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Archive for February 8th, 2009

My great-granddad Stephens had uncles Henry and Samuel who left Iowa and went to California during the gold rush days. Apparently they didn’t have much contact with those back home, but I’ve recently been in touch with a couple of their descendants via email after I posted some information about the family on Ancestry.com message boards.

From our correspondence, I learned that Samuel’s daughter Mary Sophia married John Quincy Will and they had a son named Glenn Efrom Will. Glenn was a cowboy and bronco buster who performed in the California state fair during the 1920s and maybe later. One of Samuel’s descendants, the wife of one of Glenn’s grandnephews, sent me the following story that I thought was interesting:

In August 1952, Glenn decided he wanted to visit Tombstone, Arizona and wrote the following addressed to the Tombstone Postmaster:

August 14-52

Postmaster, Tumbstone, Ars.

Dear Sir:

Just a line to ask a favor, and I hope you have time to grant. I am wondering if this is the Tumbstone town where the rich silver mines were and the water drowned them and before it did water was sold for a dollar a glass. I have heard some tails that roor a Tumbstone town that it hapened that way.

I wish you would rite and let know if this town of yourn is that town if it is I will pay you a visit in the spring of 1953 as I like to visit old mining Camps if this is the place I wihs you wood give me some data about it. Thanking you in return for any favors shone me I remain your friend. I am enclosing one of my Photoes ana wood thank you for one of yourn.

Glenn Efrom Will
1130 Curtis Street
Albany, Calif.

The Postmaster didn’t know what to do with the letter and eventually sent it to the Chamber of Commerce. They replied, sending Mr. Will a brochure with some information about the town. Pretty soon they received another letter, this one even stranger:

Just a line to let you no your nice letter was gladly received and I was more than glad to here from you and the infermation it contained. I wood say the Chamber of Commerce are doind a good job, working for the good of soiety in lotting the worald no of the wonderful sun shine and altude they have. I Bronco Bill and the Rodeo Kid think that Dr. Sun lies a wonderful healing power it works it cures through the skin as an grate tonic and helth builder. It increses the activity of the mind. It strengthens the power of the Will. It quiets the nervis system. It studies the muscular action of the body and its warm glowing rays southes and relieves paine.

How far is it to a producing oil field. The only Cowboy that could shoot a horse fly on the wing and the inventor of western moves was Bronco Bill. Thanking you for an early reply.

‘Bronco Bill’, Curtis St. Albany, Calif.
(Over)

May the Chamber of Commerce life be long and happy and may they build a bigger and better Tumbstone before they say their through. And I sincerely wish the best of everything to you Bronco Bill Bids them all a do.

That was the last letter they received from Mr. Will, a.k.a Bronco Bill, and they forgot about him until March 19, 1953 when the Railway Express Agency called them to say they had a package waiting with $1.92 postage due.

Edna Landin, the Chamber of Commerce President, went to pick up the mystery package. It was an urn from the Oakland California Crematorium, with a permit attached reading “Removal Permit For The Cremated Remains of Glenn Will, A La ‘Bronco Bill’, for interment of said remains in Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona.”

They eventually tracked down Will’s son (the Rodeo Kid mentioned in the second letter) and asked him why he had sent them his father’s ashes, to which he replied: “Well, he planned on going there long about this time so I just sent ‘im.” They then asked why he had sent him C.O.D. His answer was, “I didn’t have no money.” When they asked what he wanted them to do with the remains, he said, “He was a Donker and my mother was a hard shell Baptist. Do what you will with ‘im. He wanted to go to Tombstone so bury ‘im or put ‘im on a shelf. Won’t make no difference to ‘im now.“

Though the circumstances were quite unusual even for Tombstone, arrangements were made for interment at Boothill on March 27, 1953. The Hubbard Mortuary of Bisbee took charge of the services without charge. Tombstone’s Mayor was an honorary pallbearer. The Rose Tree Museum provided white roses from the largest rose tree in the world. A number of Tombstone’s senior citizens appeared for the services which were conducted by Reverend William Baker, Minister of Tombstone’s First Baptist Church.

Bronco Bill came back to Tombstone to spend eternity. His grave in Boot Hill is marked with a plaque that reads:

1871 Glenn Will 1953
HIS ASHES ARRIVED
COLLECT ON DELIVERY

After his burial the city council announced that burials at Boothill would henceforth be prohibited as Boothill had actually closed since 1883, when it was declared “full up.”

Glenn Will, alias “Bronco Bill” was the last person to be planted in Boothill.

NOTE: The year of his birth is incorrect on his grave, as he was born in Bangor, Butte, California on April 20, 1881, not 1871.

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