Bullets, ballots and bloodshed continued

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The twin brothers John and James O’Neal are pictured here. The other O’Neal pictured here may be Fount O’Neal, a Civil War veteran. The O’Neals were among the cattlemen involved in the fight for control of the Archuleta County government.

We continue with the story of bullets, ballots and bloodshed, which describes the creation of Archuleta County, a long struggle to establish law and order.
In his waning years, long after leaving Archuleta County, school teacher John Taylor wrote his memoirs, which are on file in the Denver Museum of Natural History. As far as I know, Taylor was not kin to the teacher John Taylor many of us know in our generation.
Hidden in the earlier John Taylor’s memoirs is the story of his involvement in the so-called riots connected with the 1887 county commissioner election.
“In the southern part of the county was a voting precinct known as the Archuleta precinct. (Motter: This would be Edith today.) Here, over a hundred Mexicans from New Mexico were voted to hold their gang in power. All of this enraged the settlers who were engaged in the cattle business. Chas. Loucks, E.T. Walker, Judd Hallett, Wm. Dyke, John Dowell, Jake Dowell, Robert Chambers, Charles Chambers, Maurice Willit, Siegel Brown, Frank Cooley, James and Dock Gililland, John and James O’Neal, Mr. Whitaker, Judge Price and his two sons, and some 50 others, including this writer, organized the People’s Party of which I was elected chairman and we began a bitter four-year fight to gain possession of the government of the county. The state administration and the courts were against us.
“Three precincts in the county we carried Pagosa and Edith precinct with large majorities to gain which I and the above named men worked night and day, but 300 illegal votes polled under the supervision of the Archuleta brothers and Martinez defeated us. They worked to have me removed from the school ever one of their wives and children were with me. This gang even paid a Mexican to kill me, he met me on the bridge one night, knife in hand. I carried a walking stick with which I struck him on the head, he fell and rolled into the river, he swam and came out at the old bathhouse. I walked into the old courthouse, those commissioners were in session and I invited the man who planned the deed to come out and settle the matter in any manner he wished but he did not function although afterward he killed two men and a woman. Charley Johnson, Durango’s criminal lawyer, cleared him, though each was a cold blooded murder.
“The next May we had a school election and won out over the Mexican gang 15 to 1, and I taught the following year and had much pleasure in the work and was offered good pay to teach at Durango, Lake City, Silverton, and Telluride but preferred to stay where I was and fight …”
Continued next week.

This story was posted on April 22, 2018.