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Feuding at Farmington

In 1878, Lincoln County, New Mexico, was the scene of a ferocious war between the partisans of Lawrence C. Murphy, James J. Dolan and John H. Riley on one side and those of Alexander A. McSween and John S. Chisum on the other.

New Mexico Historical  Review July 1965, vol. Xl, no. 3, p. 215.

Copyright by the  University of New Mexico Board of Regents. Posted  electronically by permission. All rights reserved.

Feuding at Farmington

Philip J. Rasch

(The writer is indebted to Clifford Jones, son of Charles A. Jones; Mrs. Laura Allyn Ekstrom, Assistant Librarian, Historical Society of Colorado; Mrs. Alys Freeze, Head, Western History Department, Public Library of the City and County of Denver; and Miss Marion Lundell, Librarian, Durango Public Library, for their assistance with this paper.)

In 1878, Lincoln County, New Mexico, was the scene of a ferocious war between the partisans of Lawrence C. Murphy, James J. Dolan and John H. Riley on one side and those of Alexander A. McSween and John S. Chisum on the other. In July the two factions fought for five days for the possession of the county seat. McSween’s Regulators were decisively defeated, their leader killed, and his force scattered.[1] George Coe, his cousin Frank, and other McSween supporters fled to the mountains, leaving their homes unguarded. In September a marauding band led by John Selman stole everything of value from the Coe ranch house at Tinnie and then burned it to the ground.[2] Beset by their enemies and with warrants for George’s arrest in the hands of the officers, the Coes conceded that wisdom had become the better part of valor and left the county.

Governor Lew Wallace felt that the law was being cheated. At his request U. S. Marshal John Sherman, Jr. asked the Attorney General of the United States for authority to employ detectives to track the two men down and arrest them, but was advised that no funds were available for such a purpose. Unmolested, the Coes journeyed to Sugarite, Colorado, to help a cousin, Lou W. Coe, move his cattle to the San Juan country in New Mexico. They left Sugarite in October and arrived in the area where the town of Farmington now stands in December. George, Frank, and Jasper Coe rented two ranches at the site of Aztec. Another of the Regulators, “Dirty Steve” Steven, also lived in the neighborhood.

In May 1879 Frank returned to Lincoln County to fetch a threshing machine. Mistaken for George, he was arrested and jailed in Santa Fe on the charge of murdering Andrew L. “Buckshot” Roberts. Some six weeks later he was taken to Mesilla, where he appeared before Judge Warren Bristol on a writ of habeas corpus. He contended that he had been at Balzer’s Mill on private business and had done all he could to save the man. Dr. J. H.  Blazer and a Mr. Eastman [3] testified that, on his deathbed, Roberts had stated that Coe was his friend and had tried to save him. The prisoner was discharged.[4]

After Frank’s return to Farmington another former McSween sympathizer, Isaac T. Stockton accompanied by his wife and their two children, appeared on the scene and lived with the Coes for some time before taking up a ranch at Animas Arriba. Brown brought his father’s family out from Nebraska just before Christmas. George Coe promptly fell in love with Cal’s sister, Phoebe, and they were married on November 16, 1879. Less welcome neighbors arrived about January 1880 when S. Dow Eskridge, of San Antonio, Colorado, sent his brother, Dison Eskridge, and his brother‑in‑law, James W. Garrett,[5] to locate a ranch in the Farmington area.

The accounts of the events which followed are highly controversial. This paper is based partly on contemporary New Mexican and Colorado newspapers, partly on material in the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, and partly on statements by the descendants of various individuals involved. Even so, it is far from complete and does not pretend to be the last word on the subject.

The story told in New Mexico is that cattle owned by the local ranchers began to disappear and were sold to the butcher at Fort Lewis, Colorado. In desperation the citizens formed the Farmington Stockmen’s Protective Association to cope with the situation. Among those prominent in its activities were the Coes, Thomas Nance, John S. Cox, Meyers, Alfred U. Graves, the Hamblets, J. H. Roger, George Lockhart, Aaron Barker, George Cox, and George and Jack Lynch. In Colorado they said that when they began to submit bids on the government beef contracts for supplying troops, the Coe gang undertook to drive out their competitors. Quite possibly both accounts are correct.

