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!

1. Dowlin's Mill

"My father Eugene Dow, moved to Fort Stanton in 1869, he helped to build a number of the old buildings that still stand at Ft. Stanton today... After finishing his job at Fort Statnton, he and...Tom Kinney went to Ruidoso River to a place about 20 miles southwest of the fort...and they built two mills for Will and Paul Dowlin, a grist and saw mill. This was known as Dowlin's Mill...a part of the old building and water wheel are still on the spot and are today one of the showplaces of Ruidoso. 

Lawrence H. Dow, 1938 

Excerpted from Voices of the Past (LCHS publication #7)

From Lincoln County Historical Society Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2004

2. Annie E. Lesnett's husband purchased half ownership in Dowlin's Mill and had many unususal advntures there as well. "The Mescalero Indians...used to come to our place and trade.  I was always good to the Indians.  I gave them doughnuts and cookies when they came to the Mill and it was not long until all were my friends.  Geronimo used to come to our place...once he brought me a big wild turkey and another time he gave me a basketl:  In 1882, her husband bought out the interest of the Dowlin Brothers.

Excerpted from Old Lincoln County Pioneer Stories (LCHS publication #3)

From Lincoln County Historical Society Newsletter, Fall Winter 2004

3.  "It could happen--those tasty, whole-wheat muffins you enjoy some morning just might be baked from flour ground at the old Dowlin Mill.  For that mill, built about 1850 by a former officer of the Union army, today is still doing business. at Ruidoso. 

  The builder was Captain Paul Dowlin.  He received his discharge from the Union Army at Ft. Stanton and since he had taken a fancy to the picturesque White Mountains south of his army post, he decided to linger on.  Dowlin had an eye for business and he figured, what with the beautiful Hondo Valley, the site would be a good location for a mill.  Too, the Apache Indian Reservation was nearby.

  Captain Dowlin was not a man to hesitate once he had arrived at a decision.  He soon had a mill standing along the river.  Settlers and Indians alike began bringing in their corn and other grains to bre ground at Dowlin's Mill.

  The big wheel of the mill hadn't been turning long, however, when there was a flood and Dowlin's enterprise was washed out.  But the ex-Army captain was not easily daunted by either nature or man. He salvaged the great water wheel and grinding stones and soon rebuilt his mill where it now stands.  This time, however, it was back far enough from the river so that high waters never again would be a menace. Dowlin diverted waters from both the Ruidoso stream and Carrizo Creek by means of a ditch to turn his mill wheel. The building was a sprawling affair, measuring 20x100 feet, with thick adobe walls.

Not long after Dowlin had his new mill in operation, he was joined in operating the business by his brother, Will Dowlin, of Pennsylvania.  Soon a community grew up around Dowlin's Mill.  The big, adobe mill building now also housed a kitchen mess hall, a smoke room and a blacksmith shop.  A stockade was built nearby for cattle and horses.

  Will Dowlin secured a government contract to supply beef to the Apaches.  Once a year, the Indians would leave their tepees high in the White Mountains and come down to the mill community for the delivery of their beeves on hoof.  The occasion was momentous one for the Apaches.  The would butcher a steer on the spot and the festivities would begin.

  A huge bonfire would be built along the road by the mill.  Here the butchered beef would be roasted and the Apaches would gorge themselves on the juicy meat.  Then they would dance. The celebration would continue for several days.

  Activity at Dowlin's Mill continued to increase.  Then, in 1874, Murphy and Fritz in Lincoln lost their contract to furnish merchandise and beef to the soldiers at Ft. Stanton. Here was another opportunity for Captain Paul Dowlin to add to his fortunes.  He bought the stock and supplies of Murphy and Fritz and moved to Ft. Stanton. But being loath to give up his mill, he hired Frank Lesnett, another ex-soldier for the Union Army, to operate it for him.  Captain Dowlin continued this arrangement for the next 10 years.  Then one day, he and a cowboy, Jerry Dillon, settled an old score with firearms on a hill just behind the mill.  Both Dowlin and Dillon were killed.

  Some time before this, a titled Englishman--Lord Cree--had come to the United States and was living in New Mexico. He had begun amassing a fortune in land and cattle in Lincoln County.  After the death of Captain Dowlin, Lord Cree bought his mil and placed Charles Wingfield in charge.

  At this period, life in the community was in high gear.  The sprawling adobe mill building now also housed a post office. The building became the setting for political meetings and a favorite site for free-and-easy dances.  Men with six-shooters on their hips came there to play poker for high stakes.  Bill the Kid and Pat Garrett often could be seen there, either kicking up their heels to a lively tune or sitting in on a poker game.

  Another frequent visitor at the mill community was Gen. John J. Pershing, then a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army, stationed at Ft. Stanton.  Pershing, usually was accompanied by two of his army buddies, Paddock and Penn.  The three became known to the natives as the "Green P's" because of their naiveness in the ways of hill folk.

  Years later, after the death of Lord Cree, Dowlin's Mill became idle.  It remained so until the 1930's when a women's chamber of commerce at Ruidoso was granted permission to operate the historic landmark.  However, only the big wheel turned, no grain was ground.  After a few summers, the women abandoned the project.

Excerpts from Ruidoso's Old Mill by Virginia Chappell

From Lincoln County Historical Society Newsletter Fall/Winter 2004