to meet the advance company under direction of Captain Willie. After deliberating, a decision was made to send Joseph Young and Cyrus H. Wheelock ahead to urge the companies on, if possible. Soon the snow became deep and with a cold north wind causing deep drifts, they had to camp. Men and animals were completely exhausted. It was here on the night of October 20 that Captain Willie and Joseph Elder, riding two worn-out animals, brought the news that unless immediate aid came, his company would perish.

Immediately the men prepared to start again, and after a hard journey they arrived at Willie's camp where they found people who had not eaten for forty-eight hours. Fires were lighted and food prepared, but for some the rescue party was too late. That night nine more deaths occurred. Part of the rescue party stayed with the Willie Company but most of them pushed on to relieve the suffering of the Martin Company and the Hodgett and Hunt wagon trains. The rescue party had broken a trail and the Willie Company was urged to try to follow it. All along the way they met relief parties carrying more provisions.

At Fort Bridger they were met by half a hundred wagons. What a glorious day as the rescue wagons returned to the city carrying the exhausted and travel-worn pioneers! The Willie Company arrived November 9, the Martin group November 30 and the wagon trains completed their journey between December 10 and 15. Much compassion was shown in the way these travelers were received. Homes were opened to them and food and clothing freely given.

Many thrilling accounts are recorded of the kindness and brotherly love that existed among these ill-fated pioneers. One of the most heroic mass rescues the frontier ever witnessed was performed by the scouts and men who answered the call to bring more than a thousand persons, who were stalled in the snow three hundred miles from any settlement, safely to their destination.

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, Brigham Young Company (1848); Approximate age of departure, 11; Rescue Companies (1856), Approximate age of departure, 19.


The following article is from the Eastern Arizona Courier Newspaper, and was written by Danny Haralson, columnist, October 18, 2014. It talks about the crime committed by Chauncey Gilbert Webb's son, Leslie Webb.

"Did You Know: Great Stagecoach Robbery of 1894"

It was a bitter cold day on Thursday, January 6, 1894, as the stage left Solomonville for Bowie. Ira Kempton was holding the reins and was one of the best drivers for the Layton Stage Line. Only 1 male passenger, Leslie Webb, braced against the wind rushing against the open air atop the stage. He had a shawl and lap blanket covering his frame. He was carrying cash and silver, but it was what was in the mailbag that was the scheme afoot.

The stage passed the old Mexican shack where the Safford route joined the road to Bowie and headed south. It was about 4:30 p.m. in the open flats, about eight miles north of Bowie, where the sage and mesquite trees began to thin, when the driver saw one lone man standing between the well-traveled stage tracks in the distance.

It could have been someone catching a ride to Bailey’s Well or Bowie, but then the man was holding up a gun in each hand. He had a full cover over his head and across his face. He was a short, heavyset man wearing overalls, a light checkered coat, black hat and worn boots. His attire would prove helpful in the investigation. His horse, hitched a distance away, was seen to be a black or bay.

As the horses were pulled to a stop, the man in the road said, “Throw ‘em up,” and the driver did as told, with hands heading skyward. “Just do what yer told and we all get home for beans tonight,” the robber said.

The robber had the driver throw down the mailbag, and as he rummaged through it, he seemed to find what he was looking for and then yelled, “Get the hell on,” and motioned his gun for the driver to start to cut the horses loose. They ran on down the road as the lone gunman returned to his horse and headed in the opposite direction.

In this case, the passenger was not molested and, although the driver thought only the one highwayman was involved, the passenger thought there was a second robber. The two men set off on foot toward Bowie and came upon one of the stage horses. They were able to double up on it to Bowie. Upon arrival in Bowie, the driver dispatched trailers and officers back to the scene, where it appeared only one trail was apparent.

The postmaster, D.W. Wickersham, tried to telegraph the news to Solomonville, but the line had been cut. Mr. Boyd was sent by horseback to Bailey’s Wells while Frank Van Sielen continued to Solomonville with the story about 11 p.m. Deputy Sheriff Ben Olney was in Tucson but left for Graham County upon hearing the news and arrived at the scene about daylight Sunday morning. He trailed the robber past Bailey’s Well back into the road tracks. He was able to follow the tracks until about three miles from Solomonville when a barefoot track left the road. It appeared that the shoes had been pulled from the horse.