The first news of the feud to reach the outside world was a report of the lynching of William M. “Tex” Anderson in February 1880. Anderson, alias Charles Smith, alias Fox, was accused of stealing a horse at Fort Griffin, after which he went to Chalk Creek, Colorado, where he shot a man. He then rode off to the vicinity of Flora Vista, New Mexico. Here he stole a yoke of oxen from Peter Fox and was arrested by Constable John Cox and George Coe. Unable to give bond, he was sent to the county jail at Taos under the charge of three officers. Before they had gone far, they were surprised by fifteen masked men, who relieved the officers of their arms and hanged the prisoner.[6]

On the face of it this was a not unusual liquidation of a killer and rustler, but the Animas City Southwest labeled it “an atrocious murder.”[7] Colorado papers hinted that Anderson had been lynched as a warning that Colorado stockmen were not welcome in Farmington. When Frank Coe wrote to the Rico Dolores News to protest the charges, the editor defiantly retorted that he had “received numerous letters from that section ... charging the Coe boys with complicity in the hanging of Tex,” and that he “had no fear of rope‑pulling cowards.”[8] Frank Hartman, co‑publisher of the paper, had been driven out of the Animas valley by the vigilantes. This accounts for the paper’s knowledge of affairs there and probably for its virulent attacks on the Coes.[9]

In the spring matters went from bad to worse. Under New Mexican law a cattleman was obligated to keep his stock off lands under cultivation. By chance some of Lou Coe’s animals got into the crop of a settler, who filed suit. At the trial before Justice of the Peace H. H. Halford, of Flora Vista, Dison Eskridge and his brother, J. Harge, were appointed special constables to maintain order. These young men announced that they would disarm everyone who entered the courtroom. George Coe and Ike Stockton protested and Stockton drew his pistol, but the cylinder‑rod fell out. One of the constables might have killed him if Coe had not beaten the man to the draw. Ike dashed to his horse to get his Winchester, but George ordered him to leave the gun where it was. After some discussion the men shook hands and separated without animosity. Later that same day, however, the Eskridges quarreled with a party of men who tried to force them to release some prisoners. Most of the group finally shook hands, but George Brown and Frank Meyers rejected all attempts at reconciliation. In a later meeting between Dison and Brown, the trouble broke out anew and mutual threats were exchanged.

George Coe was also accused by a neighbor who claimed that the Coe cattle had damaged his crops. Coe refused to make restitution, observing that the neighbor had no crops of any kind. When the farmer sent a constable to serve a warrant, Coe refused to accept it. Some one seized a mule to satisfy a debt of $40.00, but it is not clear whether the mule belonged to Coe or whether the levier was the farmer in question. In any event O. H. Hansen and Meyers took the animal away from the constable. They were duly arrested and taken before justice Halford, but a gang led by the Coes liberated the prisoners and drove the justice out of the county.

Like most vigilante movements, once started it ran rampant. C. H. McHenry, a Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Mary Hubbard, Joseph Starritt, Orange Phelps, R. M. Pierce, William Locke, a storekeeper named Percy, and men listed only as Naughton, Hunter, and May were reported to have been driven from the country. May had additional troubles when he was shot in the hand after a misunderstanding with his partner, one Rutebaugh. Some of these people favored the Eskridge faction; others seem to have been paying off private grudges. Still others were warned that they would be forced to leave if they did not mend their ways, and there was suspicion in some quarters that the cattlemen were taking advantage of the situation to drive out neighbors who had been fencing in the best lands. “The Lincoln county mob, who are inaugurating a Lincoln county system on the lower Animas, continue their hellishness,” was the way the Dolores News put it.[10]

About September 1880 the balance of power was drastically affected by the appearance of Stockton’s brother, William Porter Stockton, a noted desperado.[11] Stockton jumped a claim owned by a widow near Bloomfield and mortally wounded one of her men. Stockton allied himself with the Eskridge faction. In a short time he shot a man named Caphart and threatened to kill Graves. It was alleged that he was busily engaged in stealing cattle. The Coes were sure that he was bent on eliminating them.[12] Ike Stockton apparently moved to Animas City, Colorado, about this time. We know that in November he went to Texas for stock.

During Christmas week a number of local residents gathered at the home of Francis M. Hamblet for dancing and supper. According to one account, Dison Eskridge, Garrett, and Oscar B. Puett appeared uninvited and soon made themselves so obnoxious that the host asked them to leave. They stood outside the house, shooting their pistols and shouting. Hamblet and Brown went out to remonstrate. Brown was killed in the fracas that followed, and when the other guests ran to the scene, they also found Puett’s body. Each party loudly accused the other of having shot him. Garrett claimed that they had been invited, but that no one would dance with them, so they left, whereupon an unprovoked attack was made upon them.[13] According to another version, Brown took advantage of the situation to renew his quarrel with Eskridge, who beat him to the draw. Wherever the blame lay, the vigilantes set off in pursuit of Eskridge and Garrett, ransacked and burned their homes, and appropriated their stock—all in the best Lincoln County tradition.

