Friday, November 1, 2013

History: Lincoln, by Ray John de Aragon

Title: Lincoln
Author: Ray John de Aragon
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
Genre: Nonfiction - History
Price: $21.99

Author and historian Ray John de Aragon explores the story of Lincoln County by looking at the lives of people who lived, worked, raised hell and raised families during a tumultuous time in history.

Lincoln, the newest in the popular Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing, features vintage photos with interesting facts about the people and places captured by the camera. Cattle rustling, fraudulent claims against landowners, murder and mayhem were the order of the day. As often as not, the bad guys prevailed leaving devastation and death in their wake. For a time Lincoln seemed to be at the center of more corruption than anywhere in the state. Members of the Santa Fe Ring – unscrupulous lawyers, lawmen, judges and landowners ­­– held sway over anyone unwilling to go along with their plans. Yet people continued moving into the territory bringing education, churches, and families.

The area teemed with colorful, and often violent characters. Aragon writes of Jose Chavez y Chavez: “(He) was Billy the Kid’s sidekick. He went back and forth from lawman to outlaw. Chavez joined the Alexander McSween faction (opponents of the Santa Fe Ring). He was sentenced to death for murder, but Gov. Miguel Antonio Otero commuted the sentence. Later, Gov. George Curry pardoned Chavez. He spent the rest of his life thrilling youngsters with stories of Billy the Kid as he sat on a park bench on the Old Town Plaza in Las Vegas, New Mexico.”

These factoids about people make for interesting reading and offer insight into what life was like in the Old West.

The town of Lincoln has been described as the most authentic Old West town remaining in America. It sits in the lush green valley of the Rio Bonito in southeastern New Mexico and has been a National Landmark since 1960. Spanish settlers arrived in the area during the 1840s. By the 1860s it served as a supply center for local ranches, mines and nearby Fort Stanton. Merchants vied for lucrative government contracts creating conflict and resulting in the Lincoln Country War. 

The small town boasts 17 historic buildings and four museums. Many notable characters crossed paths in Lincoln and rode into history. Among them Lew Wallace, Billy the Kid, Sherriff Pat Garrett and John Chisum. 

In Lincoln Aragon recreates the drama, intrigue and turbulence of the town, the county and the times, bringing to life an era that spawned a legend.

Aragon’s book is available in bookstores, independent and online retailers, and through Arcadia Publishing (888-313-2665)