Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Billy the Kid’s Grave – New Book

Billy the Kid’s Grave – A History of the Wild West’s Most Famous Death Marker

Billy the Kid's Grave

“Quien es?”

The answer to this incautious question – “Who is it?” – was a bullet to the heart.

That bullet – fired by Lincoln County Sheriff Patrick F. Garrett from a .40-44 caliber single action Colt pistol – ended the life of Billy the Kid, real name William Henry McCarty.

But death – ordinarily so final – only fueled the public’s fascination with Billy the Kid.

What events led to Billy’s killing? Was it inevitable? Was a woman involved? If so, who was she?

Why has Billy’s gravestone become the most famous – and most visited – Western death marker? Is Billy really buried in his grave? Is the grave in the right location?

Is it true that Pat Garrett’s first wife is buried in the same cemetery? Is Billy’s girlfriend buried there also?

The Fort Sumner cemetery where Billy’s grave is located was once plowed for cultivation. Why?

What town, seeking a profitable tourist attraction, tried to move Billy’s body, using a phony relative to justify the action?

These questions – and many others – are answered in this book.

The book is divided into three sections. The first gives an account of the chain of events that led directly to Billy’s death, beginning the singular event that started the sequence, Billy’s conviction for murder and his sentencing to hang. As much as possible, these events are related using the actual words of witnesses and contemporaries. The second chapter tells the story of Billy’s burial and the many surprising incidents associated with his grave over the years. The third chapter lists the 111 men and women known to be buried along with Billy in the Fort Sumner cemetery, with short biographies. Sixteen of these individuals had very direct connections with Billy. Appendix A supplies Charles W. Dudrow’s correspondence regarding the locating and disinterring of the military burials at Fort Sumner. Appendix B reprints the only newspaper interview ever granted by Sheriff Patrick F. Garrett on the killing of Billy the Kid.

To supplement this history are 65 photos and illustrations. These include photos of the different memorials that have marked Billy’s grave over the years, including a photo of Billy’s previously unknown second grave marker; pictures of the men – friends of Billy – who re-located the grave in 1931; pictures of Billy’s most likely girlfriend, Paulita Maxwell, and her parents; and a historic 1906 Fort Sumner cemetery map showing the location of Billy’s grave.

Paperback, 154 pages. Available from Amazon.

See Also:
Mesilla Museum Display
Billy the Kid Display – Mesilla
Saving the Pat Garrett Marker
Billy’s DNA
Old Mesilla Courthouse
Billy the Kid
Butterfield Overland Stage

 

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Trip to Mason’s Ranch

Map to Mason's Ranch

The site known as Mason’s Ranch or Slocum’s Ranch is about 20 miles west of Las Cruces and 10 miles north of Hwy 10. From 1862 to 1883, it was a life-saving lodging and watering stop for travelers heading west from the Mesilla Valley.

The site has natural water that is available part of the year, most years. Prior to 1862 it was known as “Water Holes” and had been used by Native Americans as a camping and watering spot for hundreds of years.
Mason's Ranch and Overland Stage Route

In 1862 Virgil Mastin built a stage stop on the site. The site was not a stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage Line, but was for subsequent stage lines. As the satellite image above shows, the site is a short distance south of the old Overland Stage route. When the Civil War started, the Federal government, which had contracted with the Butterfield Overland Stage to carry mail, ordered the company to sell or recover its property and cease operations. The agents of the company sold their Mesilla properties on May 18, 1861.*

Mastin installed water tanks for supplying water when the springs were dry. When these tanks could not be filled from the local water, he hauled water by wagon from Mesilla. He also dug a large dirt reservoir to save rain water.

In 1865-66 Mastin took on John D. Slocum as a partner. Slocum had been running the stop for some time as an employee of Mastin.

