Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cooke's Spring

Cooke’s Spring Station near Fort Cummings.

Heckler, The Butterfield Trail In New Mexico, p.113-123

Butterfield erected a station near the spring in October 1858 and a latter station in 1861. Fort Cummings was established near the spring in 1862 and built in 1863.

Indians destroyed the original station in the summer of 1861 after the Bascom Affair. Before destroying the station the Indians ambushed and murdered a party of Butterfield and SA&SD employees who were on their way to California. The Civil War had shut down the southern route earlier and Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor was in El Paso with a Confederate army unit ready to invade New Mexico and Arizona. The party was ambushed west of Cooke’s Spring Station by Chiricahua Indians from the combined forces of Cochise and Mangas Coloradas. One researcher places the fight in the northwest corner of Section 28 on top of Cooke’s Canyon Pass, two and a half miles west of the station. The fight lasted for three days. The seven white men were well armed and held out until their ammunition was exhausted. Mangas Coloradas may have been wounded and sought medical help in Janos, Mexico, about forty miles south of the border.

Morgan Merrick was a soldier with Baylor’s Confederate force that invaded New Mexico. His unit followed the Butterfield Trail to Tucson and arrived at Cooke’s Station a few days after the ambush. His diary shows that the attack took place at the entrance to Cooke’s Canyon one mile west of the station.

The exact location of the stand off by the seven men on the Freeman Thomas stagecoach is not known as contemporary observers did not record the precise spot. It is most likely that the clues have long been removed by well meaning amateurs. This underscores the importance of not removing clues but leaving them in place and reporting the findings to the appropriate authorities, in this case the BLM archeologist.

By latter counts there were some one hundred to one hundred fifty people buried along this three-mile stretch of Butterfield Trail making it the most dangerous place on the 2,975 mile road.

Monday, November 19, 2007

South Towards Massacre Gap


Note the mesquite brush marking the trail as it goes over the far ridge

Camp along the trail

Rusty cans along the trail mark a camp site.

North to Goodsight and Cook's Spring


The Butterfield Trail around Goodsight Station between Massacre Gap and Cook's Springs.

Friday, November 9, 2007

1877 Travels and Reports of William D. Dawson


William Dawson, a reporter for The Daily New Mexican, rode a coach from Santa Fe to Silver City. During the 6 week trip Dawson would submit reports describing “his experience and observations”. His trip included stops at Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Belen, Sabinal, Lemitar, Socorro, Fort Craig, Paraje, M’Rae, Aleman, Dona Ana, Mesilla, Slocum’s, Fort Cummings, City of Rocks, Mimbres, Silver City, and Pinos Altos. Dawson left Santa Fe 12 December 1876 and followed the Rio Grande, jornada del muerto, butterfield trail, and Mimbres river arriving in Silver City 11 January 1877.
Dawson left Mesilla 07 January 1877 crossed the Rio Grande passed south of a cone shaped peak (Pacacho) and heads for “Rough and Ready pass 12 miles from the river. Traveling another 12 miles brings him to Slocum’s at Magdalena pass and camps in full sight of Goat Mt. (Massacre Mt.). John Chisum, heading for El Paso, stayed in camp with Dawson that night. The next day Dawson’s party continues on to old Fort Cummings. Fort Cummings had been abandoned in August of 1873 and in need of repair. Dawson stayed at Mr. Lyon’s forage agency at Cook’s Spring.
January of 1880 Fort Cummings is re-opened and staffed by 200-250 officers and men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry. September 1879 Chief Victorio went out on the warpath with several hundreds of warriors from the Mescalero Reservation. Two years latter and Dawson’s travels would have been in the middle of the Apache war.

Thursday, November 8, 2007




The mail schedule allowed only 25 days to run the route, with stops just long enough to change mule teams. Coaches ran twice a week, both east and west. Postal rates were an expensive ten cents per letter. Passenger fare was $200 each way.

Butterfield's route crossed the southwestern edge of New Mexico, with stage stops at Fort Fillmore, La Mesilla, Picacho, Mimbres Stand, and Stein's Stand. What automobiles cover today in three hours was a two-week stagecoach trip across the bad lands of pioneer New Mexico.

see (New Mexico Dept. of Cultural Affairs)

Stage coaches traveling from El Paso, Texas, via Mesilla and Picacho Village, New Mexico, could join Cooke's Trail wending westward. The route heading west was:
  • Mesilla to Picacho, New Mexico, 6 miles
  • Picacho to Rough and Ready, New Mexico, 9 miles
  • Rough and Ready to Slocum's, New Mexico, 7 miles
  • Slocum's to Magdalena Mountain, New Mexico, 3 miles
  • Magdalena Mountain to Massacre Gap, New Mexico, 4 miles
  • Massacre Gap to Dona Ana County line, New Mexico, 1 mile
  • and on to Fort Cummings at Cook's Peak (then in Grant County, now in Luna County).