Lincoln County New Mexico Historical Society
Lincoln County Historical Society located in historic Lincoln County New Mexico

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  Explore Lincoln County New Mexico History and the legend of Billy the Kid!

Charles D. Mayer, WPA Life History

I have lived in Lincoln County New Mexico for fifty-four years.  I was born in New York state and grew up in the state of Ohio.  I left Ohio when I was twenty one years old and came by train to Las Vegas New Mexico in the latter part of 1883.  Soon after arriving in Las Vegas I heard of the White Oaks gold mines so I left Las Vegas for White Oaks.  I went by rail from Las Vegas to San Antonio New Mexico and from there to White Oaks by freight wagons as there was a train of wagons freighting into White Oaks at that time.

These wagons were drawn by mules and horses and it took about a week to make the trip.  I arrived in White Oaks in the early part of January 1884, and it was very cold weather.  There were not very many buildings in the town at that time and what few there were built of logs.  I opened up a blacksmith shop and did work for the miners and also shod horses, mules, and oxen for the freighters and for the farmers in the surrounding country.

I ran my blacksmith shop for twelve years, sold out in 1896 and went into the general merchandise business there in White Oaks. After the mines closed down in White Oaks, I moved to Carrizozo and put in a general merchandise and grocery store which I ran until my health failed and I retired from business in 1929.  When I first came to Lincoln County it was two hundred and fifty miles from east to west and one hundred and fifty miles from north to south, making it one of the largest counties in the State.

First, Eddy and Chaves counties were cut off from Lincoln County, then Otero and the last one cut off was Torrance, and still Lincoln is a fair sized county. IN the year 1886, I was appointed deputy sheriff for the White Oaks district.  My first man hunt as deputy was for a man named George Musgrave, who killed a fellow by the name of George Parker at a round up camp.

Parker and Musgrave had been partners in the cattle business with headquarters about thirty miles east of Rockwell.  They were caught with some cattle that did not belong to them and Parker went before the grand jury and  had Musgrave indicted for illegally branding these cattle.  In some way, Musgrave was tipped off that the law was looking for him and he skipped out to Arizona.

There he meta man called "Black Jack" and the two went into the cattle business in the Hachita Mountains of Arizona.  This man Black Jack would never tell where he was from or who his parents were.  They told [?] him that he could offer up a prayer as long as his rifle, and a good prayer too, so he must have been brought up in a Christian home as a boy.  After these men had worked together for a while, Musgrave told Black Jack that there was a man in New Mexico that he wanted to go back and kill and asked Black Jack if he wanted to go with him and help do the job.

They set out for Lincoln County and came by the stagecoach road.  At the head of the Mal Pais they held up and robbed the White Oaks stagecoach.  They went on to Lincoln and inquired if there were any round ups going on in the county.  They were informed there was one going on up on the Mesa above Picacho, New Mexico. 

The two men left at once for the round up and arrived at the chuck wagon just before dinner.  Musgrave knew all the cattlemen and the country real well.  When they got to the chuck wagon, Musgrave asked the cook if George Parker was with the outfit.

The cook replied that he was and would be in for dinner in a short while.  Musgrave, Black Jack and several cowboys were eating dinner when one of the cowboys pointed to a rider coming in and said "there comes Parker now".  Musgrave turned to the cowboys and said, "Boys, I have traveled one thousand miles to kill that fellow and I guess I will do it now." Musgrave and Black Jack rose and picked up their rifles.

Black Jack said tot he cowboys, "Now, this is our fight and I will kill the first man that interferes." Musgrave walked out to meet Parker and told him to get off of his horse.  Just as Parker hit the ground, Musgrave fired and Parker fell, mortally wounded.  Parker was riding a brand new saddle and Musgrave took his old saddle off his horse and put Parker's new saddle on it  and the two men, Musgrave and Black Jack, rode away toward the Diamond A ranch, near Roswell.

Andy Neighbauer was foreman of the Diamond A outfit at that time and these two men stopped there at the ranch and exchanged their tired and worn out horses for two nice, fat, fresh horses and went on their way.

The took the same route back to Arizona that they had traveled coming in to Lincoln County and again robbed the White Oaks stagecoach at the head of the Mal Pais at the very same place as before.

I was in Roswell at the time and as I was the deputy sheriff, I was asked by the sheriff George Cutty to form a posse and follow these two men.  I went to White Oaks and picked five good men, Same Wells, Frank CRumb, Charlie White, Earnes Octen and a fllow by the name of Zutes.  (He was from Kentucky and a brave man.  I never knew his first name, we alwasys just called him "Zutes".)

We started to follow Musgraves and black Jack.  wE crossed the San Andres Mountains and came out on the Jordano Flats and on to the Rio Grande River.  When we got to the river, it was on a rampage and running bank full of muddy water.  We stopped and debated as to how we could get across without losing too much time.

There were lots of whirlpools in the river and we were afraid of getting into one of these, but finally decided to take off our clothes and put them in a tow sack and tie them on our saddles.  I jumped my horse off in the river and caught hold of his tail and swam across safely.  I watched eadch man cross in the same way, then we all put on our clothes and headed due west.  We traeled for two days and when we got to within about one mile of Fairview, New Mexico, we stopped to rest our horses and decide what to do next.

We decided that I shold go on into Fairview and see what I could find out.  I went to the post office and met the postmaster and told him my mission.  He said he was also a deputy sheriff and would do anything he could to help me.  He pointed to a man leaning against the hitching post and said,
See that man there, he owns a ranch in the [Mogollon?] Mountains and it is headquarters for all the cattle and horse thieves and you are going into a very dangerous and rough country for these men."

He advised very strongly that we turn back.  I went back and talked it over with my posse and it was decided that we would not go on any farther.  We came back through the Black Range by way of Magdalena, Socorro and San Antonio, New Mexico, where the Santa Fe Railroad had built a bridge across the Rio Grande River and we crossed safely on that.  We arrived home tired and worn and had failed to get our man.  Under the laws of New Mexico, we were not entitled to any mileage or fees as we had made no arrests, but Sheriff George Curry went before the County Commissioners and asked them to allow me my actual expenses which was around $80.00, which they did.

On one of the first passenger trains run on the El Paso & Northeastern railroad, a cowboy go on the train at Corona, New Mexico.  When the conductor came around and said, "Ticket, please," the cowboy replied" Hell,I have no ticket, but if you will stop this train, I will go back to Corona and get one."  The conductor told him that he could not do that but the next stop would be Carrizozo and he could get a ticket ther and asked, "Where do you want to go?"  The cowboy replied, "To Hell."  The  conductor smiled and said, "Well, Carrizozo is as near as we can get you," so the cowboy stayed in Carrizozo.

NARRATOR: Charles D. Mayer, Carrizozo, New Mexico.  Aged 79 years.  From the WPA files.

from the Lincoln County Historical Society newsletter, Summer, 2015