November 2017

History Lessons

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

See also: At the Museum

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns



Mexico in WWI lecture — Heribert von Feilitzsch, author of “Felix A. Sommerfeld and the Mexican Front in the Great War,” will talk about the role of Mexico in WWI at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, at the Armory on Highway 180 (across from Santa Clara, N.M.). Sponsored by the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free; donations welcome. Information: (575) 388-4477, (575) 574-8779 or (575) 388-4862.
  Von Feilitzsch grew up in West Germany near the East German border. In 1988 he came to the U.S. as a student. At the University of Arizona he pursued a masters degree in Latin American History, with a focus on the Mexican-German-American relations.

Hall of Honor banquet — El Paso County Historical Society’s 57th annual banquet honoring those who have made lasting contributions to El Paso is 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, at El Paso Country Club, 5000 Place. Tickets: $100; or Information: or on Facebook.
  This year’s honorees are Alex and Patti Apostolides, former Mayor Don Henderson, James Peak, and former Mayor Bert Williams.

‘Chamizal Asks: What Color is Patriotism?’ — A viewing of the documentary “Unsung Heroes: Hispanics and the Medal of Honor” is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial, as part of the memorial’s “What Do You Think” series. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273.

El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Dr. Pat Gilman will talk on the prehistory of the Mimbres Branch of the Mogollon Culture area, located near Deming and along the Mimbres River watershed in New Mexico. Admission is free; the public is invited. Seating is limited. Information: 449-9075 or
  Gilman will discuss the differences and similarities among large Mimbres Classic 1000-1130 A.D.) sites and what these might mean. She recently co-authored the book “Mimbres Life and Society.”

El Paso Genealogical Society — The society meets 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at All Saints Episcopal Church, 3500 McRae. Program is “Identifying the Era of Your Old Family Photographs.”  Visitors encouraged to bring old photos for an interactive program. Information: 591-2326.

Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet 2 to 4 p.m. the Monday, Nov. 13, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is “The Efforts of Fred Harvey’s Family in Preserving His Legacy.” Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326 or

Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society and Haunted History — The nonprofit organization offers a variety of “ghost tours.” Age 13 and older welcome, unless otherwise listed. All children must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older. Private ghost tours of Downtown El Paso available with advance reservation. Information, reservations: 274-9531 or

Daughters of the Republic of Texas — The Rio Grande Chapter meets at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Great American Land & Cattle Company, 701 Mesa Hills (at Cromo). Program is “History of Fort Bliss,” presented by John Hamilton. Anyone interested in Texas history encouraged to attend. Information: 760-5775.

Old Fort Bliss — Building 5054, corner of Pershing and Pleasanton Roads, Fort Bliss. The Old West days of the “Soldiers of the Pass” are relived through replicas of the original adobe fort buildings and military artifacts of the Magoffinsville Post, 1854 to 1868. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; by appointment only Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 568-4518 or 588-8482 or on Facebook at Old Fort Bliss.

Chamizal National Memorial — 800 S. San Marcial. The National Park Service operates the memorial on land once claimed by Mexico as part of a decades-long dispute over the international boundary. The visitor center has an exhibit on the history of the Chamizal dispute, including a video presentation. Park grounds and picnic area open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for both foot traffic and vehicles; visitor’s center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.  
  “Tales, Tails and Tots” stories with park mascot Chami are 11 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 3-6 the fourth Saturday of each month.

El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at Documentary filmmaker Jackson Polk hosts the show with reenactor and historian Melissa Sargent. Details of each upcoming show, plus podcasts of previous programs, are at Information: 833-8700.

El Paso Mission Trail Visitor Center — El Paso Mission Trail Association’s center supporting the three historic churches in the Mission Valley — Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel — is at 6095 Alameda (at Zaragoza). Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Information 790-0661, 851-9997 or

Fort Bliss Historical Association — The group meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Fort Bliss museum complex, 1735 Marshall. Information: 269-4831. Dues are $25 a year ($10 students and junior enlisted soldiers).

