Centennial Minute: Buckey O'Neill

February 27, 2012

This month, Arizona turns 100. KJZZ is marking the centennial each week in February with stories of our state’s history, people and places. We're calling it the Centennial Minute. This morning, authors and Arizona residents Fred DuVal and Lisa Schnebly Heidinger tell us about the legendary Buckey O’Neill.

FRED DUVAL: Buckey O’Neill got a lot living done in just 38 years.

Nicknamed for “bucking the tiger” in his favorite card game, he came to Arizona territory at the age of 19.  As a newspaper man in Tombstone, he covered the Earp brothers and may have witnessed the OK Corral shootout.

Then he mined copper at the Grand Canyon, where he built a cabin that still stands.

He served as judge, mayor and sheriff in Yavapai County, and led a posse through Canyon Diablo to capture bandits.

LISA SCHNEBLY HEIDINGER: O’Neill became one of the founding members of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  He believed that Arizona Territory men who distinguished themselves in the Spanish-American War would prove we were worthy of becoming a state. 

Killed in action during that War in 1898 by a single Spanish bullet, O’Neill’s headstone bears words he had written:

“Who would not die for a new star on the flag?”

DUVAL: Buckey O’Neill’s statue stands in Prescott’s courthouse square.  But it almost didn’t make it to the unveiling!

 The bronze statue was lost by Southern Pacific railroad as it traveled from New York to Arizona. A special agent was hired to track it down. He found it alone on a rail spur in New Mexico and rushed it to Prescott just 48 hours before the Buckey’s dedication.  Like the man who notoriously bucked the odds, so did his statue.


Fred DuVal and Lisa Schnebly Heidinger are co-authors of “Calling Arizona Home.”

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