Robert Widenmann’s Handwritten Account of Tunstall’s Murder, with CDV


a) CDV. Widenmann. 3 1/2" x 2 1/8".

b) Letter on Lincoln County Bank stationery. Two-pages, written on front & back. 9 7/8" x 7 7/8". A harrowing, first-person account of the killing of Tunstall, by his friend, Robert Widenmann. Widenmann would eventually flee Lincoln County (and America) for fear for his life.

The letter reads as follows:

“When W. Tunstall first came to Lincoln he was treated well by LG Murphy & Co. They tried to sell him some of the ranches to which they had no titles, but after seeing that he would not bite at this bait they began to be mean and run him down. They, LG Murphy Co controlled Lincoln County politically and commercially. Mr. T seeing a good opening here decided to open a store and establish himself permanently here. No sooner had this decision become known than LG Murphy & Co, who had in the meantime been transformed into LS Dolan & Co, showed their hatred and ungentlemanly opposition. They saw that as soon as any man with capital came into the country they would loose their controll, that as soon as the people, whome they had so persistently robbed and kept on the verge of poverty, saw that they could deal with an honest man who always gave them their just dues, they would loose the greater part of the trade. Reily told McSween that he would have him and Tunstall stolen poor, that he would not do it himself but would get others to do it. T went to St. Louis and while there most all of the horses were stolen by Jesse Evans, Tom Hill, Frank Baber Geo. Davis. Dolan borrowed $1000 from McS. who loaned it to J.J. Dolan & Co on T’s a/p. The note was not paid as Dolan refused to recognize T in the transaction. After McS.’s arrest at Las Vegas and return here the Governor’s message was received here and showed that the territorial taxes had not been paid to the Territorial Treasury on Jany 1st. T wrote to the Mesilla Independent stating the fact and also stating how the money had been used which information Dolan himself supplied. Before this T had upbraided Brady for the escape of Evans and party from the county jail. Brady at that time reached for his revolver but McS. prevented his using it. T went Mesilla with McS. and while there his life was threatened by Dolan. On the return from Mesilla Dolan and Jesse Evans surprised T at San Augustine, drew his carbine down on him 3 times cursed him and in leaving him said, “You won’t fight now, you coward, but I’ll get you yet.” Before T’s arrival here Brady attached all T’s property on a writ of attachment on McS. On returning from Mesilla, T, McS. and party were waylayed between Doolin’s Mill and Fort Stanton, but fortunately they took the lower road ~ On the 17th, July T arrived at the ranch about 10 o’cl PM and it was decided to return to Lincoln the next day with the loose horses. McCluskey was sent to the sheriff’s Posse which consisted of some 30 or 40 men, on the Rio Penasco, to tell them that they could take the cattle and leave a good man with them and that we would also leave one to take care of the cattle. Our party consisted of T, RM Brewer, Wm. Bonnie, John Middleton and RA Widenmann. Waite was sent around with the wagon. We started about 8 O’cl AM and traveled slowly. About 5 O’cl PM (July 18th) while T, Brewer and I were driving the horses Middleton and Bonnie were about 500 yards in the rear a flock of turkies rose near the trail. Brewer and I took after them while T staid with the horses. Brewer and I had got some 50 to 100 yards from the trail when we heard a noise in our ear. Turning in our saddles we saw a body of horsemen coming over the hill on a gallop. No sooner did these men see us, than they came in our direction at once commencing to shot at us. We saw that we had no chances against such odds on the ground we were on and therefore made for the opposite hill which was covered with rocks and timber. On our way there we were met by Middleton and Bonnie. Middleton at once said that T had been killed, that he had tried induce him to come our way but T evidently being excited did not understand him and rode directly into the party. It was afterwards ascertained that T rode up to the party without firing at them, that Morton commenced cursing him ordered him off his horse, and when on the ground Jesse Evans shot him through the chest, which shot felled him to the ground. Morton then jumped from his horse, drew T’s pistol from its scabbard shot T through the head, shot T’s horse in the head with the same pistol and then mashed T’s skull with the butt of his gun. We kept our position, the murdering party, after killing T rode partly around us but did not come within reach of our rifles, and then disappeared behind another hill. We made the best of our way towards town. It was afterwards ascertained that they had on the Penasco plotted to kill T, Brewer and myself.”