Los Portales Museum and Visitor Center — 1521 San Elizario Road. The museum is operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, and is housed in an 1850s Territorial-style building across from the San Elizario church. It offers gifts, family trees, historical artifacts as well as information on the “First Thanksgiving” and the Salt War of 1877. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: 851-1682.

Mission Trail — Three historic churches lie within eight miles of each other in El Paso County’s Mission Valley.
• Mission Ysleta — Spanish and Tigua Indian refugees from northern New Mexico founded the community in the 1680s. The first mission was built in 1692 and rebuilt completely in both the 18th and 19th centuries. The current structure was built in 1851. It’s near Zaragoza and Alameda on the Tigua Reservation. Information: 851-9997 (El Paso Mission Trail Association).
• Mission Socorro — The first adobe structure in Socorro was built in 1692, and like nearby Mission Ysleta, was destroyed by floods in later centuries. The current structure dates back to 1843, with additions completed in 1873. It’s off Socorro Road two miles southeast of Ysleta.
• San Elizario Chapel — Established in 1789 as a Spanish presidio, or fort, to protect the Camino Real, San Elizario was the first county seat of El Paso. The church was built in 1877, replacing a church built about 25 years earlier. Technically, San Elizario Chapel is a presidio church, not a mission. It’s on the San Elizario plaza, off Socorro Road, 5.5 miles southeast of Socorro Mission. Nearby is the famous jail that Billy the Kid reportedly broke into to rescue a friend. Group tours are available. For San Elizario tour information, call 851-1682.

San Elizario Veterans Museum and Memorial Walk — The museum, operated and managed by the non-profit San Elizario Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, is at 1501-B Main Street in San Elizario. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: Ann Lara, 345-3741 or Ray Borrego, 383-8529.

San Elizario walking tours — The San Elizario Historic District hosts free guided walking tours of its nationally recognized historic district at noon and 3 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month starting at Main Street Mercantile, 1501 Main Street. Learn about the 17 historic sites of San Elizario, about the arrival of Don Juan de Onate to the area in 1598 and the First Thanksgiving Celebration, the Presidio de San Elizario and the San Elcear Chapel on the Mission Trail. Information: 851-0093 or
  To get there: Take Loop 375 to Socorro Road then go east seven miles to San Elizario. District is on the right. Look for the brown signs.

Scottish Rite Temple tour — The Downtown El Paso historic landmark, 301 W. Missouri, is open to the public for a free walking tour at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about El Paso’s Masonic history, the design and architecture of the theater. Information: 533-4409.

Fort Bayard tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 and 25. Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark is six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. Meet at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26); opens at 9:15 a.m. Parade grounds hours are 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. Tour takes about 90 minutes; wear walking shoes, sun screen and a hat; water recommended. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862. Special tours can also be reserved over the Thanksgiving holiday.
  A Veteran’s Day service is planned for Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery.

History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. The Nov. 9 lecture is “Vernacular Architecture of Barbados” by Julia A. Kirton. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or

Fort Selden State Monument — The monument, 1280 Fort Selden Road in Radium Springs, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesday). Admission is $3; (ages 16 and under free). Sunday admission for New Mexico residents is $1. Information: (575) 526-8911 or
  Fort Selden was a 19th-century adobe fort established to protect early settlers from Indian raids. The monument seeks to preserve the remaining ruins and has a visitor’s center with exhibits of military life at the post. From Las Cruces, take I-25 north to Exit 19.

Fort Stanton — The fort was established and built in 1855 by troopers of the 1st Dragoon Regiment to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. The fort’s museum building, recently restored through a Save America’s Treasures grant, was originally a soldier’s barracks converted to serve as an Administration Building for the Public Health Service during the fort’s hospital era. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Living history tours offered the third Saturday of each month. Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341, or on Facebook.