On May 18, 1868, Mastin is killed by Indians. He was traveling to Pinos Altos by buggy, accompanied by two men on horseback:

“The horsemen stopped behind to allow their horses to drink at the crossing of Whiskey Creek, and Mr. Mastin drove on slowly, and when fired upon by the Indians was about half a mile beyond the creek and three miles from Pinos Altos. The horsemen hearing the firing rode up and fired upon the Indians – some forty in number – who were on foot and all after Mr M. who had turned his buggy about and was trying to get back into the road with the intention of running this way, but, unfortunately for him, just as he got back into the road the buggy turned over and threw him out when he was shot full of holes….”**

Slocum buys Mastin’s half of the stop from his estate on March 1, 1870, for $258. Slocum expands the stop with additional structures and corrals and calls it Slocum’s Ranch. The 1870 census shows Slocum, age 40, living at the stop with his wife Jesusa, 28, and two children Louis, 3, and John, 1. Two employees also live there, John Perry, 32, and John Brown, 26.
Mason's Ranch Aerial View 1974

The design of the stage stop is marked on the aerial photo above, taken by Keith J. Humphries in 1974. As indicated, the south section contained rooms, the north section two large corrals. All were protected by an adobe wall. The reservoir is south of the walled structure. Even though the site continues to degrade, you can still see the outline of the stop in this recent satellite photo:
Mason's Ranch Satellite Image
On October 25, 1875, Slocum leases the stop to Richard S. Mason for $75 a month. Mason advertises in the Mesilla paper:

“TRAVELLERS, ATTENTION!

R. S. Mason having leased the place heretofore known as

SLOCUM’S RANCH

situate 25 miles west of Mesilla on the road to Silver City and the west, informs the public generally that he is prepared to receive and accommodate travellers, and to supply passing trains or herds of animals with water.

This is the only watering place between the Rio Grande and Fort Cummins. I always have an abundance of water on hand, which I will furnish at reasonable rates.

My table will be kept supplied with the best the market affords.

I have pleasant and comfortable rooms furnished with clean beds for the use of travellers. Also comfortable and secure stabling for animals. I always keep a good supply of hay and grain on hand.

Travellers will find at my place everything requisite to supply their wants and add to their comfort, my charges will not be found unreasonable.

R. S. Mason”***

Mason ran into financial trouble in 1879, borrowing money that year, and by 1884 had abandoned the site.

Some images as the site appears today:
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
(Above) Looking at the northeast corner of the compound. The rock structure served two purposes: to retain the dirt fill necessary to level the corral and as the foundation of the adobe wall surrounding the stage stop. Note the erosion.
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
Looking at the base of the foundation.
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
Looking south along the east wall. You can see the ruins of the housing section of the compound in the distance.
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
The housing ruins. Note the rock portion of the standing wall. The part of the structure used as a fireplace was rocked, the rest of the structure was adobe.

*La Posta – From the Founding of Mesilla, to Corn Exchange Hotel, to Billy the Kid Museum, to Famous Landmark, David G. Thomas, 2013.
**Santa Fe New Mexican, June 2, 1868.
***Mesilla Valley Independent, Oct 13, 1877.

See also:
Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop
Rough and Ready – Butterfield Stage Stop

 

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Rough and Ready – Butterfield Stage Stop

Rough and Ready was the second stop of the Overland Mail Stage Line after leaving Mesilla. (The first stop was Picacho.)

The Rough and Ready station is on the west side of the Rough and Ready Hills. Upon leaving Picacho, the trail led through Box Canyon north of Picacho peak, across flat tableland, and then through a pass to the station, as shown below. The hills to the north of the pass are the Sleeping Lady Hills, to the south the Rough and Ready Hills. The distance as traveled by the trail is about 15 miles. Traces of the trail are still easily seen in damage to the terrain and wagon-wheel wear-marks in rocks.Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

Here is a close view of the station location:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

If you climb the summit above the station, you see Picacho Peak in the distance (circled) and the environmental disturbance due to the trail:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Trail

