McKinley County, New Mexico

McKinley County was organized from a part of Bernalillo County in 1901. It lies in the first tier of western counties, and is bounded north by San Juan, east by Sandoval and Bernalillo counties, south by Valencia and west by Arizona Territory. Since the organization of the County, the seat of the government has been Gallup, which was settled in the early eighties, and is the center of a rich coal field.

On both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (Santa Fe), which passes through the southern and southwestern portions of the County, numerous seams of coal make their appearance almost to the Arizona line. The product is of very good quality, containing from 92 to 95 per cent of combustible matter, and is supplied to the railroads, iron works and machine shops as far east as Albuquerque and as far west as the San Francisco Mountains in Arizona, a distance of three hundred miles. The seams of coal average from four to six feet in thickness.

For ten years or more before the creation of McKinley County the people in the western portions of Bernalillo and Valencia counties were agitating the question of subdivision, knowing that Gallup would be the County seat. It was generally understood that the new County would be named Summit, but the popularity of the martyred president carried the day.

County Officers

The following officials have served since the organization of the County in 1901:

County commissioners: 1901-2. Edward Hart (chairman). W. L. Bretherton. W. L. McVickers; 1003-4, Edward Hart (chairman). W. H. Morris, S. E. Aldrich; 1905-6, W. L. Bretherton (chairman), W. H. Morris, John A. Gordon.

Probate judge: 1901-6, D. Apodaca.

Probate clerks: 1901-2, D. C. Russell; 1903-6, Fred W. Meyers.

Sheriffs: 1901-4, William A. Smith; 1905-6, T. H. Coddington.

Treasurers: 1901-4, John C. Spears; 1905-6, Palmer Ketner.

Assessor: 1901-6, Stephen Canavan.

Fort Wingate and Early Settlement

Fort Wingate, in the southern part of McKinley County, has been one of the most historic points in the Territory since 1862. The military occupation of that region, however, began in 1 801, during the administration of Ferdinand Chacon, when a Spanish colony and presidio, or military post, were established at Cebolleta, fifteen miles north of Laguna. It was at this point that Governor Codallos in 1746 had erected a mission for the purpose of evangelizing the Navajos. The first garrison consisted of thirty-five soldiers. This post was continued by the Spanish authorities until Mexico became a republic in 1821; then by the republic of Mexico until New Mexico became a Territory of the United States in 1850. It was then re-established as a camp by the United States government and thus maintained until 1862, when it was removed to El Gallo, near the present town of San Rafael (Valencia County), and named Fort Wingate. In 1870 it was again moved to its present site at the west end of the Zuni Mountains.

General Eugene A. Carr, who was in command of the district of New Mexico, with headquarters at Fort Wingate, in 1888-90, in his annual report to the assistant adjutant general, Department of Arizona, under date of August 22, 1889, wrote as follows: "In looking over the records in the headquarters office, I am struck with the names of men prominent before and since the war, as well as those not so celebrated, but whose memories are so dear to many of us who are still on praying ground. On the register, which commences with October, 1854, I find:

Andrew Jackson lodging with Major Brooks
S. D. Sturgis with General Garland
J. L. McFerron with A. McD. McCook

In 1853 I escorted General Garland from Fort Leavenworth as far as Council Grove, where the command was waiting under Elecuis Backus, and remember McCook singing songs with a lot of jolly fellows in a tent that evening, viz.

John Adams
J. H. Carleton
A. L. Anderson
Alex. Chambers
Orrin Chapman
H. B. Clitz
George B. Cosby1
G. B. Crittenden
Henry B. (Joler) Davidson
Johnny Dubois
Thomas Duncan
W. L. Elliott
George Gibson
D. McM. Gregg
W. N. Grier2
J. H. Edson
B. L. Ewell
Gary H. Fry
R. H. Hall3
John P. Hatch
Jonas P. Holliday4
B. J. D. Irwin
Lewellyn Jones
Roger Jones
Will Kearney
W. B. Lane
J. G. Lee
A. J. Lindsay
Jonathan Litterman
James Longstreet
W. W. Loring
R. W. (Bob) Johnson
H. L. Kendrick5
John G Marmaduke
John G Marmaduke
Julian May
Alexander (General) McRae6
R. M. Morris
Albert J. Myer
Fred Myers
Basil Norris
C. H. Ogle
Elmer Otis
John Pegram
W. D. Pendor
George E. Pickett
T. G. Pitcher
John Pope
Andrew Porter
L. L. Rich
D. H. Rucker
W. R. Shoemaker
George Sykes
J. R. Smead
A. E. Steen
Enoch Steen
Charles Sutherland
J. G. Tilford
John G. Walker7
William D. Whipple
John D. Wilkins
Robert Williams
B. Wingate8
1. Had a $20 gold-piece in his pocket where an Indian arrow struck it
2. bueno commandante
3. our present inspector
4. bueno teniente
5. whose reminiscences of Fort Defiance are so vivid, and who no doubt recalls the Ojo del Oso, which fixes the location of this post
6. Who was killed at Valverde and had said the evening previous that he had nothing to live for, his family having disowned him on account of his adherence to the Union
7. My old captain and a perfect soldier and gentleman ( I had been promoted out of the regiment of mounted riflemen in 1855, before it came to this Territory, where it gained great distinction in Indian warfare)
8. Afterward killed, and for whom this post is named

