In June of 1935, Robert E. Howard and his friend Truett Vinson took a road trip through New Mexico, and on the way stopped in the town of Lincoln. Howard was fascinated by the Lincoln County War. It’s easy to understand why. It was a horrible, senseless conflict fueled by greed and pride from which no one came out looking good.
A friend and I took a similar trip this past June. We’d been talking about this trip for over a year. Family considerations required him to move back to Kansas, so we knew we had to go or the trip would never happen. We managed to find a couple of days when we could both get free and headed west.
After hiking in the mountains we made our way to Lincoln, where we stayed the night at the Wortley Hotel (Where No Guest Has Been Gunned Down in Over 100 Years). The next morning, we toured the town before heading home.
Howard described his impressions of Lincoln in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft in a letter circa July 1935. My intention of this post is to comment on some of the things Howard wrote about, supplemented with my own photos from the trip. I didn’t know much about the Lincoln County War before we went, but I’ve learned a lot since then. (I hadn’t read that portion of Howard’s correspondence at the time.) Had I known more, I would taken some additional pictures.
While it’s not the most famous picture of Howard, the photo on the left has been fairly widely disseminated. It was taken in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse. Click to enlarge the image. The sign says “The house from which Billy the Kid made his fast escape after killing his two guards Bell and Ollinger before ? 1881 being later killed by Sherriff Pat Garrett. Visitors Welcome.”
I’m not sure who the person on the left is. It could be Vinson, but I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that it’s one of the locals. I just can’t remember where I read it. If I really did.
If that is one of the locals, it would most likely be Ramon Maes, who was the grandson of Lucio Montoya, one of the participants on the Murphy-Dolan side of the conflict. (Billy the Kid fought for the McSween-Tunstall faction.) Maes regaled the Texans with tales of the fighting and gave them the key to the building. At one time it was the Murphy-Dolan store and bank, and after the Lincoln County War ended, it became the courthouse and jail. When Howard was there, it was a storage building. Continue reading