“William Tattenbaum, aka Russian Bill (1853 - November 9, 1881) was an outlaw of the Old West, and an outlaw Cowboy in Cochise County, AZ. He is best known due to his claim of being of Russian Noble birth.
Russian Bill first came to Arizona Territory during the mid-1870s, and quickly gained a reputation for being an excellent dresser. He had curly blonde hair, was handsome, and kept an immaculate mustache, along with wearing expensive clothing. He claimed to be the son to Countess Telfrin, a wealthy aristocrat of nobility, and claimed to have served in the Russian Army as one of the czars Imperial White Hussars, but fled when facing a court martial after having punched a superior officer. None of his claims can be substantiated, so it is unknown what his true origins were.
After arriving in Az, Tattenbaum was quickly dubbed "Russian Bill" due to his claims, and he met and became friends with numerous cowboys and outlaws of the time. During this time, he became friends with outlaw and Cowboy Sandy King, well known for his numerous and regular brawls in saloons, and for his outlaw activities in association with the Cochise County Cowboys. The two became good friends, despite being complete opposites. When King left Tombstone in early 1881, around the time that the troubles started between the Cowboys and the Earps, Tattenbaum followed him. In early November, 1881, while in Shakespeare, New Mexico, King was arrested after shooting and wounding a storekeeper. Tattenbaum was not in town at the time, and instead was out rustling cattle.
On November 9, 1881, Tattenbaum was captured and brought to the Shakespeare jail. A vigilance committee found both men guilty of being a "general nuisance" and lynched them together that same day. According to reports, Tattenbaum begged for his life. However, King merely asked for a glass of water and told them to carry on with it.
Photo: Estate Sale
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