Antelope Station, Arizona, USA. 1886
We resume the life and times of Charles P. “Chuck” Stanton just as he perfected the business model that allowed him to control every government and law enforcement service in the town now bearing his name, as well as all commercial enterprises – and just about all its inhabitants.
His final rival in the storekeeping business, Barney Martin, endured years of threats and beatings from Chuck’s private army of Mexican enforcers, the notorious Vega Gang, before bowing to the inevitable and turning over his business for a song in July 1886.
Sensibly, Barney immediately packed up his wife and children and fled town. For any normal megalomaniac, the cloud of dust behind the Phoenix-bound Martin wagon would have been the end of the matter. But Chuck Stanton wasn’t your normal megalomaniac. Chuck had got where he was by forcing his competitors to leave this earth – not just this town – and he wasn’t about to let glorious tradition die. Barney Martin had dared to thwart Chuck for seven long years. Now he had it coming.
As the Martin wagon slowed to pass through a gulch, Francisco Vega and seven of his gang attacked, butchered every member of the family and burnt their bodies. A few days later a search party found their charred skeletons – including the tiny bones of an unborn child cradled within Mrs Martin’s frame.
Back in Stanton, anger towards Chuck boiled over. Everyone knew who bankrolled the Vega Gang. Perhaps he didn’t own as many of the townspeople as he thought. A few months later, probably thanks to the efforts of Barney’s friends in Phoenix, Chuck was arrested and charged over the Martin murders.
But the move failed to put the well-deserved noose around his neck. Chuck still controlled enough of Stanton’s lowlife and their testimonies got him off. How could it be otherwise? Chuck was the invincible overlord of Stanton, king of all he surveyed. He knew everything that went on in town and he owned everyone.
Well… not quite everything. And not quite everyone. He didn’t control the feisty Froilana Lucero, a dark-eyed Mexican beauty who refused to bestow her body to Chuck at the nightly orgies in his notorious hotel-cum-brothel. And he couldn’t see over his own ego to spot that Vega was a tad grouchy over the meagre payout for the Martin massacre.
One night a drunken Chuck tried to force himself on Froilana. She punched him in the mouth and told her three brothers of the affront to her honour. The Lucero brothers were members of the short-changed Vega Gang. It was the tipping point. Chuck Stanton was about to get what he’d dished out for a decade and a half to the hapless people of “his” town.
Late on the night of 13 November 1886 the Lucero brothers strode into Chuck’s store and opened fire. He died in a hail of bullets. The store’s clerk shot and killed one of the brothers, but the other two vanished into the night, never to be arrested for Chuck’s murder (it was rumoured that some people wanted to give them a reward!).
Sadly, life didn’t get much better for the townspeople. The Vega Gang continued to terrorise Stanton – which had now reverted to its former name, Antelope Station – without the need to give Chuck a cut of the takings. A decade later, the town was inexplicably renamed Stanton. But by 1906 the gold ran out and so did the bandits and most of the population. Almost overnight, the boom town became a ghost town.
And so ends the macabre tale of one of the Wild West’s most gruesome characters, the homicidal megalomaniac Charles P. Stanton.
Source: Prescott AZ History blog
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This story was sourced by Anne Skinner, a freelance writer based in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. Anne is forever fascinated by the amazing stories and incredible characters in the history of the mining industry. She can be contacted at email@example.com