In the foreground of the photo above is one of the cairns established by the Bartlett-Conde* survey to mark the border between Mexico and the United States. Following the end of the Mexican-American war in 1848, both countries agreed to a joint survey to establish the border. The survey was to start at El Paso del Norte and go west. Because of a bad map, the starting location was mistakenly set 42 miles north of where it should have been. This mistake put Mesilla in Mexico and led to a nasty border dispute that was only settled by the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. The map below shows the mistaken area (click for a larger map):
Bartlett-Conde Survey Map - 1848

There is little left of the Rough and Ready station. Many of the still visible ruins are likely of a later date. An archaeological excavation established that the station consisted of a two-room stone and adobe house with chimneys and a large adobe corral. There was no water source at the station. A dirt tank was dug to capture rain water and water was also hauled from Mesilla.

Here are some ruins:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

Here is one of the stakes marking a corner of the archaeological excavation:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

There is a mysterious burial or memorial of unknown origin a short distance from the old station that reads “Stubs, RIP.” It has no date, but can not be more than 20 years old. If you have any information on this cement marker, please communicate it.
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop - Stubs, RIP

*The lead American surveyor was John Russell Bartlett, the lead Mexican surveyor was Pedro Garcia Conde.

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho – A Brief History
Picacho Peak
Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop
Trip to Mason’s Ranch

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Monday, February 27th, 2012

Picacho Cemetery

Virtually nothing is known of this abandoned cemetery in Picacho, even by residents. The cemetery is on private land. Only two stones exist, but mounds and other signs indicate other burials.
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho Cemetery
See also:
Picacho Peak
Picacho — A Brief History
Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop

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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Picacho — A Brief History

Evangelisto Chavez

Evangelisto Chavez

Picacho was founded in 1855 by Juan (or Jose) Evangelisto Chaves, known as Evangelisto Chaves. Evangelisto, born May 8, 1827, had moved to Mesilla from Socorro, New Mexico some time before 1855. Evangelisto’s family history goes back to Pedro Gomez Duran Y Chaves*, who was born in Valverde de Llerena, Spain, and was one of the founding residents of Santa Fe in 1602. Evangelisto married Maria Petra de Jesus Trujillo in Socorro in 1851.

Picacho had long been a camping spot because it was located just south of a natural Rio Grande River crossing known as Apache or Indian Ford. It was also near one of the few places where it was possible to get wagons or coaches up the western slope of the Mesilla Valley. Even though the valley is not that steep, the west side consists of deep sand that provides a formidable barrier to horse-drawn conveyances.

Local tradition says that Evangelisto built the first house in Picacho. He established a large farm and a mercantile business and began employing many workers. He also started a ferry boat service at Apache Ford. Because he owned almost the entire town, it was sometimes called Chaves.

With Evangelisto’s financial acumen and the business provided by the Overland Mail Stage Stop established in 1858, the settlement grew fast. Just how fast can be seen in an 1859 Territorial vote:

Dona Ana, 240
Las Cruces, 100
Brazito, 19
La Mesa, 212
Santo Tomas, 69
Mesilla, 1101
Picacho, 136
Tucson, 267
Colorado City (Rodey), 100

These numbers are votes, i.e., United States male citizens, but they give an idea of the relative populations of the towns of southern New Mexico at this time (Arizona was part of New Mexico until February 24, 1863).

Picacho’s close proximity to the mountains made it vulnerable to Indian attacks, and there are accounts of raids in which livestock were taken and citizens lost their lives. Here is a typical account:

“On the morning of the 30th ult., five Apaches stole out of a corral at the village of Picacho, two hundred head of cattle. To show the audacity of these Indians, we will note that the stock was stolen within five miles of a camp of 650 soldiers.” (September 30, 1861)

During the Civil War, Picacho’s position as a transit point to Arizona led to its use for that purpose by both Confederate and Union troops.

With the arrival of the train at Las Cruces in 1881, Picacho along with Mesilla, La Mesa, Dona Ana, and Santo Tomas began a decline that led, by 1900, to almost insignificance.

