Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blazer's Mill Historical Marker: Lincoln County

I'll begin this post by quoting the text of the historical marker itself:
An early fight in the Lincoln County War occurred near this sawmill on April 5, 1878, when several men of the McSween faction, including Dick Brewer and Billy the Kid, attempted to arrest Buckshot Roberts. Roberts and Brewer were killed, and two others wounded, in the battle that followed.
Blazer's Mill is primarily known as the site of Buckshot Roberts death, and has been immortalized on paper and in film. In what was one of the best scenes from the 1988 movie Young Guns, the depiction of Roberts death set the stage for the legend of Billy the Kid. And although there are allegations that the entire story has been embellished, it makes for a great tale.
On February 18, 1878, John Tunstall was murdered by members of the Dolan-Murphy faction at the onset of the Lincoln County War. Tunstall factions members immediately assumed Buckshot Roberts was party to the murder due to his close connections to the Dolan faction. Roberts, however, wanted nothing to do with the conflict, and put his ranch up for sale. Roberts stayed at Blazer's Mill on his way out of town, where he was confronted by the Regulators on April 4, 1878, including Dick Brewer, who led the group, and of course, William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney, the most famous participant in the Lincoln County War.
A few different stories about why Roberts was at Blazer's Mill exist, but the two prevalent ones are, first, the one I told above, about him leaving town after selling his land, and the second, almost as plausible, was that he went to the mill to collect some money owed to him. Whatever the truth was, he was ambushed by the Regulators, being shot at from both sides. 
Frank Coe of the Regulators had asked Buckshot to give up his weapons, and when he refused, he was ambushed from behind. Roberts returned fire on the twelve or thirteen men, initially wounding two and, had the gun not misfired, could have shot Billy the Kid. Charlie Bowdre wounded Roberts, who then retreated into the house. 
At this point, Dick Brewer, leader of the Regulators, made a move at Roberts, creeping his way up to the house. Buckshot saw Brewer hiding behind a pile of logs, and with one well timed fire, shot through Brewer's eye and took the top of his head off. At this point, de facto leader Billy the Kid ordered the retreat. 
Buckshot Roberts died the following day in a great deal of pain. Later, the distances of shots and the stories seemed verified through independent investigation. According to historical sources, Buckshot Roberts was later found to have had nothing to do with John Tunstall's murder.

Blazer's Mill now exists as old adobe ruins, and the historical marker sits on US Highway 70 about 2.5 miles south of Mescalero, between Mescalero and Tularosa near a village called Bent, New Mexico. It's a great bit of Americana and New Mexico history.

My sources for this post are as follows:

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