By Pat Atchison
The history of Prescott is enriched with many half-truths and errors that make interesting reading but which distort the truth. James Fleming Parker was the last person hanged in a legal public hanging in Prescott. Wrong! All the elements necessary to make a good story were included in The Parker case: cattle rustling; train robbery; the Thompson Gang; a jailbreak; a murder; horse stealing; and a hot pursuit by the well-known sheriff, George Ruffner. However, his hanging on June 3, 1898, was not the last in Prescott.
A double hanging took place on July 31, 1903. Murder, again, was the crime. These murders were probably the most cold-blooded, brutal and senseless killings that took place within Yavapai County during territorial days. The story began when two Hispanics purchased six-shooters in Prescott several days before the shooting. They then headed south. The day before the shooting, they had lunch at Goddard's station, then slept at a nearby woodchopper's cabin.
The following day, the day of the crime, they encountered a sheep herder, Francisco Rodriguez. For several hours they spoke with him, asking him all about the layout of the Goddard's home and the number of people who were staying there. They, then, returned to the station and bought a lunch. After paying, the two sat on a bench, in front of the store, eating and talking. Who would ever have believed the grisly scene that was about to unfold.
Charles E. Goddard and his wife Rosa had been operating a stage station, store and a post office (Canyon) on their sheep ranch for several years. Goddard's Station was about 70 miles south of Prescott in the New River area along the Agua Fria River. On the evening of February 1, 1903, Charles and Rosa Goddard, his brother Frank, his clerk Frank Cox, and Milton Turnbull, a guest at the station, were seated at supper. As they were eating, the murderers opened the door and walked in without knocking, They proclaimed that they wanted supper. Goddard told them that as soon as the family was finished eating, his wife would prepare a meal for them. One man insisted that he wanted his supper at that moment. As Goddard started to rise from the table, the murderers began to fire their revolvers. Charles Goddard and Cox were both killed.
Following the murders, the remaining residents stayed in the house fearing that the criminals were just outside. By the following morning, the murderers had disappeared. Conflicting reports of sightings stated that they were headed north and other reports stated south. Governor Brodie offered a reward of $250.00 each for the capture of the murderers. Two men fitting their descriptions were finally found, in early April, working on a railroad line in Naco, Mexico. They were enticed over the border, arrested and returned to Prescott.
The trial was held on June 12, and 13, 1903. The courtroom was very crowded and even ladies were in attendance. After deliberation of about half an hour, the jury delivered the verdict, "We the jury, find the prisoners guilty as charged in the indictment, and affix the death penalty." Thus it was that Hilario (Elijo) Hidalgo and Francisco Renteria (Rentezia) were hanged on July 31, 1903, in a small enclosure in the yard east of the court house. Invitations had been sent to potential witnesses. Those invited were admitted to the enclosure. Others gathered in the courthouse windows and around the outside of the fence.
Sheriff Roberts and an interpreter went to the cell occupied by Hidalgo and Renteria, at 10:45 a.m., and read the death warrant to them. Father Quetu then spoke with them and administered the last rites of the Catholic Church. At 11:15 Father Quetu, two deputy sheriffs, Hidalgo and Renteria walked from the cell to the scaffold, which was equipped with two ropes. After prayers, the two men were prepared for hanging. The lever was pulled at 11:20 a.m.
Members of the Hispanic community had taken up a collection from among themselves to provide for a funeral. Following the hanging, the bodies were placed in coffins and prepared for burial. Funerals were held at the Catholic Church. They are interred at Citizens Cemetery, in unmarked graves.
Pat Atchison is Chairperson of the Yavapai Cemetery Association.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(doc 4,F3,i11) Reuse only by permission. Invitations were sent to area residents such as dentist, Dr. C.K. Hartzell, requesting them to witness the execution of Hilario Hidalgo and Francisco Renteria.