Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh
See also: At the Museum
Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, at St. Timothy's Lutheran Church, 11050 Montwood (off Lee Trevino). Program is “History of Toy Train Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico.” Train buffs welcome. Program and dinner cost: $10. Information: 540-9660.
El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Author and scholar Carlos Aceves speaks on the Xinachtli Project. Admission is free; the public is invited. Seating is limited. Information: 449-9075 or epas.com.
The Xinachtli Project provides a method and practice of teaching which incorporates the knowledge of ancient Mesoamerican cultures into today’s classrooms.
Fort Bayard Membership Dinner — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society will host its annual Membership Dinner Saturday, Jan. 20, at Silver City Woman’s Club, 411 Silver Heights (on Hwy 180) in Silver City, N.M. Guest speaker author Doug Hocking will present “Tom Jeffods: Friend of Cochise.” Social time begins at 6 p.m., dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $20. RSVP by Jan. 15: (575) 388-4477 or (575) 956-3294.
Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet 2 to 4 p.m. the Monday, Jan. 8, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is “Fred Harvey Collection at the Heard Museum“ by Pres Dehrkoop. Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326 or harveygirlselpaso.weebly.com.
El Paso Genealogical Society — The society meets 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at St. Paul's Methodist Church, 7000 Edgemere (off Airway). Program is “A Review of American Ancestors.org new databases” presented by Barbara McCarthy. Visitors encouraged to bring old photos for an interactive program. Information: 591-2326.
El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program is 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, at Country Inn and Suites, 900 Sunland Park Dr. Program is “New Mexico’s Other Notorious Lawman - Elfego Baca” presented by Kenneth Smith. Cost: $20. Visitors welcome, but RSVP needed by Jan. 15: 759-9538.
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 and visits 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 KTSMRadio.com). 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 EPHistory.com. 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 visitelpasomissiontrail.com.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 SanElizarioHistoricDistrict.org.
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 Saturday, Jan. 13 and 27, in December, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark is six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26). Tour takes about 90 minutes. Parade Ground will be open 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6 and 20. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.
Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.
The Fort Bayard Annual Meeting with dinner will is 6:30 p.m. Jan. 20, at the Silver City Woman's Club, 1715 Silver Heights. Tickets: $20; RSVP by Jan. 15.Doors open at 6 p.m. (575) 388-4477 or (575) 956-3294.
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 nmmonuments.org.
Fort Selden was a 19th century adobe fort established to protect early settlers. 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. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (Hours may be shorter in winter — call for schedule). Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341, fortstanton.org.
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. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or las-cruces.org/museums.
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 shakespeareghostown.com.
To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.
Chacon ranked among
worst of SW outlaws
Among the bad men of our Southwest, Augustine Chacon is right up there with John Wesley Hardin of El Paso fame, Bill Longley, and “Deacon” Jim Miller. Each might have a claim to the most men killed. It’s said Chacon killed 29 men, but many of his killings happened across the border in Mexico so it’s hard to confirm. No matter the count, he was definitely as ruthless as any outlaw.
Chacon was born in 1861 in Mexico. In 1889 he moved across the border where he became known as a good cowboy, then got into an argument with ranch owner Ben Ollney concerning three months’ pay. Ollney refused to pay him and heated words were exchanged before Chacon rode off. After a night of drinking, Chacon returned to the ranch determined to get his money.
Ollney again refused to pay him and this time added insults while drawing his pistol, but Chacon was faster with a gun, shooting Ollney dead. Five of Ollney’s cowboys ran to the scene and Chacon killed four of them. The fifth got away to tell Ollney’s brother, who found six men to help run Chacon down.
Chacon fled south into a box canyon, where the posse caught up with him and called for his surrender. Chacon would have none of that. Riding out heavily armed he charged the posse, killing a number of them then rode off with only a wound to his arm. Two days later Ollney’s entire family was killed. Chacon claimed he was with a woodcutter seeing to his wound when the murders were committed. Also at the woodcutter’s shack were Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles, two train robbers who teamed up with Chacon.
Chacon’s gang mostly operated as horse thieves and cattle rustlers. They worked both sides of the border, living in the mountains of Sonora, but crossing into Arizona to steal or to sell off stolen property, and then retreating back into Mexico.
Chacon reportedly robbed a casino killing four people and held up a stagecoach. He was also blamed for the death of a group of sheepherders.
In 1895 Chacon’s gang robbed a general store in Morenci, Ariz. They entered the store and stabbed the manager in his sleep. The wounded manager played dead until the gang departed, and then went to tell police.
After looting the place Chacon’s gang had headed for their cabin that overlooked the town. The next morning the sheriff and his posse began following the gang’s trail. The bandits were waiting for them and burst out of the house seeking cover behind some boulders as the posse approached.
Both sides fired in all directions until the sheriff stopped shooting long enough to ask them to surrender. One of the sheriff’s deputies, Pablo Salcido, knew Chacon and called out to talk; he was given the okay, but as he showed himself Chacon killed him with a single shot to the head.
The firing started again more intensely. Chacon’s two accomplices made a run for it, but the posse killed them both. By the time the other members of the posse returned, the firing had stopped and they moved in to find Chacon wounded and arrested him.
They took him to jail where the court found him guilty of the murder of Deputy Salcido, and sentenced him to hang. But Chacon cut his way through a 10-inch adobe jail wall reinforced with pine planks.
Some say fellow inmates made a lot of noise singing and playing guitars to distract the guards. Or maybe a young woman distracted the guard by seducing him.
Chacon was free and back across the border again. He joined the Federal Rurales, a special police force controlled by the president of Mexico. Chacon lasted there a year before leaving to return to his outlaw ways.
Outlaws were still crossing the border, and troubles were so widespread that the territorial governor, Oakes Murphy, formed the Arizona Rangers. The first captain was Burton Mossman, who set his sights on capturing Chacon. To accomplish that he had to get Chacon on the U.S. side of the border. Mossman posed as an outlaw himself, and approached Chacon’s old gang member Alvord. Alvord agreed to help for the reward money offered for Chacon. It took about three months to find Chacon.
They finally met up with Chacon and decided to steal horses from the Green Ranch seven miles on the Arizona side of the border. Before leaving, Alvord slipped up to Mossman and whispered, “I brought Chacon to you but you don’t seem able to take him. I’ve done my share and I don’t want him to suspect me. Remember that if you take him you have promised that the reward shall go to me, and that you’ll stand by me at my trial if I surrender. You sure want to be mighty careful, or he’ll kill you. So long.”
Mossman later found his moment while Chacon was sitting on the ground. The undercover Arizona Ranger captain pointed his pistol at Chacon, which Chacon at first thought was a joke.
Mossman assured him it was not, disarmed him and took him for a train ride to jail. There Chacon was hanged for the murder of Deputy Salcido.
John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at email@example.com.
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