Contributed by Robert McGrath.
Return to Main Page or History Index
See individual Counties for more history

Fun-March Ends In Death
M. R. Ballou Cattleman, Shot and Killed
Testimony Before Coroners Jury Results in a Verdict
Exonerating Officer From All Blame. 

Murdoch R. Ballou, one of the best-known cattlemen of Grant County was shot and instantly killed. Thursday evening by Sheriff Herbert McGrath. The killing was the result of an effort on the part of the officer to disarm Mr. Ballou, was done in self defense and was absolutely justifiable.
The events which lead to the unfortunate affair are as follows. In the early part of the evening Mr. Ballou and some companions were having some amusement with a couple of unknown characters about town. After a time the fun became a little more rough and resulted in the two men being bound together with a trace chain securely pad-locked. They were both led up Broadway in this shape when one of the victims of the sport became tired of the game and called night watch man Price B. Heather, to secure their release. Mr. Ballou was with the two men at this time. Mr. Heather spoke to Mr. Ballou, stating that the matter had gone far enough; that the amusement had been had and that the affair was causing some disturbance. Mr. Ballou seemed to resent the interference on the part of the officer. He left the street for a few moments, went to his room in the Palace Hotel, was supposed to secure his gun and returned. Some further words then passed between the officer and Mr. Ballou in the course of which the latter told the two men chained together to proceed with their noise if they wanted to, and, according to the statement made by the night-watchman before the coroner's jury, made a motion as if to draw a gun. He did not, however draw any weapon, but proceeded down the street accompanied by the men. Mr. Heather, feeling that the matter might become serious summon Deputy Sheriff James Dickinson, who knowing that the Sheriff was a warm personal friend of Mr. Ballou, in turn informed Mr. McGrath, who was at the Elks Club rooms, and he at once came down town and met the officers, who explained what had happened. Upon inquiry it was found that Mr. Ballou had taken the men over to Hudson street. The Sheriff then told Messrs. Heather and Dickinson to remain, saying that he could easily adjust matters and proceeded alone to follow Mr. Ballou.
The Sheriff met the party on Hudson street at a point nearly opposite the Wellington Corral. He engaged Mr. Ballou in conversation, telling him that he understood he was armed and asked him in a friendly manner to give up his gun and let the men go. Mr. Ballou at this time had a hammer in his possession with which he intended to break the locks. This the Sheriff obtained, but he refused to turn over his weapon, saying that no one could disarm him. A conversation of a several moments ensued during all of which time the Sheriff used every argument within his power to persuade Mr. Ballou to comply with his request without trouble. Two or three men were standing near and overheard the conversation. Noticing this Mr. Ballou requested the sheriff to step behind an adjoining building and talk in private. Both men then walked around the corner where the talk was resumed. This continued several minutes along the same lines, Mr. McGrath saying that it was his duty to get the gun, that he was a friend and that to-morrow Ballou would be glad he had done this. During the early part of the conversation Mr. Ballou took a pocket knife from his pocket, which held in his left hand. The knife, however, was unopened. Seeing this the sheriff caught his left hand and held it, still trying to persuade him to surrender his gun. A few moments later Mr. Ballou drew his gun with his right hand, saying: "Get it if you can." The Sheriff saw the move and waited until the gun was in plain sight and was being raised, then loosing his hold of Ballou's left hand he jumped back a few steps, drew his own gun and fired three shots in quick succession. Before Mr. Ballou drew his gun, however, he had become very angry. Mr. Ballou staggered back toward the side of the building and sank to the ground. The Sheriff rushed to a nearby telephone and summoned medical aid.
Drs. O. J. Westlake and Frank P. Whitehill responded within a few minutes, but when they reached the scene nothing could be done. Justice of the Peace W. H. Newcomb was then notified and upon his arrival empanelled a coroner's jury consisting of John E. Casey, James A. Shipley, Jesse Stowe, Buch Smith, J. W. Wilson and E.E. Goodman. After reviewing the remains the jury adjourned until eleven o'clock Friday morning. The body was then placed in charge of undertaker O. C. Hinman.
