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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Portrait of John Simpson Chisum from The Story of the Outlaw[1]

John Simpson Chisum (August 16, 1824 – December 22, 1884) was a wealthy cattle baron in the American West in the mid-to-late 19th century. He was born in Hardeman County, Tennessee, and moved with his family to the Republic of Texas in 1837, later finding work as a building contractor. He also served as county clerk in Lamar County. He was of Scottish, English, and Welsh descent.[2]

In 1854, Chisum became engaged in the cattle business and became one of the first to send his herds to New Mexico Territory. He obtained land along the Pecos River by right of occupancy and eventually became the owner of a large ranch in the Bosque Grande, about forty miles south of Fort Sumner, with over 100,000 head of cattle. In 1866-67, Chisum formed a partnership with cattlemen Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving to assemble and drive herds of cattle for sale to the United States Army in Fort Sumner and Santa Fe, New Mexico, to provide cattle to miners in Colorado as well as provide cattle to the Bell Ranch.

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Feuds in New Mexico

Chisum staked his grazing territory alongside the Pecos River, releasing many cattle, which also got him in feud with various smaller ranchers and outlaws, paving his involvement in both the Pecos War and the Lincoln County War.[3] He was a business associate of Alexander McSween, an influential figure in the Lincoln County War. His employee and close friend, James Pepper (who was born in Texas to parents from England) was also closely associated with him during this era.[4] When Lew Wallace took office as the appointed Territorial Governor of New Mexico on October 1, 1878, he proclaimed an amnesty for all those involved in the bitter feud. When Billy the Kid surrendered to the authorities, he was told he would be charged with the death of Sheriff William J. Brady, violating the amnesty.

Chisum Ranch near Roswell, NM[5]

Billy the Kid escaped from prison and went to see Chisum to collect a $500 debt. Chisum refused payment, claiming that he instead had given the Kid horses, supplies, and protection over the years. The Kid promised to steal $500 worth of cattle from Chisum to make up this sum. The Kid's gang also stole from other cattlemen and became a serious problem in Lincoln County. Ultimately, Chisum, Pecos Valley rancher Joseph C. Lea, and James Dolan sought somebody capable of hunting down the Kid and either arresting or killing him. In 1880, they persuaded Pat Garrett, a former buffalo hunter and cowboy, reformed part-time rustler, small rancher, and Billy the Kid’s one-time friend, [citation needed] to run for the office of Lincoln County sheriff. His specific task, if elected, was to apprehend Billy’s gang, consisting of Dave Rudabaugh, Billy Wilson, Tom O'Folliard, and Charlie Bowdre.

In December 1880, Garrett shot O'Folliard and Bowdre dead. Billy the Kid, Rudabaugh, and Wilson were later captured or killed by Garrett.[6]

Death and legacy

Chisum died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on December 23, 1884, aged 60, due to complications from surgery to remove a growth from his jaw. He was unmarried and left his estate worth $500,000 to his brothers Pitzer and James. Chisum had an extended family living with him at the South Springs ranch in Roswell, and this family, along with hired help, often numbered two dozen at the main ranch headquarters. Chisum's niece Sallie Lucy Chisum, daughter of his brother James, became a beloved figure in the area, where she lived until 1934. Sallie kept a diary or journal that has historical importance because of its references to Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, both of whom she knew. She and John Chisum are honored by statues to their memory in Artesia and Roswell, New Mexico.[7][8] In 1958, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.[9] John Chisum fathered 2 daughters with his slave mistress Jensie. When Chisum moved west, he took Jensie and their two daughters to Bonham, Texas; bought them a house and left money to care for the girls. His eldest daughter Almeada “Meady” Chisum went on to marry Bob Jones, prominent rancher of Southlake, Texas. Among their grandchildren is Dr. William LaRue Jones, Professor Emeritus of Orchestral Studies at the University of Iowa and current music director of the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra.[10]

In popular culture and literature

The 1970 movie Chisum, starring John Wayne in the title role, portrayed some of the events of the Lincoln County War.[11]

In the 1990 film "Young Guns II", Chisum was portrayed by actor James Coburn. While only a brief appearance, the $500 debt became the crux of the main scene with Billy the Kid gunning down two of Chisum's hired gunmen. Chisum then later joined other businessmen in hiring Pat Garrett to hunt down Billy. [12]

Chisum's life, from 1837 until his death in 1884, is detailed in a semi-biographical 2019 novel, by Russ Brown, centred on his relationship with a slave named Jensie, titled Miss Chisum.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Hough, Emerson (1907). The Story of the Outlaw-A Study of the Western Desperado. New York: The Outing Publication Company. p. 198.
  2. ^ History of New Mexico: Its Resources and People, Volume 2 By George B. Anderson, Pacific States Publishing Co page 1023
  3. ^ DeArment, Robert K. (2009). Deadly Dozen: Twelve Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West, Vol. 1 (Volume 1). OUP; Illustrated edition. pp. 115-116. ISBN 978-0806137537
  4. ^ The Southwestern Historical Quarterly - Volume 76, Issues 1-3 - 1972
  5. ^ Hough, Emerson (1907). The Story of the Outlaw-A Study of the Western Desperado. New York: The Outing Publication Company. p. 330 – via
  6. ^ Chamberlain, Kathleen P., In the Shadow of Billy the Kid: Susan McSween and the Lincoln County War, UNM Press (2013). ISBN 978-0-8263-5279-8
  7. ^ Summers, Robert. "Sally Chisum". Robert Summers Studios. Archived from the original on September 22, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Summers, Robert. "John Chisum". Robert Summers Studios. Archived from the original on September 22, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  9. ^ "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  10. ^ "Concert: The Wild West". Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  11. ^ MacArthur, Greg (October 23, 2023). "How 1 John Wayne Western Movie Rewrote The Legend Of Billy The Kid". ScreenRant. Retrieved April 28, 2024.
  12. ^ "Young Guns II (1990) - IMDb". IMDB.
  13. ^ Brown, Russ (May 5, 2019). Miss Chisum: A COLORFUL 19TH CENTURY TEXAN ROMANCE. Russ E A Brown. ISBN 978-1527241244.

Wall, Colter. “The Trains are Gone,” La Honda Records, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 13 May 2024, at 20:57
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