Message #230: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Historic Docs Reveal NM Murder Mystery Most Celebrated Date: Mon, 16 Jun 1997 09:57:53 -0700 http://www.zianet.com/lascrucesbulletin/archive/05.22.97.map.htm Newly found map of A.J. Fountain ambush Apparently sketched by witnesses for trial By Monica Krausse Three long-forgotten maps detailing the century-old murder of Col. A.J. Fountain and search for his killers have been discovered by a Mesilla Park man in his aunt's attic a decade after he saved them from a bonfire. The most striking map, drawn in watercolors and pencil on linen paper, is signed by the colonel's son, A.J. Fountain Jr., and dated June 4, 1898, two years after the disappearance. The maps apparently were sketched by witnesses in preparation for the trial against the accused killers in southern New Mexico's most celebrated murder mystery. The documents were rediscovered about four months ago by Kerry Rhodes while cleaning out trash from the attic of his aunt's home. Rhodes brought the maps to the attention of the Bulletin. The Bulletin, in turn, sought out an assessment of the maps from historian Gordon Owen, whose recent book, "The Two Alberts: Fountain and Fall," details the lives of two principals in the case -- Fountain, the murdered man, and Albert Fall, the defense attorney. Owen said the maps appear to be authentic. But no record exists of their being used in court. Historians were unaware of their existence, he said. The mysterious disappearance of Albert Fountain and his 8-year-old son, Henry, climaxed a political war between Democrats and Republicans and a range war between small and large cattle ranchers that raged in Doa Ana County in the 1890s. Fountain and his son disappeared on the way back to Las Cruces from Lincoln, where Republican Fountain had secured cattle-rustling indictments against Democratic strongman Oliver Lee and his lieutenant, Bill McNew. A posse sent to investigate their disappearance found signs of a bloody ambush at Chalk Hill, just on the other side of the Organs from Las Cruces. Though no bodies were found, it was immediately assumed the two had been murdered. Lee, McNew and James Gilliland, another Lee ally, were the most obvious suspects and were charged in the murders. Charges against McNew, however, were later dropped. Lee and Gilliland were found not guilty of the boy's death. No one was tried for the elder Fountain's slaying. What they show The map signed by A.J. Fountain Jr. shows an aerial view of the area between the Organs and the Sacramento Mountains. Drawings -- of the Fountains' buggy, three mysterious men on horseback, a campfire, a whiskey bottle -- detail the site where the two were apparently ambushed, as well as clues that searchers found in the fruitless hunt for their bodies. Additional notes are in pencil. Another map is labeled "Van Patten's testimony," and a third is unsigned. Both are pencil sketches on browned, crumbling paper. On the outside of the unsigned map is written "Territory vs. McNew 2589." That's apparently the case that was dropped. Like the Fountain Jr. map, they show locations of bits of evidence the search posse found: a place where mounted men apparently hid behind a small ridge, a patch of blood that had soaked into the sand, and the Fountains' abandoned buggy, several miles away from the apparent ambush. The three maps were packaged with a U.S. Geological Survey map of the area that Rhodes speculates was used to pinpoint the location of the witness sketches. Saved from the fire In the mid-1980s, Rhodes, who lived with his aunt and uncle in the house in Mesilla Park where the maps were discovered, came home to find a attic-cleaning in progress. The attic held "a lot of trash," he said, and his aunt's servants had cleaned it out and were "tossing an assortment of things into a bonfire near one of our outbuildings." Among the papers waiting to be burned were rolled-up maps. "I gathered them up, stuffed them into a box and put it back in the attic," he said. Years later, his aunt died and willed him the contents of the attic. But it wasn't until four months ago that he started sorting through them. The first things he looked at, he said, were the maps he had saved so long ago. Now, he wonders, "What else did they burn?" He shrugs. "Who knows?" It's a good question, considering he doesn't even know how his aunt and uncle acquired the maps in the first place. One possible connection: Rhodes is a great-grandnephew of Eugene Manlove Rhodes, a noted turn-of-the-century Western writer who was a contemporary of Fountain and Lee. Although Kerry Rhodes says his famous forebear remained neutral in the political feud that presumably led to Fountain's death, Owen's book points out that Lee and Gilliland avoided arrest for months by staying at Eugene Manlove Rhodes' ranch north of Las Cruces. Eugene Manlove Rhodes also might have visited his uncle, Kerry Rhodes says. "Pure, wild speculation" suggests that the writer might have passed these maps to the uncle. But it's unlikely that the uncle, a history buff, knew about the maps, simply because he would have talked about them, Rhodes says. Another possibility: The uncle was a civil engineer, and bought already-existing maps from another engineering firm, Rhodes said. The court maps conceivably could have come to the house that way. What next? The maps, in themselves, don't appear to shed any new light on the Fountain mystery, Owen said. "As far as determining any more about guilt or innocence, I don't think this provides any more information," he said. Nevertheless, they are a fascinating new bit of documentation of Doa Ana County's most chaotic political period. "Certainly these are very valuable maps which have never been published before," Owen said. The unsigned map, he added, bears a resemblance to one credited to posse member Carl Clausen, which has been published. For now, the maps will remain under wraps. Kerry Rhodes considers them family heirlooms and, considering their age and condition, he is reluctant to show them to the public. "Probably what I'll end up doing is keep them until my children are old enough to indicate an appreciation," he said. He has a daughter in high school and a son in college, but that's still too young, he added. "I'll probably just keep them in the family," he said.