Reared in Wisconsin, Billy Breakenridge quit school at 14 to sell news papers in Milwaukee. Two years later he ran away from home and enlisted as a teamster with the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Soon he went West, working at a variety of jobs in Denver, Colorado. Including service as a pageboy for the Colorado Legislature.
In 1864 he joined Chivingtons Third Colorado Cavalry and was a participant in the Sands Creek Massacre. After the war he worked as a train breaksman, but by 1867 he was a storekeeper in Sidney, Nebraska.
He was soon wandering again and turned up in 1878 working as a deputy sheriff in Phoenix, Arizona. The next year he was attracted to the boom town of Tombstone, Arizona, where he worked hauling lumber. Soon he was appointed deputy sheriff. He decided to go into the ranching business with a partner, but soon sold out and pinned on the star of a deputy U.S. Marshal.
In 1888 Breakenridge was elected surveyor of Maricopa County. A little later he became a special officer for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Headquartered in Tucson, hr performed detective and guard work until his retirement at the age of 72.
In 1928 he published his reminiscences
in "Helldorado", and he basked in the books publicity until his
death three years later in Tucson. The book was filled with more fiction
than facts. And
Breakenridge showed himself to be untrustworthy and dishonest.
He was friendly with the outlaw element and many of
the rustlers that plagued Tombstone.
By the law and order advocates, he was seen as weak and "dirty". Along with his ineffective
boss, Sheriff Johnny Behan.