Benjamin Rush Milam – Texas, Mexico and the Anglos

Benjamin Rush Milam Texas, Mexico and the AnglosBenjamin Rush Milam was born in 1788 in Frankfort, Kentucky. He served in the War of 1812, and in 1818, along with other Anglos, he went to Texas, and as was necessary for land ownership there, became a Mexican citizen. During this time, Texas, Mexico and the Anglos had a difficult relationship. Mexico both welcomed and feared the Anglos coming to Texas. Eventually, Mexico started imposing unfair regulations on the Anglos. And, in 1835, when Santa Ana established himself as dictator, Milam renounced his Mexican citizenship and joined the rag-tag army of Anglos fighting for the independence of Texas.
Following the Texas army’s capture of Goliad in which he participated, Milam was sent on a scouting trip to the southwest. When he returned, the Texas army was on the outskirts of San Antonio. But, to Milam’s disappointment, the Texas generals had decided to postpone the attack on San Antonio until spring. Milam was aware that Santa Ana’s forces were heading toward Texas with enough troops to suppress the rebellion, and he worried that to hesitate meant defeat. So, he went before the troops and made an impassioned plea asking: “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?”
Three hundred men volunteered. And on December 5, they started their attack on San Antonio. The fighting took place house-to-house and hand-to-hand. Four days later, on December 9, with 200 Mexican soldiers dead and as many injured, the commanding general surrendered the city to the Texans.
Unfortunately, Benjamin Milam wasn’t there to celebrate. He had been shot by a sniper two days into the battle. Incidentally, had he survived, he would have probably been one of the Texans defending the Alamo from Santa Ana the following March.

John Chisum

John Chisum

John Chisum

The Old West had a couple of “Chisholms” who were cattlemen… Jesse Chisholm of the Chisholm Trail fame and John Chisum of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Although their last names are spelled differently, they often get confused. Since John Chisum is less well known, today we’ll take a look at this man.

John Chisum was born in Tennessee. Although, reportedly John’s father spelled his last name the same as Jesse Chisholm of the Chisholm Trail fame, they were not related, and for whatever reason, John changed the spelling of his name.
As a young man John and his parents moved to Texas. At the age of 30 John got into the cattle business. Seeing the opportunities better in New Mexico, John moved his operation up there, and ran 80,000 head in Lincoln County.
With this cattle running over a vast isolated area, rustlers started picking them off. So, Chisum teamed up with a couple of other cattlemen named McSween and Tunstall. Their foes were a couple of cattlemen and merchants who were underselling cattle to the Army. And, Chisum felt they were able to sell the cattle cheaply because the cattle were stolen from him.
Before long there was an all-out war. Chisum, McSween and Tunstall recruited cowboys who were gunslingers. One such cowboy was Billy the Kid.
When the war turned in favor of the small cattlemen and merchants, and Chisum continued losing cattle to rustlers and Indians, he lost much of his wealth and power.
In 1884 John Chisum developed a neck tumor, and on December 22 he died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas where he had gone for treatment. An indication of the wealth he had at the peak of his career, when Chisum died, his estate was still worth a half million dollars.

Lew Wallace

Lew WallaceAs a young man Lew Wallace practiced law in Indiana. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was named the adjutant general for Indiana, and served with distinction. Following the war, he went back to his law practice. But he worked just hard enough to pay his bills.
 
Then in 1878, President Hayes, owing him a favor, appointed Lew Wallace the governor of the New Mexico Territory. Some say that Wallace was a bit obnoxious, and this was how President Hayes got rid of him.
 
On September 30, 1878, Lew Wallace and his wife arrived at Santa Fe, New Mexico. By this time the initial incidents of the Lincoln County War had already taken place, and things were quiet. Then in February of 1879 another killing took place. Governor Wallace personally went to Lincoln County, and ordered a number of grand jury indictments and arrests. He also met with Billy the Kid, and agreed to pardon the Kid if he would testify in court for the prosecution.
 
Unfortunately, Governor Wallace was unable to follow through with his promise of pardoning Billy the Kid and went back to Santa Fe. When Billy the Kid realized he wasn’t getting a pardon, he escaped from jail, killing two of his guards in the process.
 
In March of 1880, just two and a half years after he arrived in Santa Fe, Wallace packed his bags and returned east. According to Wallace he was a failure. 
 
Quite possibly while in New Mexico his attention was elsewhere. For upon his arrival in New York he delivered a book manuscript to Harper’s Publishing. It was the novel Ben-Hur.

Joel Fowler – A Vigilante Hanging

vigilante hangingJoel Fowler was born in Maryland, and he later migrated down to Texas. He spent some time on the stage as an actor and entertainer. Not able to earn much of a living at this profession, he tried his hand as a law attorney. Running abreast of the law, in 1879 Joel headed up to New Mexico. But this was still not someone who one would think would end up on the wrong end of a vigilante hanging.
           
In Santa Fe Joel Fowler spent some time on both sides of a bar, as well as on stage. One time while wildly drunk he shot up the town. Luckily, no one was hurt. Over the next couple of years Joel gave up the thespian life in favor of taking lives. While on a posse he killed a man. Later in a shootout with supposed rustlers, he killed two more men. In September of 1883 he shot a man, and caused another to commit suicide. 
               
In November of the same year he sold a ranch he had owned for a considerable amount of money. Following the sale he went on a drunk in Socorro, and ended up knifing a man. For the citizenry this was just too much. So Joel was arrested and within a month tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Joel was able to use his training as a lawyer, and got a stay of execution from the New Mexico Supreme Court. But the locals weren’t happy about this. And on January 22, 1884 they broke into the jail and took him out for a old-fashioned vigilante hanging.
 
Although Joel Fowler wasn’t a religious man, with the noose around his neck, Joel started calling on heavenly angels. This prompted one of the vigilantes to say, “It’s a cold night for angels, Joel. Better call on someone nearer town.” 

Thomas Bowe

Thomas BoweThomas Bowe was a slightly built man, who stood about 5 foot 6 inches. He had a hair trigger, both personally and gun-wise. With a mysterious background that supposedly included murder and stagecoach robbery, Thomas showed up in Silver City, New Mexico during the winter of 1874.
           
In Ward’s Dance Hall, Thomas Bowe entered into an argument with a Jack Clark. He evidently wasn’t getting the best of the situation, because he pulled his pistol and shot Jack on the spot. Although Thomas escaped to the hills, he later returned. Eventually all charges were dropped. 
               
Tom struck up a friendship with Dick Howlett, the owner of the Silver City Saloon. On the evening of October 5, 1877, the two friends, Tom and Dick, decided to play some poker. They were joined by two other men, one, Sheriff Richard Hudson.
 
As the evening progressed, Tom’s stack of chips got smaller. And Dick’s got larger. Dick started ribbing his buddy about his card playing ability. Sheriff Hudson, sensing Tom’s building anger, cautioned Dick to lighten up.
 
In desperation, Tom tried a bluff for a big pot, hoping for a huge payoff. But, Dick had a good hand, and he called Tom. This was just too much for Thomas Bowe. He stood up, pulled his gun and shot and killed his friend Dick Howlett.
 
Thomas Bowe again fled to the hills. He went down to Mexico and finally to New York City. Not able to take the city life, Tom eventually went back out west to Montana where extradition papers caught up with him, and he was returned to New Mexico for trial. Seven years after the shooting, Tom faced justice, and his case was dismissed. It seems that in Silver City, New Mexico making fun of one’s poker playing ability is justification for murder.
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