How did Bret get to
Dry Springs, Arizona Territory?





The trail of "The Long Hunt" is long, winding and broken. It spans most of 1877, into 1878, and is interrupted by many unrelated events.


Bret Maverick's "long hunt" was intertwined with another hunt. Probably in Deadwood, or on somewhere along the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage route in early 1877, he had begun to hear stories of Poker Alice, a woman gambler reportedly better than any man at poker and other games of chance. During that year, Bret came into many towns along her trail, only to learn he had just missed her.[1]





During the Chinook-warmed February of 1877,[2] Bret's life was saved by outlaw Lefty Dolan. Dolan was lying in ambush for the next stage to come along when Bret, being chased by an angry group of vengeful poker players, fell off his horse under the rocks below him. Thinking the mob to be a posse chasing a fellow road agent, Dolan covered Bret by shooting at his pursuers and scaring them away.[3]


About six months later, Bret would embellish the story to Rex Clark, telling him how he and Dolan had "pulled a little job together" on the Wyoming stage.[3] Since we know that Bret was probably traveling on the trail of Poker Alice,[1] likely out of Deadwood, this would suggest the Wyoming stage Bret referred to was the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage, the thriving new route into the Deadwood gold camps. There were other Wyoming stage routes, but they mostly followed the route of the Union Pacific across southern Wyoming Territory. If that was the trail Bret was traveling, he surely would have taken the train rather than riding the rough winter roads.[4]

We also know that Bret had just had an unfortunate encounter with his old "friend,"
Dandy Jim Buckley, in Junction Flats,[5] which would have placed him along the north-south route of the Cheyenne and Black Hills route just before meeting Dolan. Since the stage that Bret and Dolan met along the way was traveling empty, we may assume it was traveling south, since most of the traffic along the route at that time would have been north into the Black Hills gold camps.[6]





Bret tried to convince himself that there was nothing practical he could do to keep his promise to Dolan to clear Jedd Ferris' name of murder, but his conscience gnawed at him. He soon found himself in a poker game, so preoccupied with the matter that he was playing carelessly, neglecting winning cards in his hand.[3] Given the short time after Dolan's death, we may assume the gambling hall he was playing in was at the end of the Wyoming stage route, probably in Cheyenne.[6]





Bret had promised Dolan he would do what he could, but didn't think it would do much good. Still, knowing an innocent man was locked up for life, his conscience dogged him and he set out to try to keep his promise.[3] Fortunately, rumors of Poker Alice's travels in Silver City and through the New Mexico and Arizona Territories placed her in Tucson about that time.[6]


Since Tucson was still the territorial seat of Arizona in early 1877,[7] Bret decided to make some inquiries while in town.[6] But the Governor's commuting of Ferris' sentence from hanging to life imprisonment had cost him political friends five years earlier. Without a corroborating witness to Dolan's confession, Bret's reminder of the situation only resulted in the Governor almost throwing him out of his office.[3]


Still trying to do all he could, Bret spoke to others on the behalf of Ferris.[3] He probably spoke with Ferris' attorney, and perhaps even witnesses of the bank robbery in Dry Springs.[6] But without the Governor's support, there seemed to be no hope of clearing Ferris' name,[3] so he returned to the trail of Poker Alice, and ultimately to points further east.[6]





In 1877, inmates convicted of crimes in the Arizona Territory like that alleged of Jed Ferris were housed in Yuma Territorial Prison.[8] Believing there was nothing left to do in the matter, Bret decided to seek closure to the affair by visiting the prison and speaking with Jedd Ferris himself.[3]


Grateful for Bret's attempts to clear his name, but knowing the matter seemed hopeless, Ferris asked Bret for one more favor: to deliver a personal message to his wife, still living in Dry Springs.[3]





On the stage from Yuma to Dry Springs, Bret was detained by another  hold-up near Apocalypse.[9] He was riding a horse by the time he reached Dry Springs so we assume that, rather than waiting for the next available stage east out of Apocalypse, he bought a horse and hurried along his way.[6]





We are told later in Bret's narrative that Dry Springs was near the Mexican border. We also know it would have been 200 miles south of a town with gambling halls large enough to have ongoing poker games.[3]

No town named Dry Springs exists in
Arizona today, nor does it appear in any historic records. There are, however, three small streets in Arizona bearing the name of Dry Springs. One of these could well be the site of the town depicted in "The Long Hunt:"


• Dry Springs Road, Whiteriver, Arizona: Very unlikely, as this area was within the White Mountain Apache Reservation in 1877, and no white settlements would have been established within its boundaries.[10]


• Dry Springs Street, Sierra Vista, Arizona: Possible, due to its proximity to the Mexican border, but too far east and off the beaten path if Whitey was believed to be making a run for the border from Prescott.[6]


• Dry Springs Drive, Green Valley, Arizona: Very likely. Not only was it less than 25 miles south of Tucson and 40 miles north (Less than a day's ride) of the Mexican border, it also almost exactly 200 miles south of Prescott along well-established 1877 trails into Mexico. The modern town of Green Valley was only established in 1953,[11] so it is very possible that this area would have been the site of Dry Springs and the Ferris and Rocking Star ranches in the 1870s.[6]





Bret's narrative tells us that two months after his visit to Martha Ferris, he met two of Dolan's former partners 200 miles from Dry Springs.[3] Though Bret didn't mention it by name, no other Arizona town than Prescott at that distance from Dry Springs in 1877 was large enough to have the size of gambling halls he described.


In December of 1877, Prescott was known for its thriving gambling and drinking halls in its famed Whiskey Row. It would have been likely that Bret was patronizing the Palace, the newest and most extravagant hall, just opened three months earlier.[12]


Arizona Territory's capital had moved to Prescott in May of 1877 and a new governor had been elected.[4] It may be possible that Bret had traveled to Prescott on the chance of having better luck speaking with the new governor on Ferris' behalf.[7]





Bret was back in Dry Springs when Ferris was released from prison and rode back into Martha's arms as a free man. With his promise to Dolan finally fulfilled, Bret was able to put the Long Hunt behind him for good.[3]


Probably feeling it best to get away from that part of the country for awhile, Bret headed east and, as Brother Bart observed a few months later, spent a lot of time between St. Louis and Omaha.[13] But little did Bret know at the time, he was soon to be on another hunt to clear someone else's name of a murder charge.[14]

A Trail Map of THE LONG HUNT


01. The New Maverick (1978), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

02. Annual Report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office (1877)

03. Maverick, The Long Hunt (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

04. The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes (1948), Agnes Wright Spring, University of Nebraska Press

05. Maverick, The Jail at Junction Flats (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

06. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails

07. Arizona Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, October 1923 (retrieved November 4, 2014)

08. Adobe and Iron; The Story of the Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma (1969), John Mason Jeffrey, Prospect Avenue Press

09. Maverick, A Cure for Johnny Rain (1959), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

10. White Mountain Apache History, (retrieved November 4, 2014)

11. History of Green Valley, The Woman of Quail Creek (retrieved November 4, 2014)

12. Oldest Bars and Saloons in Arizona, Arizona Sonora News Service (retrieved November 4, 2014)

13. Maverick, The Naked Gallows (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

14. Maverick, The Strange Journey of Jenny Hill (1959), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

See close-up maps below

for Trail details.

See close-up maps below

for Trail details.

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