Joseph Ziegler

Joseph Ziegler was a miner employed near Tombstone, Arizona on November 1, 1882. That day he and a coworker named Ed Williams had an altercation while laying track for the ore cars. The issue at hand is unknown but the problem between the two men festered and led to a fatal incident after work.

The November 4, 1882 edition of the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper published the following story regarding the shooting death of Joseph H. Ziegler on November 1:

“MYSTERIOUS MURDER"

"Joseph H. Ziegler (sic) Killed by an Unknown Assassin - No Clue to the Perpetrator.

About 7 o'clock Wednesday the sharp report of a revolver was heard near the corner of Fifth and Toughnut streets. Officer James Coyle, who was at the time in Judge Wallace's court room on Fourth Street, ran immediately to the Russ House and from there crossed Toughnut back of the Tombstone Co.'s ice house, where, on the trail leading down into the gulch, he found the body of a man lying across the path. It was already quite dark, but near the apparently lifeless body stood two men, one with a lantern, who lived in cabins nearby, and had been attracted to the spot by the discharge of the weapon. The prostrate man was recognized as Joseph H. Ziegler, a miner, who for some time has been employed as a carpenter at the Empire. An examination disclosed that life was not yet extinct, although the wounded man was unable to speak or move. A physician was hastily summoned, when it was discovered that Ziegler was shot through the left breast.

He lingered for about ten minutes, and evidently was desirous of speaking, as his lips moved and his eyes glanced appealingly at those present, but he was unable to articulate and died without leaving a word to trace his unknown assassin. The body was taken to Ritter's undertaking rooms, where Dr. Matthews made a cursory examination of the wound. As stated, the bullet pierced the left breast and must have passed very near the heart, going through the body and lodging just under the skin of the back, from which place it was taken by the doctor. The wound bled very little outwardly, but the internal hemorrhage was probably great. The bullet was a 44-caliber and flattened on one side, as if from contact with a bone in its passage through the body. Deceased was a young man 27 years of age. He was steady and industrious, and from all that could be learned last night, was generally regarded as a quiet and inoffensive citizen. He has two brothers in the country, one of whom lives in the vicinity of South Pass. Within a few minutes after the fatal shot was fired a crowd of several hundred people had collected on the spot, and considerable excitement prevailed. Many rumors in regard to the tragedy were in circulation, but the cause which led to it and the identity of the assassin are alike unknown. From the mass of conflicting rumors, the fact was elicited that a few minutes before the shot was fired, Zeigler, in company with a man at present unknown, passed along Fifth Street and disappeared in the darkness back of the ice-house. A party living in one of the cabins near the scene of the tragedy says he heard angry voices, which were followed by a shot, and he was guided to the spot by the groans of the wounded man. Other parties claim that Zeigler cried out twice after being shot. It is probable the assassin, after firing the fatal shot, returned immediately to the principal streets, as it is reported he ran past the Palace lodging-house on Fifth Street, although no one could give any description of the man. The city and county authorities are both at work on the case, but up to a late hour last night no reliable clue to the perpetrator, or the motive which prompted the devilish deed, had been obtained. Several persons were arrested on suspicion, but after an informal examination were discharged. The coroner's inquest will be held at 10 a.m. today, when facts may be developed that will lead to the detection of the assassin.”

As indicated in the preceding press release the identity of the shooter was unknown. However, the subsequent investigation into the shooting led to charging Ed Williams as a suspect. According to the investigation Ziegler and Williams encountered each other after work and their heated argument resumed. The argument ended when Williams fired his revolver mortally wounding an unarmed Ziegler. The two men were near the corner of Fifth and Toughnut Streets behind an icehouse.

Ed Williams was tried for the murder of Joseph Ziegler but the jury decided on a guilty verdict for the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Joseph Ziegler was interred at the Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone, Arizona.