The killing created a great deal of excitement as the deceased was well known and had many friends. No one regrets the affair more than Sheriff McGrath, as he and Mr. Ballou were close personal friends. The facts however, completely justified this course.
A telegram was sent to the family of the deceased late Thursday evening and a reply received Friday morning requesting that the remains be sent to his home for final internment. They were shipped Saturday afternoon and were accompanied by his cousin J. T. Ballou, who was assisting the deceased in the conduct of his cattle business in the Burro Mountains.
Mr. Ballou was a member of Silver City Lodge No. 413, B. P. O. E., and the members of that organization paid their tribute of respect by accompanying the body to the depot as it left on the last sad journey. Funeral services and final internment will be held at Brady to-day.
The coroner's jury met Friday morning at eleven o'clock at the office of Judge Newcomb, which was crowded with spectators. The testimony of a number of witnesses, including Sheriff McGrath, was had and the facts as above related were developed, as also the fact that the killing had occurred at about 9 o'clock. The testimony of the doctors showed that Ballou had been shot three times. One of the bullets entered at the left nipple penetrating the heart. Another entered a short distance above into the lung. Either shot would have proved fatal. The one which entered the heart produced instantaneous death. The third was the left shoulder. There was also a flesh wound in the left arm, indicating that the deceased had raised his arm after one of the shots in his breast. At the conclusion of the testimony the jury returned the following verdict:
Territory of New Mexico, County of Grant.}ss.
We, the undersigned Justice of the Peace and jury, who sat upon the inquest held this 9th day of February, A. D. 1911, on the body of M. R. Ballou found in precinct No.3 of the County of Grant, find that the deceased came to his death by means of pistol shots fired by Sheriff H. J. McGrath in the discharge of his duty and in self defense and that the jury finds that he was justified in doing, on the 9th day of Feb'y, A. D. 1911.
Witness our hands this the 10th day of Feb'y. 1911.
William H Newcomb, Justice of the Peace Precinct No. 3.
 E. E. Goodman, Buch Smith, John E. Casey, J. W. Wilson,
 Jesse A. Stowe, Jas. A. Shipley. Jurors.
Mr. Ballou was born in Brady, Texas, thirty-seven years ago. He left home when about twenty-one years of age and came to New Mexico, locating in Eddy County and coming to Grant County twelve years ago. He entered the employ of the G O S Cattle Company as a cow-boy. He was especially well trained and experienced in this business and later on entered a partnership with Henry Barksdale and took the T. J. brand of cattle under lease. Later on Mr. Downes purchased the Barksdale interest. A sale of this property was made and with the proceeds thereof Mr. Ballou purchased the Charles Campbell outfit in the Burro Mountains. He was very successful in his business affairs and at the time of his death owned property of considerable value. He was regarded as one of the best cattlemen in this section. Deceased was a man of most generous and likable disposition and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. With all of whom he was very popular. He was one of those rare characters who would do anything to aid and assist his friends and no task was too great for him to undertake when he thought his service was needed. His untimely death was a severe shock to everyone here.
Mr. Ballou is survived by his parents, S. T. and Isabel Ballou, both of whom live at Brady, Texas. Also by three brothers and one sister residing at the same place, namely: Albert Ballou, Jesse Ballou, Steve Ballou and Alice Ballou. Other sisters are Mrs. Thomas Homsley of Commanche, Texas, and Mrs. John Draper of Rock Springs, Texas, J. T. Ballou, resides in Grant County.
Also of interest in this issue was the LORDSBURG LOCALS: Mrs. M. W. McGrath and granddaughters, Dewey and Ida, made a trip to the pass city in the later part of the week.
Copied from the "Silver City Independent" issue of Tuesday February 14,1911.