Curly Bill Brocius

Curly Bill Brocius remains one of the most mysterious characters from Tombstone's past. Without a doubt, he was considered the most famous outlaw in the region during the turbulent years of Tombstone. Yet, little information regarding his life has ever been written or published. To this day there is no known authentic photographs of Curly Bill.

He gained instant notoriety in Tombstone and Arizona, following the killing of Tombstone's first Town Marshal, Fred White. The publicity of this incident, when combined with later newspaper coverage about his activities in Arizona, created his image as a notorious cowboy figure. Ironically, before the White killing it appears that he was far from well known in Tombstone.

Possible Origins

When Curly Bill was arrested by Wyatt Earp following the shooting of Fred White, he gave his name as William Brocius. He stated that he was from the San Simon area. For nearly 50 years following his shooting of White, Curly Bill's last name was referred to as "Brocius". By 1931, Melvin Jones, an Arizona oldtimer, was claiming that Curly Bill's real name was Graham not Brocius. Since 1931 Brocius and Graham have been used in different combinations.

While in Arizona, Curly Bill was rumored to have been from Texas. He was also believed to have been involved in some way with the men who had participated in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico. Following his arrest for shooting White, Wyatt Earp claimed that Brocius had told him that he was an escaped felon from El Paso.

Over the years claims have been concerning Curly Bill's origins. None have been confirmed as of yet. A man named Glenn Mears once wrote to Tombstone historian Ben Traywick, telling him that Curly Bill's real name was really Brocius, and that he had lived in Crawfordville, Indiana. According to this claim, Brocius was a poor dirt farmer that was married and had several kids. He joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War, when another man who had been drafted paid him money to take his place. According to the Mears claim, Brocius abondoned his wife following the Civil War, not returning to Crawfordsville for several years after the war was over. Upon his return he found that his wife had remarried. He left the town an angry man and was never heard from again.

Was this Curly Bill?

Was this man really Curly Bill? At this point it is impossible to be sure. According to Mears, this man had left Indiana and was never heard from again. Was he sure that this was the same man as Curly Bill Brocius of Arizona. Or, did he just think it was the same man based on the fact that both men were named William Brocius? Provably, there were several men during this period that used the name William Brocius. Therefore, without further proof that this was the same man, Mears' claim should remain simply a possibility for now. This is especially the case because the conviction that Wyatt Earp had referred to in El Paso, Texas, has finally been found. Interestingly, the nickname Curly Bill was used in newspaper articles and court documents that referred to the incident that had occured. However, Curly Bill's last name was not listed as Brocius.


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