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History

 

 

Billy the Kid - Hero, villain or misguided youth

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The Dolan House – 1887

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The Dolan House - 1920's

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Brief Moments In History

            Lincoln New Mexico enjoys a rich Native American and Spanish heritage as well as a fascinating chapter in America’s wild-west history.

  • Billy The Kid: the stage of Billy the Kid’s famous jail break in April, 1881.
  • Stage of the Lincoln County war that raged from 1876 to 1879.

 

Billy the Kid – hero, villain or misguided youth on a vendetta?

            Come to Lincoln - search out the facts and make your own decision. Visit the New Mexico State Historic Site – there are 7 buildings which are open year around - with additional buildings open during the summer. The Court House which originally was built as the Murphy Dolan Store has a lot of information on Billy the Kid. You can see the bullet hole at the foot of the stair case where Billy shot Deputy J.W. Bell and see the spot where Deputy Bob Olinger was killed on April 28, 1881.

            Billy was orphaned at 14 years of age when his mother died of tuberculosis in Silver City, New Mexico. He was taken in by a neighboring family who operated a hotel where he worked to pay for his keep. Forced to seek new lodgings when his foster family began to experience “domestic problems". Billy moved into a boarding house and pursued odd jobs. He was arrested once for steeling some cheese and again when he was found in possession of clothing and firearms that a fellow boarder had stolen from a Chinese laundry owner. Two days after he was placed in jail he escaped by worming his way up the jailhouse chimney. From that point on he was more or less a fugitive. He found work on local ranches in southeastern Arizona. He then came to New Mexico where he was hired by John Tunstall as a cowboy. Tunstall gave Billy a horse, saddle and gun. To Billy, John Tunstall was a father figure and when Billy saw his boss killed in cold blood he was going to avenge his death and the war was on!   Billy and his Regulators shot Sheriff Brady and Deputy Hindman on the street in Lincoln. Billy was convicted for the killings but who knows which bullets really killed the Sheriff and Deputy.

            James J. Dolan, very politically connected, and Governor Lew Wallace hired Pat Garrett as sheriff of Lincoln County specifically to arrest and kill Billy the Kid. At the time life in Lincoln County was “tough”. Everyone had to be on one side or the other – no one could remain neutral. Because it was so hard to survive there were no good guy’s or gals.

            Plan to come to Lincoln, a very small village now, about one twentieth the size of what it was when Billy the Kid was here. Allow at least one day or you could spend years if you like history. Lincoln and The Dolan House are gems you can’t miss.

 

The Dolan House History

            The Dolan House was built in 1883 and 1884 by Elijah Dow and George Peppin. Elijah Dow was a carpenter and George Peppin was a French Canadian from Vermont who was a stone mason. They also built the San Juan Church, the Court House, and the Dr. Wood’s house in Lincoln.

            Jimmy Dolan had 20,000 adobe bricks made for the house.   The house consisted of six rooms and an entry way. All six rooms in the main house are the same size - 14 feet X 14 feet with 12 foot ceilings and 20 inch thick walls.

            At the back of the house there was a breezeway and then a separate building that served as the summer kitchen and dining room.   There was a large porch on the east side of the house. The well was located close to this porch. The well is still there and is 50 feet deep – 3 ½ feet wide. It was hand dug and rocked to the bottom. The well has probably not been used in 30 plus years. We installed a pump in it and can run one sprinkler for about one hour every 24 hours and then we ran out of water. It takes 18 to 24 hours to recover.

            The large porch was closed in sometime in the 1920’s and now serves as the formal Dining Room. During the 1920’s and 1930’s the house was known as the Bonito Inn and they took in boarders. In December of 1926 Mrs. Morgan, who managed Bonito Inn for several years, retired. Early in 1930 Edna Husted ran the Bonito Inn. She left about 1933-1934 and her elderly father then had to sell the business.   From 1929 to 1935 the Southern Pacific Railroad owned the property.

            Douglas Fairbanks spent time at the Bonito Inn while researching Billy the Kid.   The town folks were amused with him as he always jumped over the picket fence instead of using the gate.   Currently there is no picket fence in front of The Dolan House. The floors in Jimmy Dolan’s office, Caroline’s Parlor and the entry way are the original pine wood floors. The original fireplaces remain in both rooms.

            In the 1950’s the breezeway between the house and the summer kitchen was closed in adding 3 additional rooms and a basement. Total rooms in the house are now 13. The house is approximately 4,000 square feet.   Sometime later a garage and shop were added on the eastside of the house. Bill and Beverly Strauser purchased the house in 2007 and began extensive renovations – restoring the house back to as original as possible. In the 1880’s there were no pictures taken inside houses so they hope they have gotten it close to the way it was.

 

The Lincoln Dolans

            Jimmy Dolan at 31, a touch old for the time, married Caroline “Lina” Fritz, 18, on July 13, 1879, in a Catholic ceremony conducted by the Reverend Mr. J.S. Tafoya in the home of Allen Ballard in La Junta, New Mexico. Carl “Charlie” Fritz, the bride’s father was a staunch Lutheran who not only did not approve of Caroline’s marriage to a Catholic but also did not attend the ceremony. The new bride and groom quickly left for an extended honeymoon which included a visit to show off Lina to Jimmy’s family in New York City.

            In the meantime, Charlie Fritz’s anger had cooled and upon the couple’s return, he allowed the newlyweds to live with him at Spring Ranch, a few miles from Lincoln, until the Dolan house was eventually completed in the center of Lincoln in 1883. Jimmy and Lina quickly added to their family with the birth of their son Emil on May 2, 1880, and daughters Caroline “Carrie” on February 19, 1882, Louise “Mabel” on November 30, 1883, and Bessie on September 20, 1886.

            Sadly, tragedy befell Jimmy when his son Emil passed away at age 2, his daughter Mabel at age 5, both from disease, and his wife Lina due to complications from the birth of Bessie. All three are buried in the Fritz family cemetery at Spring Ranch.

            When pregnant with Bessie, Lina was having such a difficult time that the Dolans decided to hire a nanny/housekeeper to help.   They settled on Maria [pronounced “Mariah”] Whitlock, a seamstress from the sutler store at nearby Fort Stanton.   Maria stayed on following the death of Lina, and in a little over a year and a half, Jimmy, aged 40, and Maria, aged 30, married at the Dolan home in Lincoln with Elisha Long, Chief Justice of the New Mexico Territorial Supreme Court, presiding.

            After Jimmy and a few business associates had acquired extensive prime ranching land along the Rio Feliz, a two day journey by horse from Lincoln, Jimmy had a beautiful home built there for his family befitting his prominent status. After a few years’ residence, Jimmy succumbed to the ravages of alcoholism on February 26, 1898, a few months shy of his 50th birthday. His body was taken to Lincoln and interred next to the wife and children who had so heartbreakingly predeceased him.

 

            Written by Charles L. Usmar III. Charles is writing a book about James Dolan that will be published in the near future.