Henry Hawkins Gang

This is one of the names given to a gang that operated around the middle and eastern part of New Mexico for a number of years and were wanted for robberies and other crimes. They were also known as the Mesa Hawks. Hawkins and his associates eluded capture for a while. Some were captured while others were not.

On the evening of January 27, 1902, the Hawkins gang was accused of robbing the Pecos Mercantile store and post office in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. During the robbery, a youth by the name of Felix (or Felipe) Beaubien, believed to be a foster child of the Beaubien family, was killed. One of the accused, tried under the name of John Smith, related his account of the incident. In an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican on November 15, 1902, Smith pleaded guilty to the robbery and accused another man named Potter (still at large at the time) of having fired the fatal shot that killed Beaubien.

Another suspect named George Massagee gave his account, in which he said that the party met up at a ranch and camped about eight miles northwest of Tucumcari. He added that two men from a posse pursuing them for an earlier robbery had fired on them there, but there were no injuries. Massagee claimed that Hawkins was in charge of the Fort Sumner robbery and gave the group the destination of Fort Sumner as they were in route. Messagee added that he was forced to join in the crime by Hawkins. Hawkins set up the plan that specified how they were to enter the store in pairs (Hawkins and Potter, Cook and Smith, Neil and Isbell) and that Massagee, the odd man, would remain outside as a guard and would hold the horses. He also added that Hawkins set a range fire behind them so that no one could surprise them from the rear.

When they reached the location, Potter and Hawkins entered the store and gave a command for everyone to throw up their hands. One person was a little slow and Hawkins stuck him on the head with his gun, causing a gash. Massagee said that a few moments later, he heard a shot fired from inside the store, which would have been the shot that killed Beaubien, but he remained outside for an hour before coming in to load their loot. The group calmly rode away and then stopped at an adobe house about twelve miles from Fort Sumner. There was not much cash, only enough for each man to have $11, he said.

They also took items from the United States Mail, some other property. Later reports say they also took all the ammunition in the store and dumped it into a steam that they came across to discourage anyone who might want to pursue them. The group eventually split up with Hawkins leaving first and the others going their separate ways.

Massagee was captured by Indians from the Mescalero agency and was taken first there and on to Alamogordo. Cook, Neil and Smith were later captured in Arizona. Hawkins was not captured. His former wife, Rosamond Greer, testifying in an unrelated legal matter, said that she was told by Cook at one point that Hawkins was dead. She obtained a divorce and later remarried a local rancher named John Madden. To the best of our knowledge, Hawkins was never heard from again.

In the group’s trial, Massagee and Smith agreed to testify against their other gang members. The murder victim, Felix/Felipe Beaubien, had been shot through the head and died at the scene. The trial for the robbery took place in late 1903. On November 19, 1903, the Las Vegas Optic reported that Neil and Cook at been sentenced to life in prison. Massagee and Smith each received five year sentences, lighter because they had pleaded guilty and testified against the others. This trial was only for the robbery. Hawkins was still at large.

Hawkins might have come close to being captured by none other than lawman Pat Garrett. A story was told that Garrett once came close to capturing an outlaw, identified as Hawkins, and that the two engaged in a shootout. Garrett took cover behind a wooden water tank and the outlaw, with more deadly ammunition, had Garrett pinned down and was able to fire rounds that penetrated through the water tank. Garrett is said to have arranged a truce and the outlaw escaped. As far as we can tell at this point, Hawkins was never again captured or tried.

The alleged assailant of Beaubien, known by a number of aliases including G. W. Franks, Ed Franks, Frank Potter, Robert “Black Bob” McManus was captured in 1905 and turned over to federal authorities for other crimes. At the time of his capture, he was referred to as the last surviving member of the Black Jack Ketchum gang. We have not yet found a record of a trial for the murder of young Beaubien.

