February 13, 2011

Historic Weather Then and Now

The winter of 2011 will go down in history as the coldest on record--one not likely to be broken for some time. Early February 2011 saw the coldest temperatures ever documented across New Mexico: 34 below zero near Edgewood; 28 below at Taos; and 10 below at Hillsboro.

Cecil Boyd tows a car after a 1918 storm. Tom Ying's restaurant is in the background, the present-day Black Range Museum. Photo Black Range Musuem

According to Reverend Russ Bowen, the official National Weather Service record-keeper for Hillsboro, he documented 10 below on February 3, the lowest temperature since record-keeping started in Hillsboro. Bowen who pastors at the Union Church and has a college degree in meteorology, says that weather records for Hillsboro date to the 1890s, but they were taken sporadically. The record-keeping improved in the 1920s, particularly related to precipitation.  But in 1954, Hillsboro resident, the late Roy Schoenradt, kept a full complement of records in earnest: precipation, highs and lows, dew point, wind and so forth. Schoenradt kept the official National Weather Service records until his death in the 1990s, when his son John took over for a short spell.  Bowen has been the record-keeper since.

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." --Herodotus
Photo Black Range Museum

The freeze of 1971 had been the coldest of cold spells for Hillsboro. Bowen says that the low for that event was +1 degree for a low -- 11 degrees warmer than this latest historic event.

Bad weather has visited upon Hillsboro many times, and it was usually floods making headlines. But snow and cold have laid a pallor over town a time or two.  -- Craig Springer

February 1, 2011

February 1, 1896 - Remembering the Fountain Murders

Today marks the 115th anniversary of the murder of young Henry Fountain and his dad, Judge Albert J. Fountain. After securing indictments on Oliver Lee and his acolytes at the Lincoln County Courthouse for stealing cattle, Albert and his eight-year-old son, Henry Fountain, headed back home to Mesilla. They never arrived.

Henry Fountain was murdered at age eight, February 1, 1896

From all the blood and the signs of a struggle at Chalk Hill near present-day White Sands National Monument, they were presumed murdered. The bodies of Henry and his dad were never found.

After three years of evading authorities, and deft political maneuvering by Albert Bacon Fall, Oliver Lee and Jim Gililland came to trial, accused of murdering the boy. Knowing that public opinion was not in their favor in Las Cruces, the defense sought a change of venue -- to Hillsboro.

The trial in May of 1899 would be the most sensational event the town of Hillsboro would ever see, perhaps save for twice being occupied by federal troops during the Apache wars. After a three-week trial that made headlines in newspapers across the country, Lee and Gililland were acquitted. The prosecution faltered from the start; key witnesses didn't show up.

Some historians say they got away with murder. Others reason that the Territory tried the wrong men. The lens of time doesn't bode well for Lee and Gililland and Fall. Apologists for Lee cite the code of the times, where a man that needed killing got killed. Albert Fountain had a way of bringing out the hate in his enemies. Henry, we need to remember, was eight years old. No one ever stood trial for the murder of Albert Fountain.

Many good books have been written about these historic events that culminated in a stately Victorian brick courthouse on the rise above Hillsboro. Murder on the White Sands by Corey Recko is the most recent. History professor, Gordon Owen wrote, The Two Alberts: Fountain and Fall. C.L. Sonnichsen's Tularosa: Last of the Frontier West is a classic. Former territorial governor, George Curry, wrote about his personal experience in the matter late in his life from his home in Kingston in, George Curry, 1861-1947: An Autobiography.

Murder on the White Sands is the most recent book about the Fountain murders. Recko takes the reader through the disappearance and the trial, and offers analysis.

You can also visit Oliver Lee Memorial State Park .