"The first United States military commander was, of course. General Stephen W. Kearny; the next. Colonel Doniphan; the third, Sterling Price. Subsequently the command was exercised by the following distinguished officers. The records are deficient, but I remember that E. Y. Sumner was sent out in 1850, with a large quantity of stock, seeds and farming utensils, with the idea of making the troops self-supporting. General Garland came out in 1853; Colonels Bonneville and Loring commanded about 1857. General Canby was in command when the rebellion commenced, in 1861."

General Carr gives the following as the Post Commanders from 1864 to 1888

General Carleton, 1864-6
General Getty, 1867-9
General Granger, 1870-3 (part of 1871), 1875
General Gregg; 1871 (part of year), 1874, 1878 (part of year)
General Hatch, 1876-8 (part of year), 1879-81
General Mackenzie, 1882-3 (part of year)
General Stanley, 1883-4
General Bradley; 1884-6
General Swaine, 1885 (part of year)
General Grierson, 1886-8

In closing his report and calling attention to the resources of the surrounding country, General Carr wrote: "The cattle interest has in some places overstocked the area where water is to be had. In marching from Fort Bauard to Fort Wingate, in June, 1888, I found most of the cattle with their hides clinging to their bones, and considerable numbers dead in the sloughs, where they had mired when trying to drink, or to eat the green grass and weeds. I will add that the native people are sober, frugal and industrious, and the educated among them and the American settlers form a superior body of men. All Latin races and all persons in a hot climate are supposed to take life easier than those who have to struggle with severe cold, but New Mexico is not as hot as some portions of the Union, and I think there is plenty of work in its inhabitants and that it is the making of a prosperous state. The country is practicable for railroads in almost every direction. The Mountains and canyons look forbidding, but there is always a way to get across or through them. In my opinion, he concludes prophetically, it would not be difficult to construct a railroad north of the San Juan, near Farmington, south to Silver City. New Mexico, or Clifton, Arizona, thus connects Durango and Deming." In another portion of his report he intimates a desire which has not yet been fulfilled: "The Moquis had, on the 17th inst., their quadrennial snake dance, a disgusting ceremony, of which this may be the last exhibition."

In March, 1888 General Carr assigned Second Lieutenant John M. Stotsenburg, Sixth Cavalry, to the work of making a survey of the Navajo reservation for purposes of irrigation. This was the first step taken by the federal government in that direction.

Early Settlement of the County

In the early days, prior to and for a few years after the construction of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (1881), the region now embraced within the limits of McKinley County was the scene of extensive and profitable operations in cattle and horses. But long before any cattle men of note began to occupy the range in this section "Uncle Billy" Crane, who had come to the Territory as a scout under Kit Carson, established himself at Bacon Springs, about a mile and a half west of the site of the station on the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad known as Coolidge (afterward Guam), where he built a house for the accommodation of passengers on the overland stage route from Santa Fe to Prescott. This was about the time of the location of Fort Wingate on its present site, in 1870.

Bacon Springs was also a stage station for the government Star route, and Crane remained there the balance of his life, in the seventies commencing to raise cattle and horses. He supplied the troops at Fort Wingate with beef, hay and other commodities, under contract with the government, and, though he accumulated a fortune of $30,000 or $40,000, he lost it in gambling with the officers at the fort. Among the Navajo Indians he was known as "Hostin Kloee," or the "hay man."