On January 4, 1881, Graves, Frank Coe, Nance, Lockhard, and other vigilantes were beating the brush near Porter Stockton’s cabin searching for the fugitives. When Stockton came to the door and demanded to know what they were doing, both parties went for their guns. Porter was riddled. The shot that killed him was said to have been fired by either Graves or Nance. As the gunman fell his wife ran out with a Winchester in her hands. One of the party aimed at the gun, but the ball glanced and struck her in the breast, inflicting a serious wound.[14] Both Graves and Nance were foremen for the George W. Thompson and Isaac W. Lacy (or Lacey) Cattle Company. Lacy’s wife is said to have been Stockton’s first cousin. This may explain why Lacy had been warned to stay out of the San Juan country under penalty of death.

Eskridge and Garrett had escaped to Durango and the vigilantes served public notice that they would kill them if they returned to their ranches, sending out patrols to make sure that they did not. Seth Welfoot, a friend of the Eskridges, expressed the opinion that the men who killed Stockton were as bad as their victim. Then Nance, Meyers, James Raser, and some of the other gangsters drove him out of the valley.

Early in February Meyers, Roger, and one Banks seriously wounded a Navajo, and nearly precipitated an Indian uprising. Shortly thereafter the first two left the county.

The vigilantes were said to have committed at least sixteen murders by the middle of February.15 Although this may well be an exaggeration, forty persons were reported to have taken refuge in Durango alone, leaving their homes and ranches rather than become involved in the fighting.[16] The Rico Dolores News called loudly for a war of extermination against that “cowardly mob of miserable cattle thieves,” the Coe gang.[17] Ike Stockton was breathing fire and brimstone. He insisted that the Coe boys were responsible for the killing of his brother and vowed that he would be avenged as soon as reinforcements arrived from Texas. Succumbing to pleas by his wife, George Coe sold his crops and left the Territory early in March.

 At almost the same time Stockton, Garrett, Tom Radigan, deputy sheriff Charles A. Allison,[18] Gus Hefferman and three others rode to Farmington to round up some cattle. Nance and Barker stumbled upon them at Garrett’s ranch. Both sides promptly opened fire. Radigan was hit in the knee; later he had to have his leg amputated. Barker was killed and Nance escaped.[19] There was more excitement in mid‑March, when Nance and John Benning captured Jack Roberts, who had killed Thomas A. Greatorrex in Durango. The Durango people sent fifteen armed men, to pay the reward promised and take charge of the prisoner at Cox’s ranch. They held court on the way back, and the murderer was convicted and hanged before they reached Durango.[20] Another gunman bit the dust on April 7, when William Lowe, who had killed a man at Farmington and fled to Del Norte, Colorado, made the mistake of taking one of J. H. Jackson’s horses with the owner standing by with a shotgun in his hands.[21]

Stockton was relatively quiet for a while. With his partners, Harge Eskridge and Burt Wilkinson, he was working a silver claim on Expectation Mountain. Wilkinson who had killed “Comanche Bill” at Durango on the previous Christmas night,[22] may have found it advisable to stay out of town for a while.

Some eighty people in Rio Arriba County submitted a petition to Governor Lew Wallace, asking for assistance and suggesting that a militia company be organized, the Territory to furnish guns and ammunition. Wallace promptly directed Adjutant General Max Frost to proceed to the scene of the troubles, investigate, make a full report on the situation, and organize two companies of militia, one at Farmington and the other at Bloomfield. These were to be placed at the disposal of the sheriff for the protection of the citizens. He also asked Judge L. Bradford Prince to visit the county as soon as possible so that offenders could be indicted without delay. General Edward Hatch ordered the officers commanding Fort Marcy to furnish arms and provide an escort to ensure their safe arrival.

