May 31, 2011

Meet the Press - Kingston

by Craig Springer
Any reader of area history is familiar with this phrase, or a derivation: "It had 7,000 people, 22 saloons, 14 grocers, and three newspapers." We speak of Kingston. Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by James and Barbara Sherman, exemplifies the snapshot ghost town profiles that pack in the interesting and arcane fun facts of a rip-roaring past in a small printed space. The Shermans even name the three periodicals. Theirs is the story twice-told. But we're not telling it again here, because the Shermans had it wrong: Kingston had 10 newspapers!

Meet the Kingston press by order of appearance--and disappearance. Also included in this list is the frequency of publication. This is thanks in large part to the University of New Mexico Press book, The Territorial Press of New Mexico, by Porter Stratton.

While prospectors were scratching around on the east face of the Black Range as early as the late 1870s, industry had picked up by 1880. In September 1882, the town of Kingston was platted. The boom was on. According to one early observer, writing for the Engineering and Mining Journal who was there in November 1882, a printing press had already lumbered into town. That press seems probable to have belonged to this first Kingston newspaper on our list.

January - October 1883. Weekly. Tribune. Moved to Deming.

January - November 1884. Weekly. Clipper. Renamed the Sierra County Advocate.

November 1884 - March 1885. Weekly. Sierra County Advocate. Moved to Hillsboro March 1885.

April 1885 - March 1886. No publications per Stratton.

April  - July 1886. Weekly. Percha Shaft. Merged with Ledge summer 1886.

July 1886. Daily. Ledge.  Merged with Percha Shaft summer 1886.

July - December 1886. Weekly. Percha Shaft and Ledge. Became Daily Shaft.

December 1886 - March 1887. Daily. Daily Shaft. Became Weekly Shaft.

December 1886 - February 1887. Weekly. Black Range Herald. Combined with Sierra County Advocate.

Fall of 1888. Weekly. Sierra County Democrat. An election campaign publication.

March 1887 - December 1893. Weekly. Weekly Shaft. Moved to Rincon.

Newspapers came and went in Kingston. Based on Stratton, 10 newspapers called Kingston home but never did any of them compete with one another for any length. Only one periodical had any lasting life, the Weekly Shaft. It too found its end as did much of the boom town with the Panic of 1893.

Comparably, in the same time period (1883 - 1893) Albuquerque with a population of 3,785 in 1890 had 16 daily and weekly English-only newspapers, according to Stratton, many competing with one another for readers. Also it's worth noting that during the oft-reported heyday of Kingston, c. 1885 - 86 where some writers say Kingston reached its peak population, that no newspaper published in Kingston for an entire 12 months.

It begs the question, what was different with Kingston? Did Stratton miss something? Email or comment with your ideas.

May 26, 2011

Daisy Wilson Interviewed

Listen to what long-time Sierra County resident, Daisy Wilson, has to say about life back in the day. Miss Wilson lived in Lake Valley and her ancestor, Oliver Wilson, built the Victorio Hotel in Kingston in 1885, about five years after the Apache Victorio was killed in Mexico. You'll note the hotel photo in the video.  Daisy donated use of many photos for the forthcoming book, Around Hillsboro, for which the Hillsboro Historical Society is most grateful.Thanks go to Sherry Fletcher and Ann Wellborn, and Campo Espinoso.

May 22, 2011

Teapot Dome: Literature and Litigation

by Mark B. Thompson
I must admit my surprise in February 2008 when I first saw a Los Angeles Times book review of Laton McCartney’s book, The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country. Really! After over 80 years and numerous political scandals would Americans still be interested in a 1920’s political scandal? Notwithstanding the involvement of an ancestor in the litigation, (who died when I was only three years old), I had limited my reading to the chapter on Albert Bacon Fall in W.A. Keleher’s Fabulous Frontier, but with this new publication I thought I should see if I could get through a whole book.

