Our Location: Bosque Redondo Lake, Fort Sumner, NM
Some rain in the evening and over night, also some gusty moments but nothing too much. I didn’t hear any thunder nor see any lightning so I’m thinking it was simply a passing rain shower or two. We woke to warm temps this morning, 48 F/ 8.8C. The mercury is rising more as the day goes by.
|The Cottonwoods are starting to think spring is in the air.|
We decided today would be a day to tour Fort Sumner and the area, to take in some local sights and perhaps drop a few dollars in the coffers of the local business folks. After catching up this morning with our blogger friends and a bit of breakfast we climbed into the Dogsled and head back toward Fort Sumner.
|Heading toward Main Street, Fort Sumner, New Mexico.|
Fort Sumner is a very small town, it has two claims to fame. The first is of course the resting place of William H. Bonney or better known as Billy the Kid. The second is the Bosque Redondo Memorial which is in remembrance to the over 3000 Navajo’s that never lived to return home.
|Heading into Town.|
In the town of Fort Sumner we started our day by stopping at the Billy The Kid Museum on the main drag. It is an interesting museum with a great deal of reading involved if you are so inclined. The buildings house numerous artifacts from by gone eras, some pertaining to the Kid and others simply pertaining to times gone by. The entrance fee is $5 for Adults, $4 for seniors. There are numerous things to see ranging from arrow heads, gem stones, saddles, chaps, all varieties of old rifles and revolvers to carriages, wagons, dishes, cameras, typewriters, cars and ‘vintage stuff’. On display is a rifle once used by Mr. Bonney himself or so the tag reads. There are also numerous articles and artifacts from the families of the four men that reportedly helped to bury the body of Bonney. These were local men and their contributions are evident in the museum. Pancho Villa is also represented in this museum. Pat Garrett plays a somewhat staring role as well. The Maxwell’s who owned the building in which the Kid was shot and killed are also prominent in the articles, artifacts and information.
|The museum is full of many things.|
The owner/docent of the museum is Mr. Sweet and his lovely wife. Mr. Sweet’s father started the museum many years ago. It’s a quaint little stopping place with some interesting reading and things to see. It is well worth the price of admission. Winter hours do not include Sunday’s, but summer hours do. Hours are 8:30 am - 5 pm.
|One of very few proven tintypes of William H. Bonney. One of several displays of rifles.|
Our second stop was for fuel. Two gas bars in town that I could see, both on main street, one on each side of the main road. For those that care to know, diesel as $3.19 per gallon.
|The Kid and his two friends, are all buried in the same place according to the tombstone. A big display of hand guns, and a saddle belonging to Jesus Silva a friend of the Kid's and pallbearer.|
We could find no international ATM machine (two in town), only one bank, The Citizen’s bank. We didn’t see a grocery store but there was a Family Dollar. We didn’t tour down any of the side streets as we figured the main businesses would be on Main Street. Main Street is about a 2 minute drive before you pass out of town. The town is clean, and friendly. We noted only one place to eat but there may have been others.
|Various artifacts in the museum, bottom right is a display about Butch Cassidy.|
Our next stop was out of town at the location of Old Fort Sumner. It is about 2 miles north of town on Billy the Kid Sideroad or Drive. You follow that for about 3 miles and you arrive at the area of Old Fort Sumner which was later known as the Maxwell House or Maxwell property. History tells us that Fort Sumner was no longer a fort shortly after the end of the Civil War between the states. It had written it’s horrific history and later became the Maxwell Property.
|Not all items are about the Kid and his days here in Fort Sumner.|
The years during the Civil War here in the USA also proved tough out here in the southwest, not just the areas of Union & Confederate states. While on one hand Lincoln was abolishing slavery, on the other hand he was rounding up thousands of Natives (almost 9000) and herding them into very small areas often times many hundreds of miles from their homelands. The Navajo’s were force marched between 350 - 400 miles on four separate routes from their homelands to Fort Sumner in 1863. They were captives of sorts, not well fed, nor cared for, housing was non existent even during the winter months when sub zero temperatures were possible. The Navajo’s couldn’t be ‘fitted’ into buildings for living and so dug trenches to live in, building their fires during the day and sleeping on the warmer ground at night. The Apaches (about 400) faired better as their homes were mobile and they were brought with them.
|One of the tombstones on the grave of William H. Bonney and his two friends. A collection of badges and a rifle reportedly owned by Bonney.|
A very large building houses this remembrance to the suffering of the Natives, the original signed treaty is here and can be seen (not photographed) although it is kept in a locked vault opened only by one of the docents. This tragic herding ended in 1869 and the government allowed the natives to return to their homelands. A very interesting memorial although they didn’t have any video presentation as their room was busy for some kind of meeting. It is well worth the time to tour and admission is free.
|The grave of William H. Bonney. Two stones, one actually secured to the ground as it has been stolen before.|
You can tour what is the remains of Fort Sumner (which we didn’t) but is referred to as the Maxwell House or property. The Maxwell House is of course the last stand of Billy the Kid. It was here that he was shot and killed by law man Pat Garrett in July 1881. The Kid’s grave is located in the Fort Sumner Cemetery located not far from the old Maxwell/Fort Sumner buildings. The grave is in a locked cage with one headstone secured safely to the ground and the other too big to move but with numerous chips taken off of it. The Fort Sumner Museum is closed and has been for some time now.
|One of the Maxwell family lies in this plot, and a few more are scattered around the cemetery.|
There is a tremendous amount of history regarding Maxwell’s property and the use of the ‘houses’ built for but not occupied by the Navajo’s. Bonney was a friend of Maxwell’s. Jesus Silva another friend of the Kid’s also lived near by and was one of the four men that supposedly helped to bury the Kid in the Fort Sumner cemetery.
|Ironically a man that was shot by Bonney rests in the same cemetery.|
There has been a lot of controversy over whether or not William H. Bonney was killed by Pat Garrett and buried here. Bushy Bill was thought by some to be Bonney who they say escaped but was wounded by Garrett. Some believe Bonney went on to live to be an old man and stayed out of the spot light, living quietly until he end of his days. That is for you to decide if you care to visit.
|This stone has been chipped until the dates are no longer visible.|
|Left on Bonney's grave.|
It should also be noted that Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving trailed cattle to Fort Sumner to try to stave off the starvation of those natives held here by the US Government. The Goodnight- Loving trail passes through this area of Fort Sumner, NM.
|Bosque Redondo Memorial to the Navajo's and Mescalero Apaches.|
After leaving the Fort Sumner area we took a couple of back roads and made our way here to our little slice of peace and quiet by 1 pm. A very nice morning and we enjoyed our time here touring and doing a LITTLE delving into the history of the area. This area is rich in history and although we merely skimmed the top we still learned a bit and left ourselves hungering for me on another visit.
The day clouded over and became cool after we returned home but we spent a peaceful afternoon reading, and doing a few little things in preparation for our departure tomorrow.
Would we come back? Yes we would. Is it worth the extra drive? I guess that depends on what you want to see and what you expect. It’s a very nice spot to stop and recharge your batteries, learn a little history and enjoy some friendly folks. Much less hectic travel than I-40, quiet country two lane roads. Roads are in fair condition with some interesting views as we travelled along US 60.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed your visit. Shortly before posting tonight's blog a camper van rolled through this little park and the plates are from Ontario, Canada. How sweet is that?
|Just down from the Park these Cottonwoods have found spring.|
Until next time… take care, be safe,