Frost went immediately to Tierra Amarilla, where he learned that the deputy sheriff, Charles Johnson, had been accused of killing Ruben Bertram and wounding another man at Almagre. He had nearly been lynched before he proved to Justice of the Peace Charles W. Marshal that he had not been involved in the shooting. Frost found Chama almost completely lawless. Jim Catron, a desperado whom he described as “Captain of the Vigi­lantes,” ran things much to suit himself, and no man’s life was safe. Frost himself was nearly killed when the gangster fired several random shots on the street. There were rumors that Stockton was organizing another expedition and intended to kill Graves, the Goes, Cox, and others, and Cox and his allies were said to have offered $2,000 in cash for the capture of Stockton.[23]

Frost appointed Moses Blanchard (Blancett) deputy sheriff; Prince impaneled a Grand Jury; and court convened on April 11. Indictments for murder, assault with intent to kill, and horse stealing were found against Stockton, Harge Eskridge, Garrett, Allison, Reynolds, Wilson Hughes, alias “Texas Jack,” Radigan, Bill “Tex” Hunter, alias Fox, and others. Governor Wallace promptly posted a reward of $500.00 for the capture of Stockton and $250.00 for each of the others, and issued requisitions upon Governor Frederick W. Pitkin of Colorado for their arrest. Hunter, Painter, and Hefferman took the hint and left the country.

On April 11 about thirty Farmington men rode into Durango to capture the Stockton‑Eskridge crowd. As it happened, the Vigilance Committee was engaged in hanging one of Stockton’s henchmen, Henry Read Moorman, for the unprovoked killing of James K. Prindle. Seeing no reason to interfere with this worthy proceeding, the New Mexicans rode through town and spent the night at Animas City. The following day they were seen crossing a high mesa east of Durango. The Stockton party immediately sallied forth. After a brisk exchange of shots, in which the only damage was the wounding of two onlookers, Conrad Pulvermiller and Harry Wilson, the Farmington posse broke off the engagement and rode away.

 The Durango Record and the Rico Dolores News viewed the events as an attack by the citizens of one city on those of another. The former declared, “There are a thousand armed men in Durango, ready to repel any forcible invasion of this place,”[24] and castigated the press of the state generally as misrepresenting the condition of affairs. To this list the Dolores News added New Mexican and eastern papers.

The citizens themselves, however, had had quite enough. The Committee of Safety hastily reconvened and invited Stockton, Dison Eskridge, Garrett, and Jack Wilson to leave town. The Esk­ridge boys became greatly excited and drew their guns on Marshal Robert Dwyer when he tried to quiet them. Their supporters called a meeting and adopted a resolution stating that they believed the Eskridge party “to be good, law‑abiding citizens,” and pledged themselves to protect them.[25] Alarmed, Sheriff Luke Hunter called out the Animas City militia. The outlaws finally saddled up, graciously accepted a gift of $700 from their friends, and departed. Perhaps some of them belonged to the mysterious eight‑man band, one badly wounded, who crossed the Jornada at Upton’s Siding, near Rincon, in mid‑May, saying that they were looking for Billy the Kid.[26] It may have been other members of the Stockton gang who ran across Roberts, pulled him from his horse, and beat him nearly to death.[27] Now that the gang had broken up, the New Mexican militia called in the patrols from the approaches to the Animas Valley and on the La Plata River where they had been guarding against raids from the north.

Disturbed by reports that Stockton was stealing his cattle, Lacy decided to round them up. It was said that the Farmington vigilantes demanded that he post a reward for the capture of Stockton and his band, and that when he refused to do so, the Hamblets remarked that they had a rope ready for him. Nance threatened to shoot him if he “did not walk a chalk line.” Thompson and Lacy then hired a former Trinidad policeman, “Big Dan” Howland, as a spy to find out just how matters actually stood. Howland, who had joined the Farmington vigilantes shortly after their raid on Durango, was said to be Dave Rudabaugh’s cousin and to have killed a Mexican sheepherder.

On May 13 Lacy was with Howland and Nance at his slaughter house near Pagosa Springs. A dispute over wages arose between the cattleman and his spy. Lacy reached for his gun, fired and missed. Howland then terminated the discussion by shooting his employer twice in the chest. Nance rode to Fort Lewis for a physician, but Lacy died before the doctor arrived.[28] Many believed that Lacy had decided to switch sides and intended to silence Howland to prevent any embarrassing disclosures.[29] The killer escaped into Utah. Nance returned to Bloomfield, but soon went on to Santa Fe in search of a more congenial clime.