The robbery occurred in Cochise County, but the offense was against the U.S. Mail, which made it federal. The mail consisted of money used to purchase money orders at Solomonville and Safford.

Upon arrival, the postal inspector, Mr. Waterburg, along with Sheriff Olney, who was also a deputy U.S. marshal, began the investigation, and a circumstantial case quickly developed. It appeared that none other than Leslie Webb, the passenger, had purchased the money orders in Solomonville for $390 and Safford for $200 and made them out to his brother, Milo Webb, in Deming, New Mexico. For all money orders over $50, the amount was shipped to Tucson the following day, and this was the money stolen en route. Leslie’s brother could cash the money orders and the gang would end up with cash from the robbery, and this would give them twice the original amount. This seemed to be the plan.

The postal inspector, after conferring with Sheriff George Olney and going over all the known facts, arrested Leslie Webb and Jacob Felshaw, of Pima, who were transported to Tucson. At a later date, Abram Windsor was also arrested.

Felshaw was seen riding into Pima about 2 a.m. Sunday morning. The robbery occurred about 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon, and this is considered strong evidence against him. Sunday morning, a man inquired for Felshaw at his home in Pima. His sister answered and said Felshaw was still asleep as he had just come from Bowie that night with Leslie Webb. The stage driver also identified Felshaw’s boots and overalls as those worn by the man who robbed the stage.

It was Abram Windsor, involved in the plan to some extent, who spilled the beans on the other two and took the officers to some of the stolen money. He was about twice the age of Webb and Felshaw and figured a deal was in his best interest.

Just prior to the trial on this case, another stage robbery case was heard, and one of the robbers by the name of Jack Johnson was found guilty and sentenced to life in jail. Johnson and Frank Martin had pulled off almost the same robbery at the same place just weeks after the Webb-Felshaw affair. In any case, the court was stunned when Johnson tried to sell the story that he had pulled off both robberies, since he was getting life anyway. This did not fly with the court, and even though Leslie Webb’s father, Gilbert, and his sisters testified that he was with them a few miles west of Pima on the day of the robbery, Webb and Felshaw were both found guilty and sentenced to 10 years each at San Quentin.

Since Windsor had testified against his companions, he got only 30 days and a $1,000 fine. After the verdict, Webb and Felshaw admitted the whole story to U.S. Attorney Ellinwood.

In February of 1897, applications for pardon were denied to both men, but in May of 1897, President McKinley granted pardons to Webb and Felshaw.

It is to be remembered that Gilbert Webb, father of Leslie, was considered to be the mastermind behind the Wham robbery, although he was acquitted. Leslie told friends that he had held the horses for the gang during the robbery.

Leslie Webb drifted in and out of Mexico and New Mexico. He was the one who traveled to Mexico in 1923 to retrieve the body of his father after his death. Gilbert Webb had been exiled from the United States in 1901. Leslie married two or more Hispanic women over the years and died at El Paso, Texas, in 1931.

Jacob Felshaw returned to the Pima area and farmed the remainder of his life, as did Abram Windsor. It is unknown if they ever spoke to each other again.

The amazing thing is that the authorities were able to catch the thieves in both of these robberies without DNA or simple telephone communication. They used the basics to set up a strong circumstantial case against them, and it worked. The police, relied on to catch the bad guys, did their jobs without the telephone or fast car or anything we are used to today. They were good at their jobs and caught the desperados despite the technological disadvantages of the time.

They did a fine job with what they had to work with and were lauded statewide in newspapers of the day. Ne’er-do-wells were admonished to stay clear of Graham County.

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Chauncey Gilbert Webb's Timeline

December 15, 1836
Kirtland, Geauga, Ohio, USA
Age 17
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Age 19
Salt lake City, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
October 9, 1859
Age 22
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States
November 19, 1861
Age 24
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
March 22, 1864
Age 27
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake , Utah, USA
October 20, 1866
Age 29
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States
March 11, 1869
Age 32
Deseret, Millard County, Utah, USA