Lot 729, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - January 25-26, 2019. Mesa, AZ.
Estimate $60,000-90,000.

Important Buck Morton Letter Regarding the Killing of Tunstall, and Morton’s Imminent Fate at the Hands of the Regulators, along with CDV


a) CDV of William Morton. 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", mount size 4" x 2 1/2". N. BROWN & SON photographer’s imprint on verso. Buck Morton was a Dolan employee and posse member.

b) Letter. Four, single-sided pages, handwritten in ink, from William S. (“Buck”) Morton to his distant relative, attorney Hunter Holmes Marshall in Richmond, Virginia. Dated March 8, 1878. 11 ½” x 8 ¾”.

Included is a circa, 1927 envelope from when Elizabeth Garrett sent the letter on loan to Maurice Fulton, the Roswell historian.

Provenance: From Jarvis Garrett to Robert McCubbin.

Robert McCubbin: “This came to me from Jarvis Garrett. It was something that he would not part with until the very end, when his wife was concerned about his health… Obviously, one of my favorite things in the collection.”

One of the most important epistolary artifacts from the commencement of the Lincoln County War. Buck Morton, involved with the posse who shot Tunstall and subsequently accused of Tunstall’s murder, is captured by the Regulators and is being held captive on Chisum’s Ranch. Morton writes about Tunstall’s shooting, and about his own surrender to the Regulators, whom he lists by name. He writes that he has been told he is being taken to Lincoln, but also that he doubts he will see Lincoln alive. He keeps hoping he might make it, but it seems clear that he knew that he would not.

The complete letter reads as follows:

“H.H. Marshall esq

Richmond, Va.

South Spring River N.M.

Mch. 8 1878

Dr Sir

Some time since I was called upon to assist in serving a writ of attachment on some property wherein resistance has been made against the law.

The parties had started off with some horses which should be attached, and I as deputy sheriff with a posse of twelve men was sent in pursuit of same. We overtook them and while attempting to serve the writ our party was fired on by one J.H. Tunstall the balance of his party having run off. The fire was returned and Tunstall was killed. This happened on the 18th of February. The 6th of March I was arrested by a Constable party accused of the murder of Tunstall. Nearly all of the sheriff’s posse fired at him and it is impossible for any one to say who killed him. When the posse which came to arrest me and one man who was with me, first saw us, about one hundred yards distant we started in another direction, when they (eleven in number) fired nearly one hundred shots at us. We ran about five miles, when both of our horses fell and we made a stand when they came up they told us if we would give up they would not harm us. After talking awhile we gave up our arms and were made prisoners. There was one man in the party who wanted to kill me after I had surrendered, and was restrained with the greatest difficulty by others of the party. The Constable himself said he was sorry we gave up as he had not wished to take us alive. We arrived here last night en route to Lincoln. I have heard that we were not to be taken alive to that place. I am not at all afraid of their killing me but if they should do so I wish that the matter should be investigated and the parties dealt with according to law. If you do not hear from me in four days after receipt of this I would like you to make inquiries about the affair.

The names of the parties who have me arrested are R.M. Brewer, J.G. Skirlock [sic], Chas. Bowdre, Wm Bonney, Henry Brown, Frank McNab, “Wayt” Sam Smith, Jim French (and two others named McCloskey & Middleton who are friends). There are two parties in arms and violence expected. The military are at the scene of disorder and trying to keep peace. I will arrive at Lincoln the night of the 10th and will write you immediately, if I get through safe. Have been in the employ of Jas. J. Dolan & Co, of Lincoln for 18 mo’s since 9th Mch, 77. Have been getting $60.00 per month have about six hundred dollars due me from them and some horses &c at their cattle camps. I hope if it becomes necessary that you will look into this affair. If anything should happen I refer you to T.B. Catron US Attorney Santa Fe N.M. and Col. Rynerson Dist. Atty. La Messilla N.M. They both know all about the affair as the writ of attachment was issued by Judge Warren Briscol La Messilla N.M. and everything was legal. If I am taken safely to Lincoln, I will have no trouble but let you know.

If it should be as I suspect, please communicate with my brother Quin Morton Lewisburg W.Va. Hoping that you will attend to this affair if it becomes necessary and forgive me for troubling you if it does not.

I remain Yours Respectfully / W. S. Morton"

Lot 730, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - January 25-26, 2019. Mesa, AZ.
Estimate $15,000-25,000.