Stockton, signing himself agent for Mrs. I. W. Lacy, offered a reward of $2000 for the delivery of Howland, dead or alive. Mrs. Lacy promptly repudiated the offer, and tartly added that “Isaac Stockton is not my agent, never has been, and never will be.”[30] The Dolores News proclaimed that stories concerning Stockton’s theft of Lacy’s cattle were started by the Farmington mob to create enmity between the two men; and when this failed, they determined to assassinate the cattleman.[31] The truth may never be known.

Stockton and Harge Eskridge wrote to Governor Wallace, complaining that they “had never committed a crime” and that the requisitions against them “were obtained by misrepresentation and perjury.” They claimed to be “respectable, law‑abiding citizens” who were “not only willing but anxious to have a fair and impartial trial” and would surrender if they were guaranteed protection and not tried in Rio Arriba county.[32] Their plea might have been more effective if Harge Eskridge had not gone for a buggy ride with Jim “Kid” White (real name Cherry) on May 14. Catron overtook them and warned Eskridge that White had told a friend that he had been offered $900 to kill Harge. Eskridge then shot White, who died in Almargo a few days later.[33]

The Stockton party now split into two groups; one headed by Ike and the other by Allison. Allison’s gang held up the towns of Chama, Amargo, and Pagosa Springs, as well as the Barlow and Sanderson stage coach. Storekeepers, customers, and passengers alike were forced to “stand and deliver.” An absolute reign of terror held sway in the vicinities of Costilla, Amargo, Durango, Antonita, Chama, and Pagosa Springs. The desperadoes were so well armed and mounted that they could defy officers of the law with impunity.[34] Citizens notified Governor Pitkin that they were powerless to deal with the situation. The Governor offered a reward of $1000 for Allison and $200 each for Lewis Perkins, Henry Watts, and other members of the gang.[35]

Attracted by the reward, Deputy Sheriff Frank A. Hyatt, of Conejos County, Colorado, took up the pursuit. He captured Thomas Seely at Alamosa. Seeking to curry favor, Seely revealed that Allison would be in Albuquerque on June 16. Hyatt and three men proceeded to that city, where they enlisted the aid of justice of the Peace Sullivan and a Jeff Grant. Grant made contact with the wanted men and invited them to visit his stable to look over a string of race horses he was taking to Lincoln. Hyatt’s posse hid in the building and took the bandits by surprise.

Once the prisoners were safely in jail, Sullivan claimed the bounties and refused to surrender the outlaws to Hyatt until he received payment. After a good deal of wrangling it was agreed that the rewards offered in New Mexico would be given to Sullivan; Hyatt was to receive those offered by Colorado. Upon receipt of a requisition from Governor Pitkin, the prisoners were released to the deputy sheriff, who took them back to Colorado.” Each was sentenced to 37 years imprisonment. Allison was released in 1890, and is said to have ended his days as a bartender in Butte, Montana.

Stockton and his men had assembled at Rico and again threatened to kill Cox and to round up the Eskridge cattle. Anticipating the worst, the new governor of New Mexico, Lionel A. Sheldon, ordered the Bloomfield militia to be prepared to place itself under the sheriff’s orders. At the moment, however, the gang was fully occupied with more pressing problems. The Pah Utes had been murdering settlers and driving off horses and cattle in the Grand River country. Responding to a desperate plea for help, eighteen men from Rico went to the assistance of the ranchers in that area. Among them were Stockton, Harge Eskridge, and Bud Gaibreth, alias M. C. Cook. Ten Americans were killed in the fighting on June 16 and 17. Harge received such a serious wound in the ankle, along with several minor injuries, that it was feared that his leg would have to be amputated. Troops under Captain Henry Carroll, accompanied by Colonel Edward Hatch, immediately set out from Fort Lewis in pursuit of the Indians. A civilian expedition, including Dison Eskridge, Hefferman, and Kid Roberts also took up the trail.

As a result the Stockton party became even bigger heroes at home. When the editors of the Conejos County Times ventured to make a disparaging comment, the Dolores News termed it an “absurd little bit of ignorant and cowardly abuse” by a “poor, idiotic, stupid fool” of an editor.[37] Stockton called in person upon C. O. Ziegenfuss, city editor of the Denver Republican, who was visiting Durango, and told his side of the story. He said he had arrived in Colfax County, N. M., in 1874 and had moved to Rio Arriba County in 1879. Here he had been a quiet stock raiser until the murder of his brother and the unprovoked attack by Nance and Barker. He had, he admitted, been mistaken in the belief that Allison was a good man, but after all they were no longer associates. Stockton repeated his offer to surrender upon the stated conditions. Ziegenfuss found public opinion in Durango entirely sympathetic to his visitor, who was regarded as a “quiet, peacable and enterprising citizen,” but the editor commented that avenging his brother’s death had become a “fixed purpose” of Stockton’s life.[38]