Evangelisto, who is enumerated in the census of 1880 as living in Picacho, recognized Picacho’s dwindling importance and moved to Las Cruces in July, 1881, where he built a large house. In Las Cruces he had many business interests and served as Justice of the Peace, county treasurer, and school commissioner. He died unexpectedly on March 2, 1886.

*Although about 250 Spanish men and a few wives settled in Santa Fe following Don Juan de Oñate’s expedition there in 1598, by 1608 only about 50 remained, of which Pedro Gomez Duran Y Chaves was one. He was appointed Military Commander of New Mexico in 1627. His descendents spell the name both Chavas and Chavez.

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho Peak
Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop
Rough and Ready – Butterfield Stage Stop

Sources:
Research by Dan Aranda; Photo of Evangelisto Chaves Copyright 2012 Dan Aranda; “Santa Fe Weekly Gazette,” January 8, 1859; “The Daily Dispatch,” November 5, 1861; “Rio Grande Republican,” March 6, 1886; Chavez, A Distinctive American Clan of New Mexico, by Fray Angelico Chavez.

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Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop

Many who have written about the Butterfield Overland Mail have left out the Picacho stage stop, sometimes called Rancho Picacho, in their accounts. This is a bit surprising as the very first written account of the Butterfield trail mentions the Picacho stop.
Waterman Lilly Ormsby
Waterman Lilly Ormsby, a special correspondent for the New York Herald, took the first stage from St. Louis to San Francisco so he could report on the experience. He was the only passenger with a straight-through ticket. He left St. Louis on September 16, 1858 and arrived in San Francisco 24 days later, the stage having traveled day and night, stopping so passengers could sleep only every second or third night.

During the trip Ormsby wrote 8 articles about the trip, which were published in the Herald.

Mesilla was almost exactly half way between St. Louis and San Francisco.

Here is what Ormsby wrote on leaving Mesilla:

“A few miles from Messilla [Mesilla] we changed our horses for another team of those interminable mules, and started on a dreary ride of 52 miles for Cook’s Spring. This is the commencement of that series of deserts without water extending from the Rio Grande to the Gila – one of the most tedious portions of the route.

Our road lay through what was called the Pecatch [Picacho] Pass, and, as I walked nearly all the way through it, it seemed to me rather mountainous. It was about 2 miles long and had some very bad hills. In comparison with other passes and canyons on the route, it was not very bad, though quite bad enough and all uphill. When, however, we reached the summit, we were upon the border of a broad and level plain extending as far away as the eye could reach. At our backs were the ranges of the Oregon [Organ] Mountains, the debris of the Rocky Mountains, forming the Eastern boundary of the Messilla [Mesilla] Valley. In front we could just see in the distance Cooke’s peak, rising from the plain in bold prominence from among the surrounding hills.”

The stop where the stage changed from horses to mules was the Picacho stop. Mules were used when the road was rough and mountainous. Mules could handle rougher terrain, but were slower than horses, so the Picacho stop was important, else mules would have had to be put on in Mesilla, making it a tough pull to reach the first stage stop after Picacho, Rough and Ready.

As noted in this post and confirmed by the Ormsby quote above, the stage went north of Picacho peak, not south as almost all writers have it. There was a southern road that stayed on the plains, which horse riders often took, but the water necessary for animals pulling a stage was available only on the mountainous route.

The last remains of the stage stop in Picacho were torn down in 1954, but here is the location today in the old village of Picacho:
Picacho Station
Below is a Google satellite image with the location of the Picacho station marked (white square). The GPS is 32.32459, -106.84989. The black line shows the route the stage took through Picacho.
Picacho Butterfield Stage Station Map
Here is an old adobe in Picacho probably built in the 1890s.
Picacho Old Adobe

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho — A Brief History
Picacho Peak
Rough and Ready — Butterfield Stage Stop
Trip to Mason’s Ranch

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Monday, August 8th, 2011

Mesilla Duel — Legal Considerations

As noted in the post Colt’s Six-Shooters at 15 Paces, Jose Manuel Gallegos and Judge John S. Watts fought a duel “near the Mexican line” on September 10, 1859. Neither man was injured, although they each fired five bullets using what were then advanced, modern weapons.