Gallup County Seat

The County seat of McKinley County, was first settled a short time prior to the advent of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad line to this point in 1881. The town was named in honor of one of the auditors of the company engaged in the construction of the road. The first permanent settler was J. W. Swartz, who arrived on the 15th of December of that year as a member of the bridge construction Party in charge of his brother, A. C. Swartz, now of Fresno, California. Mr. Swartz was accompanied by his wife and his son, Frank C, and they made their home in the upper story of the rough section house. For several months following their arrival Mrs. Swartz was the only white woman in the new town and their son, Frank, was the only child in the town. Wiley Weaver, who, with John McMillan and William Pegram, formed the Gallup Coal Company, also made the new town his home. Tom Dye, who discovered the first bed of coal in that section, conducted a saloon and was a notorious character. Among those who are said to have met death at his hands were his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law whom he claimed to have killed at the same time by accident. Dye flagrantly violated the federal statute relative to the sale of liquor to the Indians, selling openly to the Navajos. His place was surrounded by a United States cavalry troop one day and he was taken to Albuquerque under arrest and for this offense was sentenced to the penitentiary for four years. Charles Harding, who opened a saloon just prior to the construction of the railroad to Gallup, came from Pennsylvania and became quite wealthy, owning considerable real estate in the town. Thomas Hinch, proprietor of Hindi's Hotel, is another pioneer. Among the other early settlers were James Baylis, who came as agent for the railroad and afterward located at Fort Defiance, Arizona: Mr. Dennis, section foreman; and Frank Ritz who had the first stock of drugs and medicines and the first store of any kind excepting the general merchandise establishment of the Gallup Coal Company. J. W. Swartz soon afterward established a general store, the only one except the company's store. The latter was also the first postmaster of Gallup, serving from 1883 to 1885 under appointment by President Arthur. George W. Sampson, now an Indian trader at Rock Springs, was also an early merchant. Gus Mulholland came in 1884 and the following year established an Indian trading store, which he conducted for several years. In the spring of 1885 W. F. Kuchenbecker and his brother-in-law Worth Keene started a general store. J. W. Swartz was the first justice of the peace, being elected in the summer of 1883 and serving two years.

Town of Gallup

The town of Gallup was incorporated July 9, 1891, and the first election for officers was held August 10th of that year. Upon the creation of McKinley County in 1901 and its designation as the County seat, temporary accommodations were provided for the courts and officers. In 1905 the erection of a court house was begun, but after laying the foundations the work was temporarily abandoned. The plans of the County officials contemplate a structure costing between $10,000 and $12,000.

The first school district organization was perfected in 1883 by the selection of J. W. Swartz, Wiley Weaver and James Baylis as trustees. Mr. Swartz raised three hundred and sixty-seven dollars by subscription for the support of the school and W. S. Burke, of Albuquerque, then County superintendent of schools, donated an equal amount from the fund in his charge. As the result of this enterprise a one-room schoolhouse was erected at a cost of eleven hundred dollars, and finally equipped. This, it is claimed, was the first public school to be opened in New Mexico. The present school was not erected until 1892-3, but prior to this a traveling musician named Woods, who had tramped into Gallup from California, taught six or eight pupils in the old railroad pump house. Mrs. Swartz had the first private school in the town, with seven pupils.

The first religious services of any kind in Gallup were conducted by Mr. Ashley, a Congregational minister from Albuquerque, who preached twice a month, in 1883 and 1884, in the waiting room of the railroad station. The first Church to be regularly organized was that of the Methodist Episcopal Society, with Mr. Bush as pastor, in 1888. The Roman Catholic Church, established by Father Brim, a French priest, was the second. Dr. Z. B. Sawyer was the first physician and surgeon to be permanently located at this point. Dr. Edward D. Harper, who came later, became widely known as a successful physician. John Woods, one of the early postmasters, was also town marshal for some time.

Coolidge (now Guam)

The town of Coolidge, now Guam, located on the Santa Fe Railroad, twenty-one miles east of Gallup, was at one time one of the liveliest places in New Mexico. When the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Company extended its line to that point it was made a division station and was maintained as such for over ten years. But it was a live and progressive town even before the advent of the railroad. The cattle industry in that part of the Territory had become established in earlier days, but the approach of the men engaged in the construction of the railroad gave a fresh impetus to the place. Like most of the frontier towns of those days, it was a rendezvous for desperate characters, and blood-letting was not uncommon during the first two or three years of its history.

Among the early general merchants of Coolidge were John B. Hall and Charles Paxton who were partners in trade. Hall came from Canada and Paxton from Pennsylvania, and they transacted an extensive business until Gallup was made the division town of the railroad. Gregory Page and James Page were brothers and owned a saw mill and lumber yard there from 1881 to 1885. C. L. Flynn conducted a general mercantile establishment. The only physician permanently located was Dr. Burke. The settlement was without religious organization or school facilities, and the law was administered, for the most part, by the citizens without recourse to the constituted court.

McKinley County Biographies

 McKinley County Biographies

Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.

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Created 1996 by Charles Barnum & 2016 by Judy White

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