McCartney’s book may not have been a “best seller” but you have to appreciate a writer who could start a bribery scandal story with a chapter on an Oklahoma oil man who wanted to be appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Harding, only to be killed by his mistress before Harding’s inauguration on March 4, 1921. As you might guess from the subtitle, McCartney takes a “tabloid” approach to the story and attempts to place Albert Fall of New Mexico, the Secretary of the Interior appointed by Harding, in the context of a corrupt Harding administration. Although it is an entertaining read, and one does learn the basics of the questionable leasing of public lands for oil development, it is not clear that McCartney succeeded in making “Teapot Dome” part of a larger “culture of corruption.” 
Albert Fall (l) and Ed Doheny, with lawyers Frank Hogan and Mark B. Thompson I. Fall and Doheny met in Kingston, NM in 1886. Attorney Thompson is connected to Hillsboro history too, having married Nicholas Galles' daughter, Georgia. This photo was taken during the Teapot Dome scandal trials on Oct. 2, 1929. Courtesy Associated Press
Having survived the first read, I next tried David Stratton’s Tempest over Teapot Dome: The Story of Albert B. Fall, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1998. As the subtitle implies, this is a biography of the “main character” of Teapot Dome and the book should please those interested in the New Mexico history. Stratton spends the first two thirds of his book laying the foundation for a story of one man’s malfeasance, not a conspiracy by “big oil” or the “Ohio gang” of President Harding. At the same time, Stratton’s extensive biography of Albert Fall in some ways shows that a “fall from grace” was not inevitable.  Without exonerating Fall of misdeeds, Stratton shows a different context, both political and personal.

W.A. Keleher, a prominent and successful lawyer in addition to his role as a New Mexico historian, does exonerate Fall, at least to the extent of saying he did not believe the evidence showed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Fall had committed a crime. [Keleher, in his 1962, revised edition of Fabulous Frontier recommends yet another full story, Burl Noggle, Teapot Dome: Oil and Politics in the 1920’s (LSU Press, 1962), which I have not yet read.] It should be noted that Keleher was referring to all of the evidence, not just the evidence submitted to the jury which convicted Fall in the Elk Hills bribery prosecution. On the other hand, we should not overlook the fact that Fall received “loan proceeds” and payment for an interest in his ranch clandestinely and asked a good friend, the publisher of the Washington Post, to lie to a Senate investigating committee. One could conclude that Fall knew he had abused his position as Secretary of the Interior.

What is called “the Teapot Dome scandal,” involved two separate “untapped” oil reserves held by the United States for the U.S. Navy, one at Elk Hills near Bakersfield, California and one north of Casper, Wyoming, commonly known as “Teapot Dome.” The two transactions which led to the scandal(s) are complex but they in essence involved Secretary Fall persuading President Harding to transfer some authority from the Secretary of the Navy to Interior and Fall’s use of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 to lease the reserves for exploration and development. As Fall negotiated the deals with their respective companies, he borrowed money from Edward Doheny, giving him a promissory note as consideration, and accepted government bonds from Harry Sinclair, ostensibly as the purchase price for an interest in Fall’s Three Rivers, New Mexico ranch in Otero County. A good synopsis of the two transactions, as well as the “side deals,” can be found in two U.S. Supreme decisions concluding the civil cases brought by the United States to set aside the leases. The holding of both cases is that the executive branch of the government lacked legislative authority to lease the naval oil reserves for development.

Because he is writing a biography, Stratton deals with two issues that are probably of keen interest to New Mexicans. The “defense” of Fall and Doheny in the three criminal cases involving Elk Hills was that Doheny had simply made a loan to a friend. In the final trial, the prosecution of Doheny for giving a bribe, the oilman took the stand and described his early days in Kingston, New Mexico and how Fall came along in 1886, the two men becoming good friends. Stratton does not directly dispute the stories of friendship, but implies that this “mining buddies” story was embellished. It may be that there is no independent evidence, like a partnership in business, for example, that would support the self-serving testimony at trial.

