Culture Series: Blood on the Sand: The Tularosa Basin Range War
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The murder and disappearance of Albert Fountain and his 8-year-old son Henry near White Sands in 1896 is one of the great, unsolved mysteries of the Southwest.
Author and historian W. Michael Farmer's free presentation in the Museum's theater describes the events, politics, and bloodless range fights often overlooked in the history of this tragedy. The murders were the culmination of a simmering range war where combatants were cattle companies represented by wealthy investors that deliberately overgrazed free-range land, versus small ranches struggling to survive the drought.
Governor William T. (Poker Bill) Thornton hired Pat Garrett, the famous lawman who killed Billy the Kid, to solve the Fountain murder case. The governor also hired Pinkerton detectives to help Garrett, and local friends of the Fountains hired their own detectives to find the killers.
Despite the fact that the territory was certain Oliver Lee was responsible, a long list of possible suspects was known and evidence against Lee, all circumstantial, was thin. Three years later reporters from national newspapers covered the sensational murder trial of Oliver Lee and James Gililland in the little mining town of Hillsboro, N.M. After an 18-day trial with 75 witnesses, the jury’s immediate determination of Lee and Gililland’s innocence is argued to this day.
After the murder of the Fountains, an unspoken armistice was reached but antagonism between the two sides continued for many years.
W. Michael Farmer, a member of the Western Writers of America, learned about the rich mosaic of historic figures depicted in his books while living in Las Cruces for 15 years. He has a Ph.D. in Physics and has conducted atmospheric research with laser-based instruments he developed.
He has published short stories in anthologies, won awards for essays, and published historical essays in magazines and on the Facebook web-page Killer of Witches. His first novel, Hombrecito’s War, won a Western Writers of America Spur Award Finalist for Best First Novel in 2006 and was a New Mexico Book Award Finalist for Historical Fiction in 2007.
His other novels include: Hombrecito’s Search; Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright: The Betrayals of Pancho Villa; Conspiracy: The Trial of Oliver Lee and James Gililland; Killer of Witches, The Life and Times of Yellow Boy, Mescalero Apache, Book 1, winner of a Will Rogers Medallion Award and Finalist for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in Historical Fiction and Adventure-Drama; Blood of the Devil, The Life and Times of Yellow Boy, Mescalero Apache, Book 2, and Mariana’s Knight, The Revenge of Henry Fountain, Legends of the Desert, Book 1, which were published in May and June of 2017.