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David John Taylor

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The Case for William 'Kid' Thompson being Billy Fox.
by David John Taylor   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013

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This article won't make much sense unless you've read 'The Killing of Frank Fox'.

There were, in fact, two, maybe even three William 'Kid' Thompsons in criminal activities in the 1890s. Two of them were in California. In New York, in January of 1889, William 'Kid' Thompson was arrested for burglary and in November of 1890 stabbed a waiter over an under-done steak. Billy Fox was a Yuma Penitentiary resident at that time. The Kid in the Big Apple, though, is identified as 23 or 24 in1889. Kid Thompson of Roscoe Train Robbery infamy is listed as 23 or 24 in 1895, six years later, by the San Quentin authorities. The Roscoe Thompson declared himself born in 1871, making him 18 or 19 in 1890. Also, a New Mexico deputy sheriff identified the latter Kid as having robbed a bank in Albuquerque in late 1889. The distance that would have had to be traveled from New York to New Mexico and back again while enmeshed in New York courts and prisons, makes it impossible for these two 'Kid” Thompsons to be the same person. Meanwhile an individual arrested for a train derailment in Yolo County, California, July 15th, 1894, also identified himself as 'Kid' Thompson, but from reading the newspapers of the times, this might have been a 'wannabe', who had taken on this nom de guerre for the attention, Kid Thompson being the person to derail trains.

The name, then, is not the real hook for this story, but it does get it started. Billy and Frank Fox were calling themselves 'Thompson' at the time of the 1890 cattle drive at Carrizo Wash.

It isn't until retired Deputy Sheriff Bradley of New Mexico arrives during Kid Thompson's first trial and positively identifies Kid as one of two people robbing a bank in 1890 in Albuquerque, that Kid Thompson himself makes the connection. While vehemently denying involvement in the robbery that resulted in the death of a bank clerk, he also corrects the deputy, declaring the bank was more accurately in San Pasqual, not Albuquerque proper, then presses ahead, without prompting, to volunteer the name of the real robber, Billy Fox.

Thompson would be interviewed several times, perhaps the same day. Each reporter got a bald-faced lie of a story, but all of them containing the Fox Brothers. In one version, he tells how the Fox brothers were working at Warner Ranch when a cop named Slank fell upon them, killing Frank.

The reporter from the Los Angeles Express had a source claiming to have been a Maricopa county official in 1890, who tells the story that Billy and Frank Fox, and 'Kid' Thompson were rustling cattle in Sandy River Valley in 1890, when they crossed into California and got into a running shoot-out with a lawman named Slankert. Frank Fox was 'left for dead', and Thompson and the surviving Fox brother fled back into Arizona and then into New Mexico. The story from this source also reports that Thompson had served twenty-eight months for horse theft in the Yuma penitentiary.

Kid takes the stand in his own defense, where he mostly rambles aimlessly, bragging on his travels by freight train around the western states, and never makes reference to the Roscoe train robbery. When the prosecuting attorney cross-examines the Kid, he asks him if he had in fact been incarcerated in the Yuma prison in the summer of 1890, Thompson goes through a curious dance of semantics, insisting he was not in prison for horse theft, but because he had stolen a horse. The courtroom has a laugh at the Kid's expense, who doesn't seem to grasp how ridiculous his convoluted logic is.

One rule of a trial lawyer is to always know the answer to any question you ask. The DA had reason to believe, possibly by either reading the Los Angeles Express or being contacted by the source that told the paper, that Kid Thompson had spent time in prison for horse theft.

If the news reports in the Los Angeles Herald quote the Kid accurately on the stand, he's contending that he wasn't convicted of horse theft, but that was the reason he was in prison. Maybe he didn't want to admit that Big Bad Kid Thompson got a year in prison for something as petty as passing a bad check. The real reason he'd gotten prison, in his eyes, is that he and Frank Fox had stolen horses, but since, for some reason, the Maricopa county DA wasn't willing to charge him with that, they popped him for the crime he'd committed in Phoenix.

According to the papers, Kid Thompson was 'from the Dakotas', where his mother and father had divorced. His mother had taken a sibling daughter and moved to Canada where the sister was 'raised in the church', while William had gone with his father and had no parenting at all. This sister would appear in the newspapers of the day, standing by and praying for her brother. After awhile his father, who had 'found religion', returned with a Salvation Army band at both trials.

Despite all this family appearing in the papers, in the Folsom Prison record of 1897, prisoner 4077, Thompson, W.H.'s only listed relative is 'brother'. In San Quentin records his place of birth was Wyoming, in the Folsom records it was Colorado. It appears that Kid Thompson lied about everything, all the time.

Thompson would be paroled on December 24th, 1909, only to violate probation and be sent back less than a year later in November of 1910. He would be re-paroled in February of 1915, despite participating in a daring plot to lock all the officials of San Quentin in the Death Chamber during an execution to make his escape. In 1928, Chief Special Agent D. O'Connell wrote the warden of Folsom for any information about both W.H. Thompson and Alva Johnson, his accomplice in the Roscoe train robbery. The warden had little to offer, but on the Folsom Prison Record file card, which is otherwise neatly typed, hand written in is, 'Vio: 2/2/35', and then under 'Punishments', also hand-written, is 'Parole Viol'. If Thompson was indeed born in 1871, then he would have been 57 in 1928, and 64 in 1935.

