The best-known and perhaps most visited grave site in northern Arizona belongs to little Johnny Elden, Jr. His 1887 murder remains one of the most infamous in Territorial history. Today, Johnny rests alone in a rock-covered grave at the base of the mountain named for his father. A beautiful U.S. Forest Service interpretive panel nearby describes the awful crime. Johnny was just six years old when he was shot and killed by itinerant mule skinner Bob Roberts in a dispute over water. Although the murder has haunted Flagstaff for over a century, did it really happen? This presentation examines the story of pioneer John Elden, the murder of his son, and the contribution of myth to history.
John Westerlund is an independent scholar and American West historian. He was a career Army officer serving four overseas tours. He was a seasonal National Park Service ranger for 11 summers with the Flagstaff Area National Monuments. His book Arizona’s War Town: Flagstaff, Navajo Ordnance Depot, and World War II won several awards for preservation of Southwest culture. He published numerous articles in The Journal of Arizona History along with articles in French and U.S. defense-related journals. He has been a ‘Road Scholar’ with AZ Humanities for over a decade and is a member of the Flagstaff Corral of Westerners.