Harry C. Wheeler


Harry C. Wheeler

Harry Cornwall Wheeler (July 23, 1875 - December 17, 1925) was an Arizona lawman who was the third and final captain of the Arizona Rangers and was elected sheriff of Cochise County.

Early life

Harry Wheeler, the son of Col. William B. Wheeler of the U.S. Army, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1897 he enlisted in the First Cavalry before being given a medical discharge at the rank of sergeant in 1902. A crack shot with a rifle or pistol, Wheeler joined the Arizona Rangers in 1903 and was promoted to sergeant four months later. In 1907, Wheeler replaced Thomas H. Rynning as captain of the Arizona Rangers, and served as the agency's leader until its disbanding in 1909. [O'Neal, Bill, "The Arizona Rangers", Eakin Press, 1987, ISBN 0-89015-610-7]

heriff of Cochise County

In 1911, Wheeler was elected sheriff of Cochise County and was reelected in 1914 and 1916.

In June 1917, IWW Local 800, a union of miners in Bisbee, began a strike against the Phelps Dodge Corporation. Wheeler deputized 2,200 men from Bisbee and Douglas to act as a posse, and on July 12, they arrested 2,000 people in Bisbee. Nearly 1,300 of the strikers and their supporters were eventually deported in 23 cattle cars to Hermanas, New Mexico, in what became known as the Bisbee Deportation.

Sheriff Wheeler established guards at all entrances to Bisbee and Douglas. Any citizen seeking to exit or enter the town over the next several months had to have a "passport" issued by Wheeler. Any adult male in town who was not known to the sheriff's men was brought before a secret sheriff's kangaroo court. Hundreds of citizens were tried, and most of them deported and threatened with lynching if they returned. Even long-time citizens of Bisbee were deported by this "court".

A commission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson investigated labor disputes in Arizona and concluded in its final report, issued November 6, 1917, that "The deportation was wholly illegal and without authority in law, either State or Federal."

Later life

Wheeler resigned as sheriff of Cochise County in March 1918 to enlist in the army at the rank of captain. He was given an honorable discharge in December 1918, after being called back to Arizona for further court action based on the Bisbee Deportation.

On May 15, 1918, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the arrest of 21 Phelps Dodge executives, Calumet and Arizona Co. executives, and several Bisbee and Cochise County elected leaders and law enforcement officers. The arrestees included Walter Douglas, and would have included Sheriff Wheeler if he had not been serving in France with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. A pre-trial motion by the defense led a federal district court to release the 21 men on the grounds that no federal laws had been violated. The Justice Department appealed. But in "United States v. Wheeler," 254 U.S. 281 (1920), Chief Justice Edward Douglass White ruled for an 8-to-1 majority that no federal law protected the freedom of movement. Protecting citizens' right to movement was a state function, White argued, and had to be enforced solely in state court.

Wheeler ran for Cochise County sheriff again in 1922 but was defeated in the Democratic primary. He settled in the Bisbee area, and died from pneumonia in December 1925. [University of Arizona, " [http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/bisbee/history/whoswho/harry_wheeler.html The Bisbee Deportation of 1917] ", accessed April 15, 2008]

References

s-ttl|title=Captain of the Arizona Rangers
years=1907 – 1909


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