• Ashley Wagner

Lincoln, NM Part II

"President Rutherford Hayes called Lincoln’s byway “the most dangerous street in America.” He was referring to the bloody Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid, its infamous gun hand.

The Lincoln County War was a conflict between rival cattle barons in 19th century New Mexico Territory. In the early 1870’s two men by the names of Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan owned the only store in Lincoln County — Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking (would later become the courthouse where Billy the Kid wild escape and kill Deputies Olinger and Bell). Before long, Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking monopolized the trade of the county, controlling pricing, making immense profits on their goods, and virtually having a hand in nearly every part of the economy of the large county.

In 1877 Alexander McSween, a lawyer, and John Tunstall, a wealthy 24-year old English cattleman and banker, set up a rival business called H.H. Tunstall & Company near the one owned by Dolan, Murphy and Riley. Furious at this development, Dolan attempted to goad Tunstall into a gunfight. However, Tunstall refused to use violence himself but soon recruited Billy the Kid, officially, as a “cattle guard.” However, in February, 1878, Tunstall was killed, allegedly on the orders of Murphy and Dolan. The murder started the Lincoln County War, which would take the lives of 19 men, including an unarmed Alexander McSween.

When McSween’s widow hired an attorney named Huston Chapman to investigate the Dolan faction for her husband’s death, Chapman was murdered in February, 1879. Dolan was accused of the crime but with the help of powerful friends, the case against him was dropped.

In the meantime, Dolan purchased the property previously owned by John Tunstall, including his store and his ranch.

Amazingly, Dolan would later serve as Lincoln County Treasurer and be elected to the Territorial Senate.

James Dolan died on his ranch on February 6, 1898, probably due to heavy alcoholism.”

Pink house owned by Dr. Watson. There was once a drug store in one of the rooms.

Source: Legends of America


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