Stratton also covers Fall’s early mining ventures in Mexico and his career in the U.S. Senate. Fall served during the final effort by Congress to find the “common ground” necessary for passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, with Fall obviously taking the side of the states and natural resource developers. [See e.g., speeches on Aug. 22 & 25, 1919. (58 Cong. Rec. pp. 4168-71, 4269-70 & 4280-90).]  Fall, as Secretary of the Interior just a year after passage of the landmark law, might have taken the “high road,” using his bully pulpit to encourage exploitation of federal lands. We might know him today as the “anti-Gifford Pinchot,” a hero of natural resource development! Instead of becoming an embarrassment for New Mexicans, he might have been hailed as the man who moved our economy forward. One can imagine the legislature renaming a certain resource rich county, originally named for St. John in 1887, as “Albert Bacon Fall County.” It was not to be.

Mark B. Thompson, III is a former member of the New Mexico Bar. His grandfather, Mark B. Thompson, was Albert Bacon Fall's attorney. The eldest Thompson married Hillsboro native, Edith Georgia Galles, daughter of Sierra County pioneer, Nicholas Galles and wife Harriett Stocker Galles.

APPENDIX: The “Teapot Dome” litigation, mostly final results, in chronological order.

(1) December 16, 1926.  Fall and Doheny acquitted by jury of conspiracy to lease Elk Hills.  “Fall And Doheny Freed.” The New York Times (Friday, Dec. 17, 1926), p. 1.
(2) February 28, 1927. In a civil case brought by the government, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the court of appeals decision terminating the Elk Hills lease on the grounds that the lease violated federal law. Pan-American Petroleum & Transp. Co. v. United States, 273 U.S. 456 (1927).

(3) October 10, 1927.  In a civil case brought by the government, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the court of appeals decision terminating the Teapot Dome lease on the grounds that the lease violated federal law. Mammoth Oil Co. v. United States, 275 U.S. 13 (1927).  (In this case, the U.S. District Court in Wyoming had denied relief to the government.)

(4) April 21, 1928. Harry F. Sinclair acquitted of conspiring with Albert Fall to obtain Teapot Dome lease.  (Prosecution had originally charged both Fall and Sinclair but proceeded against Sinclair alone due to Fall’s obtaining a continuance due to his ill health; Fall never tried for this crime.)  “Sinclair Acquitted Of Oil Lease Fraud; Jury Out 2 Hours,” The New York Times (Sunday, April 22, 1928), p.1.

(5) October 25, 1929.  Fall found guilty by D.C. jury of taking a bribe from Doheny for the Elk Hills lease.  “Fall Found Guilty in Oil Bribe Case; Jury Asks Mercy,” The New York Times (Saturday, October 16, 1929), p. 1.

(6) March 22, 1930. Doheny is acquitted by a D.C. jury of giving the bribe to Fall to obtain the Elk Hills lease.  “Doheny Is Acquitted Of Fall Oil Bribe; Sees ‘Hounding’ Over,” The New York Times (Sunday, March 23, 1930), p. 1.

(7) April 6, 1931.  U. S. Court of Appeals upholds conviction of Fall for taking a bribe from Doheny.  Fall v. United States, 49 F.2nd 506 (D.C. Circuit 1931). (U.S. Sup. Ct. later denied certiorari, i.e. refused to hear the case.)  Fall is allowed to serve his time in the New Mexico State Penitentiary.  Santa Fe legend has it that he was allowed frequent visits by Mrs. Fall and possibly even unofficial “release time.”

In addition, two cases “arose out of” the Teapot Dome scandal, but technically are not part of the effort by the United States, in either civil or criminal proceedings, to set aside the leases and punish the wrongdoers.  On April 8, 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Harry Sinclair for contempt of Congress, i.e., refusing to give testimony to a Senate committee. (The opinion contains an outline of the Senate investigation history.)  Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263 (1929).  On June 3, 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Harry Sinclair and others for contempt of court, i.e. for “tampering” with the jury in the conspiracy case against Fall & Sinclair, which had resulted in a mistrial on November 2, 1927.  Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 749 (1929). Sinclair’s sentences for these two criminal convictions would be served concurrently in the District of Columbia jail.   