What if Frank and Billy weren't even brothers? Around 1890, the Kirkpatrick Brothers were stealing horses in Colorado and running them to Arizona. When caught, it turned out they weren't even related, so it was not unheard of for criminal duos to masquerade as brothers, perhaps wishing to emulate or be identified with the James brothers or the Dalton gang.

In 'Kid' Thompson's case, he has at least two accomplices who appear in his life that have no business being there. Alva Johnson, the man who confessed and was convicted of derailing the train at Roscoe in order to rob it, killing two, was an older man with a wife, children and two businesses, although neither businesses appearing too profitable. He and his family were 'Dunkards', a religious faith that had many Mennonite characteristics, and had been in no trouble with the law, although his wife had sued his father for violating her water rights. His reason for holding up the train was a grudge against a railroad in Arizona that he'd worked for and which had failed to pay him for his services, although he also admitted that the offending railroad and the Southern Pacific, the railroad he'd robbed, had nothing to do with each other. According to the papers, Johnson made no attempt to pass the blame to anyone else but himself for his part in the wrecking, yet the Los Angeles Herald volunteered that, from his testimony, it appeared as if Kid Thompson had some hypnotic power over the older man.

While on the run from the law in Arizona, right up to the point of being captured, a young man named H.L. 'Colonel' Tupper joins Thompson, was cornered by a band of cowboys, surrendered with Thompson, was shipped to Los Angeles as an accomplice, but was later released, since he had committed no crime. Thompson apparently had just picked him up along the way, and Tupper had gone along just for the thrill of being on the run with a real live desperado. Later Tupper would be accused of trying to slip a gun to Thompson during his second trial, but as it turns out, even though he was up for the attempt, Tupper wasn't able to raise the money to buy a gun. One of the guards had heard of the plot, loaned Tupper a gun, just so he could take it away from the would-be shill, and be a hero.

What if Frank Fox was the Colonel Tupper of 1890, a kid joining a big-talking Billy Fox, horse thief, for the thrill?

I throw this information out as a teaser, gleaned from the internet and from correspondence with the helpful and able staffs of the Arizona History and Archives Division and the California State Archives. I am hoping to get responses from descendants of the principals of the Carrizo Wash incident, or information about William 'Kid' Thompson. The most compelling and complete stories of the Killing of Frank Fox comes from the side sympathetic to the Fox Brothers. Did no one from the posse ever tell their side?

H.B. Crouch had six surviving children, but three of them were step-children, and his wife came from a very prominent pioneering family, the Ehles, so I could imagine those three children going by that name. Crouch's three daughters' married names were Sandford, Porter and Davenport. In the 1920 census, Crouch and his wife are living in the Pasadena Township in Los Angeles County. They have a 16 year-old grandson living with them, Harold Porter. The local papers of the times reports the Crouches having a residence in Prescott in the 1910's. If any of the family members of the Crouch's have information of why Crouch felt so strongly about chasing down these two boys other than them being horse thieves, or anything that Crouch himself might have written on most anything in his life, I'd like to hear about it.

John Slankard had children. I can't seem to find anything about them marrying, their gender or much of anything else, but the Slankard family were hard-core pioneers. John was an able lawman that for the most part was nothing less than a hero, thwarting crimes and in one case, stopping the mass murder of a whole family. He did several things that could be perceived as extreme, shooting an un-armed man in the back, arresting a Mexican for horse theft, and the Mexican proving in court that he owned the horse, beating up a man for sitting down on a tree stump in front of his house, who turned out to be a former editor for the Tombstone Epitath, but over-all, he was a good guy. Surely he wrote something about the incident at Carrizo Wash, or told the story to family and friends. If someone out there is a descendant of the Slankards of Maricopa County, Arizona, I would dearly like to hear from you.

Sheriff John Gray falls off the map after 1892. There's another Gray that was a lawman who died in Flagstaff around 1894, but its not the same man. I came across a picture of Sheriff Gray at some Arizona Police web site. I wrote them for information on the Sheriff. No response. If anybody knows more about this lawman, I'd love to hear from you.

'Kid' Thompson was paroled in 1909, and his employer is listed as T. D. McCall, of Imperial Valley. Thadeus D. McCall owned the La Corina Ranch, a dairy farm just north of Imperial City.

Thompson violated parole within a year and was back in Fulsom for another year. The records don't say for what, but McCall would plead guilty to impersonating a Federal officer to intimidate potential witnesses in a legal disagreement he was involved in 1909. Anyone in Imperial Valley that might be able to shed more light on this incident, I'd be most interested in hearing about it.

(Having continued to research, I now know that Kid Thompson and Billy Fox are not the same person. The storry now revolves around the relationship between these two, since Thompson talks incessantly about Billy. shortly I'll wipe this story out and post a new article about Thompson, a fascinating, potentially Charlie Manson type character.)





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