Shakespeare Ghost Town — The small pioneer settlement and mining town on the trail to California is just south of Lordsburg, N.M. A 1½-hour tour at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of the month; call to confirm. Cost is $4 ($3 ages 6-12). Information: (575) 542-9034 or
  To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

Larn, Selman shared similar lives, fate


A rock house still stands alongside the Clear Fork river north of Abilene built in the early 1870s by John Larn, The one-time lawman’s brief life was filled with violence and ended chained to a jail cell, his body riddled with vigilante bullets. His best friend also shared a reputation as both lawman and gunslinger, dying a similar fate two decades later in El Paso.
Originally from Alabama, Larn traveled as a teenager to Trinidad, Colo. during the Civil War, working as the trail boss on a cattle drive. It is rumored that he killed three people along the way Larn stayed a while, finding work as a ranch hand. It was not long before he got into a slight altercation with his boss over the ownership of a horse, killing him. He ran on to New Mexico where he killed a local sheriff because he thought he was trailing him. Larn continued on, stopping in Fort Griffin, Texas, northeast of Abilene.
A nice-looking man with good manners, Larn never swore in front of women and had a reputation as a good dancer. He quickly gained popularity with the people of Shackelford and Throckmorton counties. He married Mary Jane Matthews from one of the most important ranching families in the area; her father owned the Lambshead Ranch. The new bride and groom built a large house along Clear Fork at the Brazos River. Larn raised cattle and joined a vigilante committee named the Tin Hat Brigade. He eventually was elected sheriff. In one case, he had a warrant charging some men with cattle rustling. His posse, accompanied by 13 soldiers from Fort Griffin, surprised the suspects near Throckmorton and killed them all.
As sheriff, Larn made his good friend John Selman a deputy. Not long after, he and the wily Selman contracted with the Army to provide three steers per day for the Indians. The two planned to rustle the beef from neighbors instead of using their own. Soon their neighbors started noticing missing cattle. Complaints grew louder and louder. Oddly enough, Larn and Selman never seemed to lose any cattle from their own herd.
Other violent acts were being reported. Groups of men thought to be led by Larn and Selman were driving off others’ cattle, shooting horses and generally terrorizing neighbors. The ranchers figured out the scheme, got a warrant to search Larn’s ranch and found cattle hides with brands that didn’t belong to him. Larn was also accused of killing two stonemasons and a carpenter who had been working on his property. Larn resigned as sheriff less than a year after taking office.
There was going to be a trial but the vigilante got impatient, so they went to Larn’s house before daylight. When he came to milk the cow, he noticed riders coming. He’d left his guns behind, but continued on after recognizing some of his wife’s relatives. The riders surrounded the barn calling him out.
Larn yelled back, “Well, if you’ll let me get to the house and get my pistols, we’ll just have this out right now.” They replied, “No, we will not do that. You’re going to stand trial, and if you’re innocent, you’ll be innocent. But, if you’re guilty, you’re guilty.” They loaded him up and took him to jail. He was one of the most dangerous gunmen in Texas and he was arrested while milking a cow. He and Selman were said to be responsible for more than 20 lynchings.
The jail was so poorly built that they had a blacksmith chain Larn to the floor of his cell. John Poe was standing guard June 23, 1878, when nine masked vigilantes overpowered Poe, intending to take Larn out and hang him. Storming the jail they saw that Larn was secured to the floor. Nine Winchesters rang out, killing him right there. Larn’s wife was staying at a nearby boarding house. She heard the shooting, and knew what had happened. Mary took his body back to their ranch and buried him alongside their infant son.
Selman was warned of the events that had taken place and left for Lincoln County, New Mexico, where he started his own gang, the Selman Scouts, before landing in El Paso, where he once again put on a badge, this time as a constable.
Selman brought trouble with him, shooting and killing former Texas Ranger Bass Outlaw in a wild brawl at Tillie Howard’s brothel. Then in 1895 he walked up behind John Wesley Hardin in the Acme Saloon and put three bullets in the back of his head. Less than a year later, the 56-year-old Selman was killed by U.S. Marshal George Scarborough in an argument. Both Hardin and Selman are buried at Concordia Cemetery.

John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at

El Paso Scene MONTHLY
This month's listings, stories and columns

Feature story
Here's the Ticket
Program Notes
On Stage
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
History Lessons
Film Scene
Keep on Bookin'
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk


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