Why did they choose to fight “near the Mexican line?”

They did so because the legal sanctions against dueling in New Mexico at the time were severe.

Section 20 of Chapter 11 of the Territorial laws in 1859 stated:

“Every person who shall by previous engagement or appointment fight a duel within the jurisdiction of this Territory, and in so doing shall inflict a wound upon any person, whereof the person so injured shall die, shall be deemed guilty of murder in the second degree.”

The punishment provided in the same statues for second degree murder  if premeditation was involved was life in prison.

It was also against the law to fight a duel even if no one was wounded or killed:

“Every person who shall engage in a duel with any deadly weapon, although no homicide ensues, or shall challenge another to fight such duel, or shall send or deliver any written or verbal message purporting or intending to be such challenge, although no duel ensues, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail or territorial prison not less than one year, or shall be fined in any sum not leas than two hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.”

But it wasn’t just duelers who faced extreme legal liability. Their seconds also could be charged with murder:

“Every person who shall be the second of either party in such duel as is mentioned in the preceding section, and shall be present when such wound shall be inflicted, whereof death shall ensue, shall be deemed to be an accessory before the fact to the crime of murder in the fifth degree.”

The strict provisions of the law intended to prevent dueling didn’t end there, however. Both the act of issuing and accepting a challenge were illegal:

“Every person who shall engage in a duel with any deadly weapon, although no homicide ensues, or shall challenge another to fight such duel, or shall send or deliver any written or verbal message purporting or intending to be such challenge, although no duel ensues, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail or territorial prison not less than one year, or shall be fined in any sum not leas than two hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.”

“Every person who shall accept such challenge, or who shall knowingly carry or deliver any such challenge or message, whether a duel ensues or not; and every person who shall be present at the fighting of a duel with deadly weapons, as an aid, or second, or surgeon, or who shall advise, or encourage, or promote such duel, shall pay a fine of not less than five hundred dollars, nor more than one thousand dollars.”

See also:
Colt’s Six Shooters at 15 Paces

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Monday, February 1st, 2010

Picacho Peak


Picacho Peak, 4959 feet, about 7 miles from Las Cruces. (Click for a larger image.)

The old village of Picacho is located southeast of the peak, at the edge of the Mesilla Valley. Picacho was a stage stop on the , the first stop after Mesilla. From Picacho, the stage climbed the mesa and went around the north side of Picacho Peak through Box Canyon. This lead to a very difficult route through several mountain ranges, but was the only route on which water could be supplied at the stage stops, which were located about one hour of travel time apart.

From Mesilla the stage stops to the Arizona border were: Picacho, Rough and Ready, Goodsight, Cooke’s Springs, Mimbres, Cow Springs, Soldiers’s Farewell, Barney’s, Steins Peak.

The Butterfield Stage began operation on September 15, 1858, with stages leaving San Francisco and St. Louis, the two ends of the line, on that day. Mesilla was located about the middle of the route.

The Butterfield Stage was put out of operation by the start of the Civil War.

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho — A Brief History

Rough and Ready — Butterfield Stage Stop

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Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Colt’s Six-Shooters at 15 Paces

DUEL NEAR MESILLA — Correspondence dated Mesilla, 10th September, says:

On Sunday (4th September) Otero, the Democratic nominee for Delegate from New Mexico, made a speech in the Plaza in this town. He was answered by Judge [John S.] Watts, a Galligos [Gallegos] stumper. In the course of his remarks he made allusion to the family of Otero in such a manner that Otero gave him the lie. A challenge ensued, and the parties, accompanied by their seconds, surgeons, etc., met yesterday morning, near the Mexican line. Three shots were exchanged. Weapons, Colt’s navy six-shooters; distance, fifteen paces.

