• Bill Cowan

John Lee and Fanny (Willard) Munds

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

The View From Here


John Lee Munds, horseman for whom Munds Mountain is named. Photo courtesy of Frank Benedict.
John Lee Munds, horseman for whom Munds Mountain is named. Photo courtesy of Frank Benedict.

John Lee Munds, the youngest son of William Madison Munds, was born in Roseburg, Oregon, on October 4, 1868. In 1875 The family traveled south from Roseberg, driving 115 head of cattle and two covered wagons when John was seven years old. They settled first at Williamson Valley near Prescott and then bought land along the Verde River near what is now Cottonwood, Arizona in 1877. John and his older brothers James and Neil were among the first students at the Upper Verde School. As summer’s scorching heat arrived they searched for a place to range their cattle in the Mogollon Mountains and found a verdant green opening in the forest that today bears their family name.


In early June 1879, four Willard brothers ranging in age from 9 to 23 arrived in the Verde driving a herd of cattle. They lost their father to pneumonia along the trail the winter before. Within a week of their trip, the oldest boy Ninian, and Alex, the youngest, drowned while working on a dam in the Verde River. Charles, 21 years old, and Dolph, 19 years old, were left alone to watch over the cattle and make their way in the new land. The boys entered into a partnership with William Munds, who took them under his wing and did what he could to help the boys while their mother Mary and the rest of the Willard family moved down from Nevada to the Verde Valley.


Photo of John Munds and two of the Willard Brothers taken while John Munds was at the Stockton Business College. Photo courtesy of Glenda Farley
Photo of John Munds and two of the Willard Brothers taken while John Munds was at the Stockton Business College. Photo courtesy of Glenda Farley

In those times, life was not easy. John Munds brothers both died tragically. Neil died in 1886 on a bucking horse near Willard Springs, and James accidentally shot himself in the head here in Munds Park. William Madison Munds sent John off to Stockton Business College in 1887 and graduated in 1889. In the spring of 1890, John Lee Munds married Fannie Willard, the beautiful sister of the Willard brothers. The couple came to live here on the mountain and spent that first season in a small cabin at Willard Springs. That summer, the following article appeared in the Arizona Republican newspaper:


 

YAVAPAI HORSE THIEF SHOT DEAD IN THE ACT - Many Horses Recovered.


Prescott, August 14. The settlers in the eastern part of this county have been quite excited lately over the numerous thefts of horses. Last Friday, an organized search party found the thief in Box Canyon, where he had several fine animals hidden. Several shots were exchanged, but the man, who proved to be a resident in the community, named James Wilson, escaped. This morning he went onto the ranch of John Munds and had two horses ready to take from the place when Munds surprised him and ordered him to throw up his hands. Instead of doing so he attempted to draw a pistol, but a shot from Munds’ rifle broke his arm. He then attempted to draw his pistol with his left hand, when Munds fired again and killed him instantly. Fifteen horses were found that had been stolen by him.


 

The family story was that when John Munds fired the second shot at Jimmy Wilson, the bullet entered his mouth and came out the back of his neck. When Fannie, who was pregnant with their first child, came running from the cabin, all she could see was the bloody wound on the back of Wilson’s neck. When their first child William Harold was born, he had a birthmark in exactly the same location on the back of his neck.


When George Ruffner won the Yavapai County Sheriff election, he appointed John Munds as deputy in January of 1895. He was subsequently elected Sheriff of Yavapai County in November of 1898. While deputy, John led the manhunt for Yavapai County Jail escapee James Fleming Parker who was hung for his deeds in Prescott. While Munds was sheriff, he led one of the most extensive manhunts in Northern Arizona history, that of Black Jack Ketchum, who was accused in the killings of Mack Rogers and Clint Wingfield in Camp Verde on the evening of July 2, 1899. The posse, led by Munds, were in the field for nearly two months before finding out that Black Jack had escaped into New Mexico. Authorities apprehended Black Jack after he held up a train and was hung in Clayton, New Mexico. It was the first time anyone had ever been hung in Clayton and through that lack of experience, they made the rope a little too long so when Black Jack hit the end - it decapitated him.


