Mar 112013
John Chisum

John Chisum was an extremely successful cattleman in New Mexico during the period following the end of the American Civil War (1861-1865). As the size of his herd grew, Chisum clashed with the owners of smaller ranches, who resented his efforts to graze his cattle on land that they were accustomed to using. The violence escalated, culminating in a series of shootouts in 1877, which was called the Pecos County War. Suspecting that the House, a clique of businessmen led by James Dolan that dominated Lincoln County, were the primary buyers of beef rustled from his herd, Chisum was a principal backer of Alex McSween and John Tunstall when they competed against the House. However, he did not take part in the Lincoln County War, which erupted after Tunstall was killed by a sheriff’s posse loyal to Dolan in 1878. Afterwards, Chisum played a key role in the election of Pat Garrett as sheriff of Lincoln County, and Garrett killed or captured several of the most dangerous rustlers, including William Bonney (Billy the Kid). Once the plague of rustlers had been dealt with, Chisum’s ranch boomed for several years, but he died of cancer in 1884. Read More…

Sep 242012
Billy the Kid

Born William Henry McCarty on November 23, 1859 in New York City, the boy who would become Billy the Kid was living in Silver City, New Mexico when his mother died of tuberculosis in September 1874. Since his step-father was busy searching for gold, McCarty drifted into petty crime. After shooting a local bully during a bar fight at Fort Grant, Arizona in 1877, he changed his last name to Bonney, and ended up in Lincoln County, New Mexico, working for an English rancher named John Tunstall. Tunstall and his partner Alex McSween, supported by powerful rancher John Chisum, had challenged businessman James Dolan, who dominated Lincoln County. When legal pressure failed to scare off Tunstall, he was killed by a sheriff’s posse loyal to Dolan on February 18, 1878.
Both Tunstall’s supporters and Dolan’s faction claimed legal authority, and the death toll mounted on both sides until a five-day-long battle in Lincoln Town in mid-July ended both the Lincoln County War and McSween’s life. Settling at Fort Sumner, just outside of Lincoln County, Bonney joined a group of rustlers but was captured by Sheriff Pat Garrett on December 20, 1880. Sentenced to be hung, Bonney killed two deputies and escaped. Returning to Fort Sumner, Bonney hid with friends until Garrett found him by chance and killed him on July 14, 1881. Billy the Kid was only twenty-one-years-old. Read More…