Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Wild, Wild West, Part IV

Yesterday I related the story of my grandfather, Ed McLaughlin, breaking his younger brother, Mack, out of Pat Garrett's jail. Mack was born in 1882, so this would have had to be during Pat Garrett's second time of being a Sheriff, when he was given a special appointment in 1896 and charged with bringing in Oliver Lee, a rancher who had, with several others, been accused of a murder (and was eventually acquitted). Mack would, therefore, have been between 14 and 17 when the jail break happened. At that age he was already working as labor building railroads. That would not even be allowed today. My dad for a time had one of Mack's Wanted Posters, but lost it somewhere along the way. How I would love to see that!

Pat Garrett, from Wickipedia.
Although Oliver Lee lived until 1941 
and died a respected and honored
citizen of New Mexico, I could not find
any pictures of him.
Pat Garrett had a very colorful career as rancher, gunman, lawman, cowboy, gambler, and saloon keeper. He gained fame as the man who killed the outlaw Billy the Kid, but later his reputation was tarnished because he shot and killed an unarmed Billy in a dark bedroom. Garrett seemed to be a man who shot first, without offering surrender. This was not the only time he was accused of such. It was a violent time and it can be difficult sorting out whose version of events was true. Pat Garrett seemed to live by the gun, and he died by the gun when he was 52 years old.

The conflict with Oliver Lee in the late 1890s is described in several books. An interesting summary can be found on Wickipedia, in both the article on Pat Garrett and the article on Oliver Lee. Therefore, I won't try to tell that history, but would refer you to those articles.

I have brought up these two men because there is another family connection there. My dad wrote in one of his letters to his cousin, speaking about his father:
The old timers called Ed the cool tempered one of the McLaughlin boys. Of course, at the time when they were growing up New Mexico was rough country. Dad rode for Oliver Lee when he and Pat Garrett were feuding. Pat Garrett was no hero to him. We met a fellow in Idaho in 1929 that was a deputy of Garrett's at the time Dad was with Oliver Lee. He said he always wanted to whip one of Lee's hands. He got the chance but couldn't do it. They were both around 60 then, but it was rough. [Ed was actually 52 in 1929. Daddy was 20, so his father probably seemed older to his son than he actually was !]
At the time he rode for Lee, Ed would have been in the 19-22 years-old range.

As the Wickipedia articles make clear, the struggles between the Lee and Garrett factions were not only about murder. It was all rooted in the conflict over who was going to control all the politics/government in the region. This resulted in the murder (it is assumed; that was never solved) that led to the Lee and Garrett troubles. We think that politics can get dirty these days, but at least our candidates and movers and shakers aren't usually shooting at each other!

1 comment:

  1. We've been to Oliver Lee State Park many times, just south of Alamogordo, NM. I always thought of Grandpa and his family when I went there.