More doubt cast on Apache Death Cave story at Two Guns

A researcher who previously has debunked a long-told tale at a Route 66 site has cast additional doubt on the Apache Death Cave massacre that supposedly occurred in 1878 at Two Guns, Arizona.

And it turns out the man who likely made up the story killed a man decades before.

If you’re unfamiliar with Apache Death Cave, here’s a summarized version from Wikipedia:

 A group of Apaches had hid in a cave at Two Guns to avoid detection, but were discovered by the Navajos, who lit sagebrush fires at the cave’s exit and shot any Apaches trying to escape. The fire asphyxiated 42 Apaches, after which they were stripped of their valuables. The murder site is referred to as the “death cave”.

Blue Miller for her Never Quite Lost blog did a deep dive into researching Two Guns, the cave and the key figures there. She writes there is no evidence the cave at the Two Guns premises ever was used as an Apache dwelling.

Some people cite the complex’s 1920s developer, Harry “Indian” Miller, for promulgating the massacre story. However, Blue Miller notes the owner and a fellow Native American friend had planned to build a dance floor in the cave. She doubts Miller and his Hopi partner ever would have desecrated a Native American site for the sole purpose of a tourist attraction if they had known what allegedly happened there.

But Blue Miller says the most compelling evidence the Apache Death Cave story was exaggerated or fabricated comes from its primary source.

Arizona state historian Marshall Trimble and Arizona State Railroad Museum archivist George Shaw insist Gladwell Grady Richardson made up many of the wild stories and so-called facts of the nearby Canyon Diablo in a 1968 book, “Two Guns, Arizona.”

It also is highly likely Richardson made up the Apache Death Cave story in the same book.

Blue Miller writes:

Two Guns, Arizona also provides an exciting and entertaining narrative of the events of the Apache Death Cave, containing facts that can be found nowhere else. Indeed, it appears to be the sole history of the events of June 1878 for every subsequent retelling has drawn upon either the facts published in this book or in a longer article which appeared in Big West Magazine in 1967. The author of this piece was Maurice Kildare – and Maurice Kildare was one of Richardson’s many pseudonyms. […]
The fact is that book published in 1968 and an article written under one of his many pseudonyms, are the sole source of information on the now much-repeated story. And the first time that anyone had heard of the Apache Death Cave…

It turns out a teenage Richardson was implicated in a 1923 killing of a rabbi in San Francisco he vividly described in his own diary. He beat the rap by pleading self-defense in front of a grand jury, which refused to indict him.

Richardson apparently managed to keep his killing of the rabbi quiet for the rest of his life — until Blue Miller dug it up.

A developer plans to redevelop the Two Guns site into a luxury campground and cliffside hotel sometime in late 2021.

Blue Miller also persuasively argued the oft-told tale of a money-counterfeiting operation at the back of a Conoco service station near Arcadia, Oklahoma, in the 1930s was false.

(Image of Apache Death Cave in Two Guns, Arizona, by J Jakobson via Flickr)

4 thoughts on “More doubt cast on Apache Death Cave story at Two Guns

  1. Well, thanks a lot for ruining my stop at the Conoco station. I stood in front of the stone structure and imagined how it all went down. I also stopped at 2 Guns. A couple of bums were living at the deserted gasoline station there. I left them a half a bottle of Disaronno and a couple of whisky glasses. I was impressed with their level of education…but they were still bums. The place must have been quite a stop at one time.

  2. This story is very interesting iv’e always heard this about route 66 I dunno about the camp ground though while it would be cool to have something there it’s always cool to see ruins on route 66

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