Even the Rico editor, however, was shortly to see the light. On the evening of August 22, Catron, Wilkinson, and “Black Kid” Thomas robbed a saloonkeeper named Miller near Pinkerton’s ranch, thirty miles from Silverton. The party was said to be on a trip to locate loot hidden by Thomas’ brother after a successful stage robbery. Catron was arrested in Durango, but was freed by his friends and joined by Dison Eskridge. On August 24 Sheriff Luke Hunter appeared at Miller’s saloon with warrants for the three robbers. Accompanied by the town marshal, D. C. Ogsbury, and Charles Hodges, he set out to find them. In a street encounter, Wilkinson killed Ogsbury. A wild shot wounded Charles Edwards, who was sitting in a gambling hall.[39] The murderers promptly fled to the Needle Mountains, but Thomas soon returned, claiming that he had taken no part in the affray. But he was arrested and taken out and hanged the following morning, presumably, as West remarks, for being in bad company.[40]

Large rewards for the other culprits were promptly posted. Stockton and Cook obtained appointments as deputies and went in search of their friends. On August 31 they located Eskridge and Wilkinson in a canyon near a stage station known as Castle Rock, some seven or eight miles from Animas City. Stockton persuaded Eskridge to go to George Morrison’s ranch on Los Pinos for some extra fine horses on which they could flee to Mexico. This was simply a subterfuge in order to avoid trouble with Harge. Once Dison was out of the way, the two deputies placed Wilkinson under arrest, and earned themselves a few thousand pieces of silver. Wilkinson was taken to jail at Silverton and lynched on the evening of September 4.[41] He kept his nerve to the last, admitting his guilt and exculpating Dison from any part in the shooting.

Thoroughly dissatisfied with their sheriff, the citizens of Durango turned him out of office and installed Barney Watson in his place. Watson promptly contacted Blanchard and requested requisitions for the wanted criminals which he guaranteed to serve immediately. Around noon on September 26, Ike Stockton and Galbreth rode into Durango, where Ike walked away down the street. Watson and Deputy Sheriff James J. Sullivan arrested Galbreth on a requisition from the Governor of Texas charging him with murder, rape, arson, and stock stealing near Meridian, Texas about six years before. The officers then looked for Stockton, who was wanted on a requisition from the Governor of New Mexico for the murder of Barker. Instead of surrendering, Stockton ran toward a building on the corner of First and H Streets. As he drew his revolver, the two officers fired. Stockton was shot through the thigh and taken to the office of the San Juan & New York Mining and Smelting Company, where two doctors were summoned. They agreed that amputation was the only hope, but the wounded man refused to give his consent until his own physician had been summoned from Animas City. Messengers were dispatched but had difficulty in locating him. Meanwhile a crowd of bystanders gathered and began chanting, “Go to hell and face Burt Wilkinson.” Six doctors performed the operation that night, but very early the next morning Stockton died. He is buried at Animas City.[42] Years later Jones ventured the opinion that Sullivan was so enraged over the Wilkinson affair that he had deliberately set out to kill Stockton.[43]

The Stockton gang, said at one time to have numbered 110 men, had already begun to disintegrate and some of its members rode south. On September 23 they robbed the Browne & Manzanares commission house at Lamy, N. M., and a negro was shot by Jim Bush (also known as Bush “Butch” Clark), Frank Hamilton, alias Frank Smith (said to be Bush’s brother), and “Frenchy” Eimorean. A few days later they robbed a traveler seven miles south of Albuquerque and then rode up into the Black Range. Shortly afterwards they appeared in Socorro, where they were arrested on October 6. That same evening a party of citizens hanged all but Hamilton, who escaped, from a tree on Regalia Street, popularly known as “Death’s Alley.”[44] Not long afterwards Hamilton rode up to John Casey’s house at Cañon Largo and asked for food and shelter. With the assistance of two prospectors, Eugene Knapp and Adolph Schleicher, Casey took the fugitive into custody and delivered him to the authorities at Socorro. He was sent to Santa Fe for trial, where, on February 18, 1882, he was convicted of horse stealing.[45]