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The Spikes Brothers Murders

The January 23, 1902 article was widely reported in United States newspapers that in New Mexico, three brothers had been ambushed while riding horseback on the way back to their homes. Dick and John Spikes were killed and Fred Spikes was badly wounded, but managed to make it to the home of a neighbor who helped him to obtain medical treatment. The Arkansas Gazette article shown below ended by stating that Fred Spikes said that he knew the attacking party but would give no names.

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John T. Hutchings Murder Case

John Towers Hutchings was born in Birmingham, England in 1887. By 1911, he was living in Alamogordo, New Mexico where he married the former Mary Simms. Newspaper reports said he had enlisted in the United States Army and been a driver for General John J. Pershing at one point. He was said to be the General’s chauffeur during the unsuccessful expedition to attempt to capture Pancho Villa. At the time of his death in 1919, Hutchings was a car dealer, garage owner and sometime race driver living in Alamogordo. Hutchings was also said to have previously been a chauffeur for Senator Albert Fall, possibly before the war.

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The Domínguez and Escalante Expedition

Image credit: Albuquerque Journal

Almost 250 years ago, two friars set out from northern New Mexico to find a northern route to a new settlement and the related missions in Monterey, California. The idea of a northern route was to see if there might be a way to avoid the difficulties of the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert.

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Colfax County

The area now known as Colfax County was originally part of Taos County, one of the first nine counties created in 1952, when New Mexico became a territory of the United States. In 1859, Mora County was established out of the eastern section of Taos County and then ten years later in 1869, Colfax County was subdivided from Mora.

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Governor Ezequiel Cabeza de Baca

Governor C. de Baca was the second elected governor of the new state of New Mexico. He was the first Hispano elected governor of any state. According to newspaper account however, a serious illness manifested itself during the campaign in which he was elected. His inauguration took place in a local hospital or sanitarium January 1, 1917 and was attended only by a few people. Accounts said that he had been suffering from pernicious anemia. The governor was then transferred to Los Angeles for more aggressive treatment but it failed to produce favorable results and the newly elected governor died on February 18, 1917.

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The Story of “One Nail” Bob Hale

As told by Inspector Hartman of the Colorado stock growers’ association in the Hastings Daily Gazette-Journal (Hastings, Nebraska), 23 Apr 1884:

“One Nail” Bob referred to a cowboy named Bob Hale, in some accounts called Bob Cole, on the John Chisum ranch near Roswell. The cowboy got the nickname from having one fingernail that was nearly two inches long. Hale was described as a desperate and quarrelsome character. Chisum is said to have warned Hale that he would get himself killed if he did not behave himself, but Hale continued in his ways. Hale is said to have had a penchant for getting drunk. When he was drunk, other cowboys stayed away from him which led him to believe that they were afraid of him. Eventually he stopped taking orders from the ranch foreman.

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Thomas Tate “Tom” Tobin

The San Luis Valley of Colorado and New Mexico was once part of the Territory of New Mexico in an early configuration of Taos County. Now most of it is in Colorado, but some still extends into New Mexico. As you can see from the map below, except for the headwaters of the Rio Grande, the entire river once flowed through the New Mexico Territory.

Thomas Tate “Tom” Tobin was born in 1823 in St. Louis, Missouri to Bartholomew Tobin and Sarah Autobees Tobin. Tom and his older half brother Charles Autobees are believed to have left St. Louis and headed west while Tom was still a teenager. They are both said to have been associated with Ceran St. Vrain, one of the founders of Bent’s Fort. Not a lot is known about Charles, but the half brothers worked out of Bent’s Fort for a while, scouting and trading. Eventually they each settled and got married. Charles married Sycamore, an Arapaho native and Tom married Maria Pascuala Bernal, of the Taos area.

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A German Spy in Carrizozo?

The United States had officially entered World War I in early April, 1917 with a declaration of war. One week later, the mayor of Carrizozo, Lincoln County, called for a company of Minute Men to be organized from local citizens to aid in the event of any need. Newspaper articles carried accounts of the war and other related articles about how citizens could contribute, even by maximizing food production on their farms. As occurred in other times of world war, there was a considerable amount of unease and suspicion concerning those of other nationalities.

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