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Bisbee Samaritans

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Lemmuel Shattuck stands fourth from the right in front of his St. Louis Beer Hall in this c. 1895 photograph in Bisbee. Shattuck was one of several good Samaritans in town who shared their good fortune with those in need.

He lived most of his life in a modest home in Brewery Gulch, though he easily could have afforded a mansion in California or New York. He made a fortune in saloons, mining and banking, but enjoyed a reputation for generosity to the little guy, grub staking miners and caring for those who were down and out.

In a 1918 Bisbee Review article, a successful out-of-town businessman told of arriving in Bisbee with a bankroll, but succumbing to demon rum and finding himself a few days later in Brewery Gulch hung over, broke and shaking for the need of a drink.

According to the Review, “A man with the air and appearance of a miner and the clothes of (a) toiler came from the Brewery Gulch direction. He stopped and inquired of the drunk: ‘What are you thinking about?’ The man said he needed a drink. The toiler took the drunk to a saloon and bought him a drink, then across the street to a restaurant and paid for a meal. Next he slipped him ten dollars. Then he told the drunk to rest up and visit him at his office in the Miners and Merchants Bank.

“A few days later, the former drunk emerged on Main Street sporting new clothes, a shave and a smile on his face. He met a friend and told him of his good fortune coming from Lem Shattuck.

“It turned out Shattuck had stopped by his camp years before, got a meal from the man and borrowed some flour. ‘I hadn’t seen him since and I didn’t know him, but he knew me. See this,’ he concluded, and drew out a big roll of bills. ‘He gave me that, and I’m on my way to the train to get out of this city.’”

When Prohibition forced Shattuck to close his saloon in January 1915, he told a Review reporter, “He had a large stock of liquors on hand and this would be located where a few of the old timers in Bisbee could find it, as he thought, during these hard times, it would be cheaper to tide them over for a time than to pay burial expenses.”

Starr Williams, a pioneer Bisbee attorney, demonstrated the same kindness to those less fortunate and had an ability to see through the façade and view the true man within.  An example was the case of John Peele, who had graduated from Massey Business College in Richmond, Virginia, where he specialized in bookkeeping.  In 1905, he chose to hobo across the United States as a form of “rest and recreation after college.” (He later wrote a book about his travels.)

Peele arrived in Bisbee broke, tired and hungry after months of riding freight trains, and walked up Brewery Gulch looking for work. He noticed a sign in a window that read: “Stenographer Wanted.”

Though thoroughly qualified for the position, he wore the appearance of a tramp. He wrote: “My spring suit had been ruined, and long since discarded for a suit of overalls that I had purchased in Dallas. Hard knocks had rend them in several places, and they were full of train grease. My shoes were worn completely out. For a hat I was wearing a wide-brimmed sombrero, purchased from a Mexican merchant at Almagordo (sic).”

In those clothes he climbed to Starr Williams’ office on the second floor of the Brewery Building. The Bisbee attorney evaluated the young man and told him to return the next day. At the appointed hour, Williams gave him a brief test and offered him the job. Next, Williams bought him $17 worth of clothes, a $5 meal ticket at a local restaurant and paid room rent for a month in advance at the Grand Hotel.

(This Times Past article was originally published on March 2, 2001.)

Photo courtesy Bisbee Mining and Mineral Museum; research Tom Vaughan. ©Arizona Capitol Times.

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