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

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

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 Do–a 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

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

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

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 Do–a 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.