Early in 1882 Frank Coe concluded that the situation in Lincoln County had quieted down and returned to the Ruidoso Valley, taking his bride, the former Helena Tully, whom he had married at Farmington during the previous year. After a rather stormy career he died of pneumonia in his home there on September 16, 1931. Seth Welfoot had died near Farmington early in March 1882.[46] Harge Eskridge was arrested near Gunnison City, Colorado, in September 1882. Although it is said that he was taken to Santa Fe for trial, the writer has been unable to locate any account of the proceedings. West mentions meeting him years afterwards in San Diego, California.[47] Dison apparently left the state. There are reports of his depredations in Arizona and Utah with “Frenchy” (Eimorean?), but gradually his name disappeared from the newspapers. John Sullivan was arrested near Alamosa, Colorado for cattle stealing on September 26, 1882.[48] What eventually became of him is not clear.

The citizens of Rico, aided by the Governor of Colorado, submitted a petition to Governor Wallace asking that Radigan be pardoned on the grounds that he had accompanied Stockton’s party unwittingly and was now a cripple. The request was bluntly refused, and, according to Stanley, in due course Radigan was sentenced to ten years in the New Mexico Territorial prison.[49] Jones stated that he was later killed in a poker game in Telluride, Colorado.[50]

Apparently unrelated to the Farmington troubles, although a number of the active participants in them were involved was a tragedy which occurred on the night of October 24, 1882. J. Blanchard, brother of Moses, engaged in a row with justice of the Peace Guadalupe Archuleta at Bloomington, during which he was shot and killed. Moses Blanchard said bluntly that the killer must die, and the town split into an American and a Mexican party. The women and children fled and the militia was called out. Governor Sheldon ordered Frost to the scene to take command and insure law and order, but before he arrived Archuleta was lynched. Evidently the Mexicans were convinced of his guilt and they dispersed without further trouble.[51]

Some of the remaining outlaws gathered at Coyote, in Rio Arriba County, under the leadership of Jose Ignacio Garcia and Juan Lopez and for a time continued their nefarious work. They are said to have killed five men, but the names of only two are known—Henry Brome and F. J. Tazer.[52] A posse under Deputy Sheriff Spears, one of whose men was seriously wounded in the process, finally arrested and jailed them at Tierra Amarilla.[53]

George Coe returned to the Ruidoso on November 15, 1884. Years later he wrote a book in which he rather plaintively recalled that his neighbors at Farmington “were rather unsociable and made little effort to be friendly to us or to establish closer relations.” Unfortunately his book gives a very scanty account of the troubles there and contributes almost nothing to our knowledge of what took place. He died at Roswell on November 14, 1941.

Years later Jones, editor of the Rico Dolores News from 1879 to 1886 and author of the letter to Governor Wallace in which Stockton and Eskridge offered to surrender, looked back over the days of his youth:

I had been trying to help men who were in the main most unworthy. In extenuation I can plead my youth and that life out there at that state was in the raw. While I was never a riding member of the band, I was supporting it in every way for the reasons . . . that I believed them seriously imposed upon and wholly right in fighting for property rights. But it drew me into a vortex where I was perilously near ruin.[54]

Perhaps no better summary can be made.