May 20, 2011

Congrats Class of 1931

This May 1931 Hillsboro High Times has more ads than copy. You can soon read the entire issue, plus the Feb-March 1931 issue at the Hillsboro Community Library, housed in the former high school. Both are a generous gift to the Hillsboro Historical Society from Sierra County resident, Celisse Behnen.
Hillsboro High Times, May 1931.
The Hillsboro High School was built in 1922 by the architectural firm Trost & Trost of El Paso. The architect's work not only graces Hillsboro's skyline, but that of El Paso, Tucson, and Albuquerque. Several New Mexico State University building were designed by Trost & Trost. The Hillsboro High School building is today the center of community activities, and the only public building left in the former Sierra County seat. --Craig Springer
A rendering of the Hillsboro High School, now the Hillsboro Community Center, drawn in 1921 by Trost & Trost. The original is housed at the El Paso Public Library.

May 10, 2011

Code Name: Geronimo

By Craig Springer
Unless you live under a rock, you no doubt have heard that the U.S. military evoked the name of a former (albeit transient) Sierra County, New Mexico, resident in its designs to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. "Operation Geronimo" was the tag given to the recent Navy Seal operation. President Obama confirmed in a recent 60 Minutes interview that when bin Laden was shot it was communicated by, "Geronimo - EKIA," code for "enemy killed in action."
The original "operation Geromino" went down in southern New Mexico 126 years ago, with there being significant U.S. Army and Apache activity at Kingston, Lake Valley, and Hillsboro. The threat of loss of life and property by Apaches was significant on a number of occasions from 1877 until 1886, such that commerce and travel were conducted at great risk. Observers at the time commented that Apache depredations prostrated the mining industry. Hillsboro was the first of the three towns to be founded, in 1877, followed by Lake Valley and Kingston in the early '80s.

The Apache, Geronimo, as he appeared before surrender in 1886. Geronimo and his band attacked outlying ranches near Lake Valley a few months before this image was taken. Library of Congress.
The Apache named Goyakla, or "One Who Yawns," was nicknamed "Geronimo" by the Mexican military when he escaped injury in gun fire, the Mexican soldiers evoking the name of St. Jerome for the Apache's remarkable luck in cheating death. "Geronimo" became an American war cry during World War II.

The U.S. Army put considerable resources on the ground to capture or kill the Apache paladin and his lieutenant so to speak, Naiche, the son of Cochise. Geromino's last outbreak from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation occurred in 1885 and lasted until his surrender in the fall of 1886. Some of those U.S. Army resources were at Camp Hillsboro/Camp Boyd, about a mile north of today's Hillsboro post office.
This string of U.S. Army soldiers are heading out of the Percha Creek bottom at Camp Hillsboro/Camp Boyd. The photo was taken by Kingston photographer, J.C. Burge circa late 1885. The camera looks toward the northeast, with Hillsboro only a short walk away. The former camp is on occupied private property. Courtesy Patti Nunn.

Naiche, seen here a prisoner of war circa 1898, was with Geronimo to the last. Library of Congress.
The national media carried news about the Indian campaign. The 1885 Harper's Weekly shows Ft Bayard soldiers in a training exercise. Ft Bayard is roughly 25 miles from where Geronimo last struck near Lake Valley. Library of Congress.
Companies of infantry and cavalry were stationed for about a year--mid-1885 until September of 1886--at Camp Hillsboro, later called Camp Boyd in honor of Capt. Orsemus Bronson Boyd who died in the Black Range. "Operation Geronimo," the one that unfolded in Pakistan last week, has come under criticism as being insensitive to Native Americans for relating the Apache to bin Laden. Understandably, American Indians, especially those who have proudly served in the U.S. military would rather not be viewed as in league as with an avowed enemy of the U.S. Witness New Mexico's own Navajo Code Talkers who were vital in the Pacific theatre in World War II.

