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Episode 25 - From Territorial Brawls to Bacon Standoffs
Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is brought to you from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World.
Let us start with a good old New Mexico history story. When the Territorial New Mexico Legislature met in 1867, Dona Ana county did not have all of their legislative representation in the House chamber because, get this, one of their elected representatives was instead in jail. And he was in jail on a charge of murder. How did this happen Michael?
The representative from Dona Ana County was Las Cruces attorney William Rynerson. He was accused of murdering The Chief Justice of the Territorial New Mexico Supreme Court.
It is an interesting historical story. William Logan Rynerson was born February 22, 1828 in Kentucky. Over a few years he studied in Indiana and in 1852 followed the Gold Rush to California where he tried his hand at Gold Mining with little success and studied law with on Samuel B. Axtel who over the subsequent years was a Chief Justice of the New Mexico Territorial Supreme Court after being at one time and another the Territorial Governor of New Mexico and at another time Utah Territorial Governor but this has nothing to with the story.
So very tall, some say almost seven-foot-tall William Rynerson was in California when the Civil War broke out and there were many Union Supporters in California. He organized a company of infantry soldiers, Company C, First Infantry of the California Column which was organized to push the Confederacy out of New Mexico when Confederate soldiers had taken the southern Rio Grande Valley early in 1862. Rynerson became a Captain of the Infantry.
The Confederate soldiers fled New Mexico after losing the Battle of Glorieta before the California Column arrived. The Column was set up in Las Cruces and established Martial law since many of the locals were Southern sympathizers. The soldiers spent their time, among other things, building roads. In fact, it was many of them who built Fort Seldon in 1865.
After the war was over and the California Column mustered out more than 300 of them stayed for some time or the rest of their lives in the Mesilla valley. We know that about 90 of the veterans settled in the Mesilla Valley such as Albert Fountain. William Rynerson, by then a Lt. Colonel, mustered out and was involved in the valley. He was elected to the Territorial Legislature. Oh yes, we are talking about him being charged with murder. In 1867 when he was a legislator he got in a fight with 1st Colorado Infantry Brigadier General and also Territorial Chief Justice of New Mexico John Slough after Slough in writing attacked a friend. Rynerson tried to get him removed from the office. At the Exchange Hotel in Santa Fe Slough drew a gun and shouted shoot and be damned, which is last thing said since Rynerson shot and killed him. A jury acquitted Rynerson. He rejoined the legislature. I’ll do a people story on him one of these Wednesdays because we haven’t even gotten the Billy the Kid part.
More history of New Mexico. Did you know that in 1876 Citizens of Grant County New Mexico, that is the area over by Silver City and to the west voted to remain part of New Mexico? There was quite a controversy that people in Silver City would understand even today.
In the 1870s the railroad had not come to that part of New Mexico so when citizens of Grant County went to the Capital of Territorial New Mexico it was a very long trip since it was more than 350 miles on foot or wagon. Usually, ti took about 10 days each way. At the time the Territorial Capital of Arizona was Tucson which was half the distance so much faster.
But think of the map of New Mexico if Grant County were gone. That would not look very good at all. And at this time in 1876 the vote in Grant County was to stay with New Mexico. Thank goodness for that.
That causes me to think of a very small Ghost Town to the West of Silver City and near Grant County but technically in Catron County. The name in the history books and even today is Alma, New Mexico which in the last Census had 47 residents. I was a U. S. Census Supervisor who did work in the area a couple day out of the year and enjoyed the drive. Alma is North of Glenwood and South of Reserve and very much on the Western border of New Mexico. The town was laid out in the early 1870s by James Cooney and then was bought by a Captain Birney who named it Alma for his mother. In 1882 the U. S. Post Office opened and was there until closing in 1931. Alma was in the Wilds of New Mexico where there was little organized law therefore outlaws felt safe and often were welcomed by the WS Ranch since if they were working at the ranch, there was absolutely no cattle rustling going on.
Some of the famous outlaws included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid along with other members of the Wild Bunch who came south in the winters for a milder winter than were in their so-called Hole in the Wall hideout in Wyoming. Robert Leroy Parker who went by Butch Cassidy and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh better known as the Sundance Kid gave us a fine movie written by William Goldman, some of which was close to the real story.
