Horse thieves cause large border squabble

By Don McAlvy: Columnist

I have a better story about the shooting of horse thieves at the fence between Farwell and Texico in the early days. The authority is L. C. “Larry” Mersfelder. He was our first county superintendent of Curry County schools in 1909. This is Mersfelder’s story:

“While I was living in Texico in 1905, two horse thieves who had been operating on the Texas side of the fence were rumored to be heading for New Mexico.

“As the outlaws entered Farwell, Texas, two local peace officers were lying in wait for them, concealed behind some sheds. The officers ordered the two thieves to throw up their hands and surrender, but instead, the wanted men started shooting. A miniature battle raged up and down the street for a few minutes, all the citizens racing for the nearest cover.

“When the shooting at last ceased, one of the outlaws lay dead, while the other had his hands high in the air as a sign of surrender. The Texas officers moved forward to take their prisoner and the dead horse thief, but just at that moment, officers from New Mexico appeared on the scene.

“It seems that in the excitement, the outlaws had crossed the state line and both were now in New Mexico. A considerable argument ensued between the law enforcers of the neighboring states. The outlaws were wanted in both Texas and New Mexico and there was a substantial reward offered for their capture in either state.

“After quite a bit of bickering, the Texas officers finally won the custody of both the dead and the captured outlaw and claimed the rewards.

“In the early days of Texico, there were a lot of tough characters who had drifted into the new country for settlement. The town boasted a store, a post office, and a saloon, but no jail. Fights and shooting scrapes were frequent so it soon became apparent that some method of taking care of the numerous prisoners must be devised.

“The nearest jail was Portales, some 20 or 30 miles away, and law breakers were taken there for confinement. Unruly prisoners awaiting removal to Portales were simply chained or handcuffed to telegraph poles in Texico for safe keeping until the time came when they were to be taken to jail.

“Just how did we get rid of these bad characters in Clovis?” asked Mersfelder. The answer is easy, he said. “My neighbors in this new western town of 2000 population can be listed below.”

And Mersfelder began listing 14 prominent attorneys, such as Andy Hockenhull all the way down to Thomas Mabry, Carl Hatch, and Sam Bratton and others, those being the ones that kick out the bad characters.

Mersfelder, nor anyone that I can find, ever came forward with the names of the two horse thieves. The dead thief started the first burial in the Texico Cemetery, it has been said. There may have been a stone on his grave but no name on it.