But one cannot ignore the historical significance that Geronimo had locally--and nationally. Thousands of soldiers, both American and Mexican, were put on the ground in his pursuit. Hundreds of people died in the Geronimo campaign and other notable conflicts with Apache men, both his contemporaries, and in the years before him: Ulzana, Chihuahua, Victorio, Nana, Cochise, Mangas. Civilians, soldiers, and Apaches were victims of the violence.
U.S. Army surgeon and well known naturalist Edgar Mearns for whom Mearns quail is named took this image in eastern Arizona. Scenes like this unfolded near Lake Valley on Berrenda Creek, west of Hillsboro on Percha Creek, and through the Black Range. Library of Congress.
Geronimo was not only an enemy to the U.S. military, he was an enemy of some of his own Apache people. Companies of enlisted Apaches, led by U.S. Army officers chased after Geronimo. Geronimo murdered and kidnapped Anglo, Hispanic, and Apache people--men, women, and young children. He kidnapped Chief Loco's band and ensured that eventually all of the Chiricahua Apaches would be treated as prisoners of war, and removed to Florida, and eventually Oklahoma by way of a stay at Alabama. The condition of the then imprisoned Apaches at Ft. Sill is surveyed in the recently published book, Chief Loco: Apache Peacemaker, written by a descendant of the Apache leader. Geronimo lamented late in life that he had no friends among his own people.

Geronimo, a prisoner of war, taken circa 1898. Library of Congress.
Though the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway slices through Kingston and Hillsboro, perhaps his most significant presence was made at Lake Valley. On September 10, 1885, Geronimo's band moved over Macho Canyon and shot rancher Brady Pollock twice, then crushed his head with a boulder. Onward the Apaches went, north to McKnight Ranch on Berrenda Creek where they stole horses. Geronimo made it over the Mimbres Mountains to the west, probably going over the pass at the head of today's Pollock Canyon, and down Gavilan Canyon, the site of a battle with Nana in 1881. On September 11 more would die. By noon, Avaristo Abeyta, George Horn, and 17-year-old Martin McKinn were dead, just over the Black Range from Kingston. The teenager's younger brother, 9-year-old Santiago "Jimmy" McKinn witnessed Geronimo crush his brother's head and then don his brother's jacket. With little Jimmy McKinn Geronimo headed into the Black Range, chased by cavalry and a militia from Hillsboro, headed by Sierra County pioneers Nicholas Galles and Frank W. Parker, the latter a future supreme court justice.

Geronimo evaded capture, but surrendered a year later, the last to give in to the concentration policies of the U.S. government. The McKinn boy remarkably survived and was returned to his parents when Geronimo surrendered. You can learn more about how the young McKinn lived his life in this story by Jerry Egan, called The Captive in Desert Exposure. The original "operation Geronimo" came to a close in September 1886. Many lives lost, many lives ruined. The Chiricahuas--the entire tribe--became prisoners of war and were removed from the Southwest.

These events are well documented in scholarly works, and among the best resources is the book, From Cochise to Geronimo by Edwin R. Sweeney. Members of the Hillsboro Historical Society have written a book, titled, Around Hillsboro, due to be released in August. In this book, you'll see rare images related the Apache wars--and a whole lot more.

May 5, 2011

Hillsboro from the Air

Who ever it was that said a picture is worth a thousand words had never seen an aerial photograph.

These two images seem to have been taken on the same flight, judging from the sequence numbers in the bottom-left corner -- numbers 415 and 418. So where are those images in between -- 416 and 417?  And are there similar images of Kingston or Lake Valley?
The photographer and the dates of these images are unknown. Unfortunately, the text in the bottom-left corner is covered up in this copy, provided by the Gila National Forest - Black Range District.

Here's what we do know from the images: there are no bridges. The roads are not paved. The smelter is gone, but the slag pile, presently bisected by NM 152 mere feet from the bridge is visible in the top image. It's the dark fan-shaped figure along the south edge of the road that actually loops slightly around the dense material.

The Hillsboro High School is present in these images, and so is the Sierra County Courthouse. And the courthouse looks intact. That would roughly place these image between 1922 and 1939. So who took these photos, and why -- for what purpose? It's pure supposition, but these could be reconnaissance photos for a Depression-era New Deal agency, the Soil Conservation Service, today's Natural Resource Conservation Service, a part of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Or perhaps the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that operates the dams on the Rio Grande to the east, took these images related to flood control? Do take note of the building in the middle of the creek toward the bottom of the first image. Had it been built before Percha Creek evulsed to leave in "midstream?"

No matter who clicked the shutter, or paid for the flight, the subject matter is beautiful, illustrative -- and instructive -- about what once was and what is Hillsboro. -- Craig Springer