VIOLENCE IN LINCOLN COUNTY, 1869-1881
Facsimile of the Original 1957 Edition
By William A. Keleher
New Foreword by Marc Simmons. Preface by Michael L. Keleher
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Lincoln County, New Mexico was once one of the largest counties in the United States and was the setting for a famous feud which lit up the horizon of history. Here between 1869 and 1881 were all the explosive ingredients for violence. On one side of the county was the Mescalero Apache reservation. A day away was an Army fort to keep the Indians “subdued.” Along the Pecos River were hundreds of thousands of acres of public land, much of it claimed by settlers with deeds of “Squatters’ Rights.” Conflicts over land, politics, cattle and money, sparked by the tempers of young men fueled with six-shooters and cheap whiskey, set fire to the whole tinderbox.
What became known as The Lincoln County War began over a dispute for the insurance money of Emil Fritz. It flared when the killing of John H. Tunstall became an international incident and started a chain reaction of murders. The Battle of Blazer’s Mill presaged the four sultry days in July when Colonel N. A. M. Dudley marched U.S. troops into Lincoln and sided with the Dolan-Riley contingent against the McSween faction. This, along with the crack of Pat Garrett’s pistol which ended the life of Billy the Kid, signaled the end of the outlaw heyday.
Lew Wallace, governor of New Mexico (and author of Ben Hur), then wrote to Washington: “It gives me pleasure to report New Mexico in a state of quiet,” thus bringing to a close a conflagration without parallel in the American West. Long out of print, the book is available once again with a new foreword by Marc Simmons and preface by Michael L. Keleher, William A. Keleher’s son.
William A. Keleher (1886-1972) observed first hand the changing circumstances of people and places of New Mexico. Born in Lawrence, Kansas, he arrived in Albuquerque two years later, with his parents and two older brothers. The older brothers died of diphtheria within a few weeks of their arrival. As an adult, Keleher worked for more than four years as a Morse operator, and later as a reporter on New Mexico newspapers. Bidding a reluctant farewell to newspaper work, Keleher studied law at Washington & Lee University and started practicing law in 1915. He was recognized as a successful attorney, being honored by the New Mexico State Bar as one of the outstanding Attorneys of the Twentieth Century. One quickly observes from his writings, and writings about him, that he lived a fruitful and exemplary life. He is also the author of Turmoil in New Mexico, Maxwell Land Grant, The Fabulous Frontier, and Memoirs, all from Sunstone Press.
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