The Hanging of James Fleming Parker in Prescott, Arizona on June 8, 1898. Photo courtesy of Frank Benedict
The Hanging of James Fleming Parker in Prescott, Arizona on June 8, 1898. Photo courtesy of Frank Benedict

The aftermath of the Hanging of Black Jack Ketcham in Clayton New Mexico. Notice head separate from body.
The aftermath of the Hanging of Black Jack Ketcham in Clayton New Mexico. Notice head separate from body.

During John’s tenure as deputy, he became widely known for successfully capturing bootleggers around central Arizona during Prohibition in the 1920s. John confiscated their stills and paraphernalia and was noted in the January 10, 1919, Coconino Sun article below.


 

SHOOTS PISTOL HAND OFF BOOZE IMPORTER

Four bootleggers, two automobiles and two auto-loads of whiskey were collected Monday night, a short distance below Black Canyon, by Deputy Sheriff John Munds, of Verde.

 

Munds was accompanied in his expedition only by a sawed-off shotgun and by a boy whose principal duty was holding a “flashlight for Munds while his prisoners and their cars were being searched. The Verde officer was tipped off that a big consignment of Christmas booze, which had been brought by auto all the way from Needles, was in route to the Verde district. Early Monday evening he took his car and drove down the road toward Camp Verde. When Munds met the first car, a practically new Dodge, he stopped his own machine squarely in the road and called to the other driver to halt. A young man about 27 years old stepped out of the Dodge, revolver in hand. Munds cut loose with his shotgun and blew the bootlegger’s gun hand to small bits. The revolver was scattered around with the hand by the roadside. That ended the scrap. The two other bootleggers drove up a moment later and surrendered without resistance. All were armed. Munds hauled his prisoners to Verde, where the wounded man was given attention. At last reports, he was well on the road to recovery in the Verde hospital. None of them gave their names to Munds and Justice C. W. Bennett, who has the case in hand, could not be reached by telephone today.”


Following the end of John Munds term as Yavapai County Sheriff, he went into the cattle business north of Ashfork and served as a contractor building roads around Mojave County. He was very interested in the new-fangled automobiles and was known for driving his car around the state. He provided one of the first automobiles to transfer prisoners to the state penitentiary in Florence. John Munds also supported the Arizona Good Roads Association advocating for the improvement of roads around the state.


Interestingly, when John Munds was in his fifties, the United Verde Extension Mining Company hired him to be a watchman at their new smelter at Verde/Clemenceau near Cottonwood.


Fannie (Willard) Munds, First woman legislator in Arizona History. Photo Courtesy of Glenda Farley.
Fannie (Willard) Munds, First woman legislator in Arizona History. Photo Courtesy of Glenda Farley.

Fannie Munds, originally a school teacher, was also an active participant in politics. She was elected recording secretary of the newly established Arizona Territorial Women’s Suffrage Association in November 1899. Her close friend Pauline O’Neal, wife of Spanish American War hero Bucky O’Neal, was elected president and the two worked diligently on suffrage issues during the 1900s. After Arizona’s statehood was granted, Fannie Munds was unanimously elected to be president of the Arizona Women’s Suffrage Association. She led a petition drive to get the issue on the November 1912 ballot, and the issue passed by a wide margin 8 years before women were allowed to vote nationally. In 1914 Fanny Munds became the first woman to serve in the Arizona State Senate and only the second woman to serve in such a capacity in the U. S.


So the next time you’re driving around or through Munds Park think back about the remarkable history and take diligent care of our beautiful State.


Enjoy Northern Arizona!


 

Bill Cowan's book on the Verde Valley History is available at Candy’s Creekside Cottage in McGuireville, Arizona and from Amazon, eBay, and various other retailers, including the Verde Canyon Railroad.