Saturday, March 1, 2014

More on Clay Allison

Charlie and Yoko Yoshida
of Western Union, Tokyo, Japan
You might be surprised, but Clay Allison killed his first man on the side of the law. A man named James Kennedy, whose trial for murder resulted in a hung jury, was locked in a butcher shop pending a new trial. Allison and friends did not want a new trial, did not want Kennedy acquitted, and so they broke into the butcher shop the night of October 7, 1870, and strung Kennedy up to a nearby beam.

Allison then returned to his normal occupation of stealing other people’s livestock. The very next year, in late April, Allison and a couple more cowpokes ran off with a dozen government mules, which belonged to General Gordon Granger. This was the very same General Granger who had been in charge of reconstruction in Texas 1865-1870. Clay Allison became angered at his policies and his presence in New Mexico may have made Allison so mad that he balanced the scales a tad by taking the mules and selling them in Mexico.
General Gordon Granger
Later in the year, he tried to partake of government stock again. Everything went wrong, and he shot himself in the foot. He limped after that until the day he died, and it made him harder to get along with than ever, if that is possible.

Still, the first man Clay Allison killed with a sixgun was "Chunk" Colbert. In Colorado, a month before he met his demise, Colbert had killed a man named George Waller in a dancehall somewhere near Trinidad. Colbert met Allison in Otero, New Mexico, January 19, 1874. They ate together and drank together, warily, it seems. They bought oysters, the story goes, and while eating them, Colbert drew and fired a shot at Allison. But he was in such a hurry that the gun’s barrel hit the table and the bullet missed. Allison shot Colbert in the head. Sheriff John Turner, who was chasing Colbert, arrived in Otero after he’d been dead just one hour.

Some days later, Charles Cooper, a friend of Colbert’s, who may have known something about the killing that would put Allison in a bad light, came up missing. They say Allision killed him. But no one will ever know.

Clay Allison’s name is mixed up with the Colfax County War, too. The reasons for the war have nothing to do with Allison, and about all that needs to be said is that the Santa Fe Ring and the Colfax Ring both wanted control of the Maxwell Grant. As the war heated up, the Santa Fe Ring brought Clay Allison in. No one knows what the terms of the Santa Fe-Allison agreement were, but right away, he and his cowboys started raiding ranches at night and actively supporting the Santa Fe Ring’s three Republican nominees—Elkins for reelection to Congress, Longwill for probate judge, and Mills for state legislature—in the 1875 election.
Elkins of Santa Fe Ring

The gunman we’re talking about once joined a cattleman’s association. Despite being a cattleman’s association, its name was The Industrial Association of New Mexico. Its president was Tom Stockton. Henry Porter and Finis “Fine” Ernest, both of Denver in later days, were directors. Ernest was set on running homesteaders off, and swore out warrants on 25 of them. He jerked them around so badly that Allison got angry (as he was wont to do). He accosted Ernest, tapped him on the hat, turned him around a couple of times, and gave him a bit of advice. “. . . you dirty son of a bitch, don’t let the sun set on your ass in this town.” Ernest moved back to Colorado the following spring, taking his 7,000 head of cattle with him. No one knows why Allison sided with the farmers on that occasion. But it seems that his decision to ride for the Santa Fe Ring stemmed from personal spite, not some idealistic idea of himself as a hero of the downtrodden.

Reverend Tolby
A Methodist Ministry, Franklin J. Tolby, was killed in Cimarron Canyon as he was returning from Elizabethtown. Ambushed, he was found lying by the tributary that now bears his name. It was not robbery as his horse and personal belongings were untouched. But he was anti-Santa Fe Ring and was suspected of sending letters to the New York Sun exposing corrupt methods of the Ring. Later, the Daily New Mexican of Santa Fe had an article that said, “It is thought the murderer is a white man and paid for the job.” There was also a rumor that it was Allison, and he did lie low for some time. Shortly thereafter, Allison broke with the Santa Fe Ring.

Wow. The Clay Allison story winds onward. There is at least enough for another blog. See ya next month (notice Clay has nothing to do with Wicked Wednesday).


  1. Charlie, I am loving this saga of Clay Allison. He surely could have been the subject of a month's worth of Wicked Wednesdays, couldn't he? Very interesting stuff!

  2. Interesting post, Charlie. Keep it coming.


  3. Love it. Thanks, Charlie.

  4. Good post, Charlie. Clay Allison, most of all, was a short-tempered gunman given to violent mood swings.

  5. Marvelous post, Charlie. Enjoyed that,