After the first fire the seconds endeavored to effect a reconciliation, but were unable to do so. Two more shots were exchanged without effect, when the seconds withdrew their principals from the field. The difficulty still remains unsettled, however. Both parties behaved with especial gallantry and coolness. After the second shot, Otero lighted his cigarito and enjoyed his smoke, while Watts amused himself with whistling.

Source: Sacramento Daily Union (newspaper), October 5, 1859

In the election referred to in this article, Delegate from New Mexico to the legislature of the United States, was defeated by . This was a continuation of a very personal political war between the two men that begin in 1855.

Gallegos and Otero dominated early New Mexico politics.

Jose Manuel Gallegos

Gallegos was born in New Mexico in 1815 while it was still part of Mexico and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1840. When New Mexico became a territory of the United States as a result of the Mexican-American war, Gallegos participated in the planning of a plot to revolt against American authorities and restore New Mexico to Mexican control. As a result of that activity and other conflicts with the Catholic Church, Bishop forced Gallegos’ resignation from the priesthood in 1846.

Always very political, Gallegos had served in the Department of New Mexico Assembly under Mexican rule from 1843 to 1846. Even though he opposed American rule following the Mexican-American war, he evidently decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. Gallegos was elected to the American New Mexico Territorial Council in 1851, and then won election as the Territory’s Delegate to the US Congress in 1853.

In 1855, Gallegos ran against Otero for the first time, and won a second term as Delegate. But Otero alleged massive voter fraud in Mesilla and he eventually prevailed, due primarily to his party’s control of the certification process. Gallegos was forced to give up his position several months before his term ended, and Otero replaced him.

Miguel Antonio Otero

So the 1859 election contest between Gallegos and Otero was a blood match between two men who heartily despised each other. Adding to the open bitterness of the conflict, Bishop Lamy strongly supported Otero, making the election a continuation of his old feud with Gallegos.

After Gallegos lost as Delegate in 1859, he won election to the New Mexico Territorial legislature in 1860 and served as Speaker of the House.

Gallegos failed again as Delegate candidate in 1862, but in 1871, after switching to the Democratic Party, he succeeded in defeating and becoming Delegate for a third time.

The Gallegos/Chavez contest was the cause of the Mesilla Riot, August 27, 1871, which resulted in at least seven deaths and 30 woundings. More on the Mesilla Riot in a later posting.

Gallegos died April 21, 1875 and is buried in the Rosario Cemetery in Santa Fe.

See Also:
Mesilla Duel — Legal Considerations

Sources:
Hispanic Americans in Congress, Carmen E. Enciso and Tracy North, 1996.
History of New Mexico: From the Spanish Conquest to the Present Time, Helen Haines, 1891.
The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, Ralph Emerson Twitchell, 1917.

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Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Mesilla Stage Coach – More

As noted in this prior post, , Louis Cardis had just established a stage coach line from Mesilla to San Antonio/Austin, with rail connections to St. Louis, when he was murdered.

Cardis’ line was called The Texas & California Stage Company. As shown in this, his first of only two advertisements, his line used four-horse .

The one-way cost from Mesilla to St. Louis, which included the train fare, was $107.50. It’s interesting that it was not rounded either up or down.

Mesilla Valley Independent (newspaper), October 13, 1877

His Way Table from the same issue shows the stops from Mesilla to Fort Concho. The average distance between stops is about 30 miles. At each stop the horses would be changed. If the stage broke down between stops, the plan would have been to unsaddle a horse and ride to the nearest stop to obtain what was necessary to repair the coach.

Time was important even in that age. That is why the stage rode night and day for several days before pausing to permit the passengers to sleep a little. Hotel or sleep accommodation charges were not included in the fare.

Meals were available at each stop for 50 cents.

Mesilla Valley Independent (newspaper), October 13, 1877

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