May 28, 2010

Jailhouse door

Valentina Madrid and Alma Lyons no doubt heard the thud of hammers on planks, as men built the gallows outside this jail cell. The two gals were sentenced to hang by Judge Frank W. Parker for the premeditated murder of Valentina's husband, Manuel Madrid. Manuel's demise, and the eventual outcome of the sentencing are well documented in Robert Torrez' book Myth of the Hanging Tree: Stories of Crime and Punishment in Territorial New Mexico.

The Hillsboro Historical Society seeks to purchase and preserve this building and the attending courthouse ruin. Photo courtesy Craig Springer

Sierra County Jail

The Sierra County jail house, as it appeared in 1966. The jail was home to a few bad guys and gals like, Oliver Lee, Jim Gilliland, "Kit" Joy, Valentina Madrid, and Alma Lyons. Photo courtesy Patti Nunn.

Historic Sierra County Courthouse in 2010

The courthouse east entrance, from the inside looking north. With the safe still in the courthouse ruin, it gives the sense of a hasty departure. Photo courtesy Craig Springer

Historic Sierra County Courthouse in 1976

The Sierra County Courthouse was sold, and fell into ruin. This is how it looked in 1976, taken by Ohio State University in a Historic American Buildings Survey.

The Hillsboro Historical Society seeks to purchase and stabilize the historic ruin, and its attending jail house. Photo American Memory Project, Library of Congress.

Albert Fall outside Sierra County Courthouse

Defense attorney, Albert Bacon Fall, looks smugly to the right. Oliver Lee stands immediately behind him, and Jim Gilliland with hand on lapel, looks to the camera.

This image was taken at the east door of the Sierra County Courthouse in 1899. Lee and Gilliland were tried and acquitted for the murder of 8-year-old Henry Fountain of Mesilla, NM. His father, Judge Albert Jennings Fountain, was also murdered. Judge Fountain was Fall's chief political rival. The bodies of the boy and dad were never located.

Fall went on to serve as a U.S. Senator, and Secretary of the Interior under President Harding. Fall became embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal with another former Sierra County resident, Ed Doheny. Fall was convicted of accepting bribes and went to prison. He died poor in 1944 in El Paso.

Lee and Gilliland were never tried for another crime, the killing a deputy of sheriff Pat Garrett's while trying to avoid arrest for the Fountain murders. The two men ranched in the Tularosa basin, Lee serving in the state legislature. Oliver Lee State Park encompasses part of his old ranch. Photo courtesy Patti Nunn.

May 24, 2010

Courthouse de-construction

A worker on the roof is tearing down the Sierra County Courthouse, after voters chose to move the county seat to Hot Springs (now Truth or Consequences) New Mexico. But it didn't happen without resistance.

Gov. George Curry thwarted a previous attempt to move the seat from Hillsboro to Cutter, so that a few folks could sell land, as he put it, in his autobiography.

Photo UNM Center for Southwest Research, William Kelehler Collection

May 23, 2010

Historic Sierra County Courthouse

This stately building was the site of the infamous Henry Fountain murder trial, 1899, involving prominent citizens of New Mexico, some of whom would later rise to national prominence.

The Hillsboro Historical Society seeks to buy the courthouse ruin to stabilize the effects of gravity, and potentially restore what's left.