Goldman did not let the exact truth mess up a very fine movie with Robert Redford and Paul Newman in their 1969 movie, Butch Cassiday and the Sundance Kid which won a bunch of Academy and other awards, and the film is now considered on of the best films in the last hundred years. Plus, as any who have seen it can attest, it is a fun movie with lots of great lines. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I believe that Butch Cassidy, Robert Leroy Parker did not, I repeat, did not die in Bolivia like the movie contend. Rather he changed his name and married a woman who had an office supply business in Utah but no one is sure other than there is some DNA evidence to suggest that. At least that is what I believe.
Another historical fact for a Friday Podcast. Pat Garrett, Sheriff of Lincoln County captured Billy the Kid and other outlaws with, get this, bacon. Strange story but true.
Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett and a Posse of deputized citizens were after the lawless gang of men: Billy the Kid, Charlie Bowdre, Billy Wilson, Dave Rudabaugh, Tom O’Folliard and Tom Picket. Tough bad men all. Forget what you saw in the Hollywood movies. On December 19, 1880, in the middle of a snowstorm they rode into Fort Sumner, NM. Garrett and his posse were waiting. A gunfight ensued in the dark street. Garrett’s Posse opened fire and killed Tom O’Folliard and the rest of the outlaws in the confusion made their escape.
But it was winter in a snowstorm so three days later the Posse and Sheriff Garrett found the outlaws in a place called Stinking Springs about 30 miles east of Fort Sumner. Outlaw Charlie Bowdre was shot and killed at dawn as he was coming out of the door of a one room house at Stinking Springs and the rest of the outlaws were trapped but all had their rifles and for a while there was a standoff. The posse couldn’t dig the outlaws out of the adobe house and the outlaws could not escape. Pat Garrett had an idea or perhaps one of the posse had the idea, but they built a fire as the hours went by and started cooking. They made cowboy coffee, and the touch that ended the siege was that they started cooking bacon upwind of the house. The men inside who had not eaten in a couple days could only sit and smell the bacon smell. Can you see this in your life sitting after not eating in a while and smelling bacon.
Yep, they put out a white cloth and surrendered upon the promise of something to eat which after being disarmed and covered by firearms they were fed. And on to trial where Billy the Kid was found guilty of participating in the killing of a lawman in Lincoln NM and was sentenced in Mesilla to hang in Lincoln on May 13, 1881. Did you know who his attorney was? Because he had no money an attorney was appointed. It was none other than the very famous Albert Fountain, Sr. I will write more about the Billy trial which was actually three trials and only the last trial convicted him. Trivia: could Billy have appealed the conviction? No, he had no money to do so even though Judge Bristol made a very serious mistake in the instructions to the jury. More about that another time. And of course, you know that Billy did escape before he was to hang, but was found and killed July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner.
At the Hatch Chile Festival which starts the first three days of September over the Labor Day weekend I am looking forward to seeing the renowned Cowboy Chef, Kent Rollins, making delicious things and telling lots of stories. I am looking forward to seeing Kent in person. I have watched him on television show so long… how long… so long I think I know him personally. He not only tells about Cowboy delicious cooking, he shows how it is done and lots and lots of great cooking tips like how to make the fried chicken really crispy. And, this is important, it doesn’t just work for him. When I use his cooking methods, it even work for me. Come see him In Hatch at the Hatch Chile Festival. He will be on Saturday, September 2nd.
Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.
A little Chile news: One thing is for sure: all Chile Peppers are not the same. Some have more or less taste heat than others, some taste a bit sweeter. Well now, the same is true with onions. Those are onions that are not as strong, not as pungent as other onions. They are also used in the development of a new product at the Fresh Chile Company.
It is Hatch Sweet Onion Dressing. Great on Mashed Potatoes and on steaks. About ten percent of the onions grown in our area are Sweet in nature meaning they are not as strong which is what some people like. This Hatch Sweet Onion Dressing is so very good, words are not enough, you must try it. Use checkout code Podcast15 to get 15% off your order this week.
One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or happen to be in our little slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
I need to tell you about some new products at the Fresh Chile Company that I find wonderful. There is a Local Honey with Hatch Red Chile that is great on biscuits. French fries are so much more with the Fresh Chile Company’s Hatchup which is ketchup and Hatch Red Chile. Come browse and there are many more surprises that I assure you are wonderful. Again, from Monday to Saturday, the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better.” Bye for now.