1. Philip J. Rasch, “Five Days of Battle,” Denver Westerners Brand Book, vol. 11 (1956), pp. 293‑323.

2. Rasch, “Exit Axtell: Enter Wallace,” NMHR, vol. 32 (x'), PP231‑45.

3. Probably David M. Easton, a Justice of the Peace who had been talking with Billy the Kid when Roberts was shot.

4. Mesilla Independent, June 14, 1879.

5. Eskridge, 22, was from New Jersey; Garrett, 23, from Mississippi.

6. Rico (Colorado) Dolores News, March 27 and April 7, 1880.

7. Ibid., March 27, 1880.

8. Ibid., June 20 and September 4, 1880.

9. Stanley W. Zamonski, “Rougher Than Hell,” Denver Westerners Brand Book, vol. 13 (1958), pp. 297‑3 18.

10. Rico Dolores News, June 5, 1880.

11. Porter Stockton was born about 1851 or 1852. The contemporary papers credit him with having killed between twelve and nineteen men, the first one when only twelve years old. He was indicted for “assault to murder” in Erath County, Texas, in 1871, but got away to New Mexico. In 1876 he murdered Antonio Archbie at Cimarron, fled to Colorado, was brought back and jailed, but, with Ike’s aid, promptly escaped. He next turned up at Glorietta, where he shot a man, although not fatally. In June 1879 he murdered William Withers in Otero, N.M. It was believed that he mistook his victim for the local marshal, “Hurricane Bill” Martin, who had had the temerity to arrest him. He also appears to have been implicated in the killing of deputy sheriff Harry Bassett at that town in mid‑November 1879. The Stocktons returned to Texas for a time, but in the spring of 1880, Porter opened a saloon at Baughl’s Station. He soon drifted up to Animas City, and became marshal. On July 3, 1880 he wounded a Captain Hart when the latter refused to surrender his gun. Stockton is also reported to have killed a horse thief named Den Gannon. On September 16, 1880, his bullet grazed the scalp of J. W. Allen, a Maori barber who had the misfortune to nick his face while shaving him, and he pistol‑whipped the man unmercifully. Port was arrested, but, when taken to the hotel that night for supper, he jumped out of a window and escaped.

12. George W. Coe, Frontier Fighter (New York, 1934).

13. Rico Dolores News, January 29, 1881.

14. Las Vegas Daily Gazette, January 16, 1881.

15. Santa Fe Weekly New Mexican, February 26, 1881.

16. Durango Record, cited in Rico Dolores News, April 23, 1881.

17. Rico Dolores News, March 12, 1881.

18. Allison was born in Virginia ca. 1831. He is said to have first appeared in Nevada in 1879, under the name of Charles Ennis, as a salesman for a concern which manufactured handcuffs. He got into some sort of trouble in Carson, pawned his samples, and became a brakeman. He lived in Eureka, Nevada for a time, but fell into trouble there, took a horse at the point of a gun, and made his departure. He was captured and sentenced to seven years imprisonment but escaped from the train carrying him to the penitentiary. After a brief career as a stage robber, he went to Colorado where has was appointed deputy sheriff of Conejos County. In March 1881 he shot Andy Guinan in Durango. Allison was 5´‑7 1/4˝ tall, dark complexion, grey eyes, and had brown hair.

19. Durango Record, March 3, 1881.

20. Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, April 5, 1881.

21. Las Vegas Gazette, April 8, 1881.

22. Rico Dolores News, January 1, 1881.

23. Max Frost to Lew Wallace, Report No. 3, April 3, 1881; Report No. 6, April 5, 1881. State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe, New Mexico (hereinafter cited as SRC).

24. Durango Record, cited in Rico Dolores News, April 16, 1881.

25. Ouray Times, cited in Rico Dolores News, April 30, 1881.

26. Las Vegas Daily Gazette, May 21, 1881.

27. Santa Fe Weekly New Mexican, May 24, 1881,

28. Rico Dolores News, May 21, 1881; William B. Haines to Lew Wallace, May 21, 1881, SRC.

29. Haines to Wallace, April 12, 1881, SRC.

30. Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, May 27, 1881.

31. Rico Dolores News, May 28, 1881.

32. Ibid.

33. Rico Dolores News, May 21, 1881.

34. Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, June 12, 1881.

35. Las Vegas Morning Gazette, June 5, 1881.

36. Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, June 19 and 21, 1881; Frank A. Hyatt, 'The Capture of the Allison Gang,” Colorado Magazine, vol. 12 (1935), pp. 222‑24.

37. Rico Dolores News, July 2, 1881.

38. Denver Republican, August 12, ,1881.

39. Trinidad Daily News, August 30, 1881.

40. George E. West, “The Oldest Range Man,” Pioneers of the San Juan Country, vol. 2 (Colorado Springs, 1946), pp. 117‑18.

41. Charles A. Jones, “The Lynching of Bert Wilkerson,” Pioneers of the San Juan Country, vol. 3 (Durango, Colorado, 1952), pp. 68‑76.

42. Durango Herald, September 29, 1881.

43. Jones, loc. cit.

44. Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, October 8, 1888,.

45. Las Vegas Daily Optic, February 20, 1882.

46. Rico Dolores News, March 18, 1882.

47. West, op. cit.

48. Gunnison News‑Democrat, September 23, 1888, cited in Rico Dolores News, October 1, 1882.

49. F. Stanley, Ike Stockton (Denver, 1959), p. 158.

50. Personal records of Charles A. Jones.

51. Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, October 31 and November 1, 1882.

52. Santa Fe New Mexican Review, June 17, 1883.

53. Ibid., August 22, 1883.

54. Jones, loc. cit.