WPA Mrs. Amelia (Bolton)
Writer: Georgia B. Redfield
Roswell, New Mexico
Subject: Pioneer Story
Source of Information: Given in
Interview with Mrs. Church.
OCT 3, 1928
MRS AMELIA (BOLTON)
Selected by Committee of Chaves County Archaeological and Historical
Society as one of the Four Outstanding Pioneer Builders of Roswell and Southeast New Mexico.
Mrs. Amelia (Bolton) Church -
daughter of John Bolton, who was head of the Quartermaster Department stationed
with army officers at Fort Stanton, New Mexico, for protection of the early
settlers from Indians, and wife of the late J. P. Church, a pioneer builder of
Roswell - has lived in Southeast New Mexico for sixty-seven years.
Native of Wexford Ireland
Mrs. Church was born in Wexford Ireland July 3,
1862. In 1871 she came from Ireland
to America with her mother,
Ella (Doyel) Bolton, and a brother and younger sister, who is Mrs. Ella (Bolton) Davidson. Mrs. Bolton and her children, on
landing in New York, traveled by train as far as the railroad was built, and
then by army ambulance and covered wagons, guarded by an army escort sent from
Fort Stanton, by whom they were conducted safely through hostile Indian
infested plains to what was to be their new home in the wild newly settled country
of New Mexico.
Abode Home at Fort Stanton
Mr. Bolton had preceded his wife
and children in coming to America.
After they joined him at Fort
Stanton he built for them
a new adobe home. Here Mrs. Church lived happily with her parents and brother
and sister the three first of her many continuous years of residence in New Mexico.
In 1873 John Bolton moved his
family to the historic old town of Lincoln, New
where he was made postmaster. Here his daughters, Amelia and Ella grew to young
girlhood, constantly surrounded by danger, not only from Indians, of whom they
had lived in terror at Fort Stanton, but from the rough element of settlers of
the new town, made up of cattle thieves, gamblers and murderers, and the
gun-battles of the two factions of the bloody feudal conflicts, known as the Lincoln County War. The true stories of some of those battles - of which
Mrs. Church is one of the few living eye-witnesses - and the traditions of the
many historic places of interest in Lincoln County
are desired by the Chaves County
Archaeological and Historical Society for preservation in the Roswell Museum.
Beginning of Lincoln
The killing of John H. Tunstall on
February 18, 1878 was the real beginning of the Lincoln
War. Tunstall, who was a
popular young Englishman, had established a ranch on the Rio Feliz and stocked
it with cattle and horses. William Bonney, who became known afterwards as
"Billy the Kid, and as a bloodthirsty man-killer and outlaw", was
employed by Tunstall to assist with the stock on the ranch. They became fast
friends. The youthful outlaw made a resolve, while standing over the grave of
his friend, that he would never let up until he killed the last man who helped
to kill Tunstall. Tunstall was shot down by officials of the law, who were sent
to take Tunstall's cattle and property because of his partnership with McSween
in the mercantile business in Lincoln.
Sheriff Brady was supposed to have been responsible for the attachment. Coe,
Garretts and Fultons versions not quoted. Omitted by request Mrs Church who
wants to write a book on this subject she does not agree on this version any
way of [issued against Tunstall's property, which resulted in his killing.?]
Killing of Major Brady Spring of
"I knew Major Brady very well."
Said Mrs. Church during an interview at her home in Roswell in September, 1938.
"He was sheriff of Lincoln
when he was killed. I saw him as he and another man, deputy sheriff George
Hindman, lay dead in the street, shot down, as they were passing, by Billy the
Kid and his gang, who lay hidden behind an adobe wall. Major Brady was killed
instantly. George Hindman fell when he was shot, and Ike Stockton who was
standing near, on seeing he was still alive, ran to him and gave him water that
he brought from a ditch in his hat. However nothing could revive him for he was
mortally wounded and died in a few minutes. The third man, Billy Mathews, who
was with Major Brady when the shooting began, made his escape by running into
an adobe house near by."
Old Lincoln County Court House
"Up stairs in the old Court
House at Lincoln is the room where Billy the Kid
was confined waiting his trial for the killing of Major Brady. There have been
many untrue stories told of the Kid's sensational escape after killing his two
guards Bell and
Ollinger. I remember all the facts in connection with that escape," said
Billy the Kid, was playing cards
with Bell, while Ollinger, his other guard, was
at dinner across the street, he saw his chance and grabbed Bell's gun. Bell darted down the inside
stairway, but Billy the Kid was too quick for him, fired and Bell fell dead at
the bottom of the stairs. Billy the Kid then walked calmly to a window and shot
Ollinger down as he came running when he heard the shooting. The
"Kid" then threw the gun on Ollinger who lay dying and told Goss, the
jail cook, to saddle a horse that was feeding in an alfalfa field near by. The
cook helped get the shackles off the Kid's hands but, because they were welded
on he couldn't get them off his legs that is why he was thro'wn from the horse
because of having to ride side-wise on account of the shackles. He rode a mile
and a half west before they were removed by a Mexican man, who afterwards gave
the shackles to George Titsworth, who lived at Capitan, and possessed an
interesting collection at that place.
"The Old Court House is now
in process of reconditioning and strengthening. It is to serve as a memorial to
the pioneers after its restoration."
El Torreon - Old Stone Tower
In 1935, Mrs. Church worked
untiringly with the Chaves County
Archaeological and Historical Society in the securing and restoration of El
Torreon the old round stone tower, built by Mexican settlers around 1840 or
1850, at La Placita - later named Lincoln. The
tower was first built to be used as a look out and protection against Indians.
It served in later years as a place of refuge from white outlaws and as a refuge during the Lincoln
"I was interested in saving
the old tower that was fast crumbling into ruins," said 'Mrs. Church, "because
we felt safer all through those dangerous years of outlawry just knowing there
was always a place of safety to be found behind its protecting walls. It helped
keep us brave at times when we needed courage."
"My sister Ella and my mother
and I were the only white
persons of twenty seven - the rest were all Mexicans - who spent the night
crowded together in El Torreon after we had been warned to seek safety in the
tower, for the dreaded Horrell brothers, outlaw murderers, were on their way to
wipe out the town. There had been seven of the Horrell brothers. Two had been
killed at a [baile?] (dance) after the younger one of the brothers had started
a quarrel over a Spanish senorita. This threatened invasion was suppose to be for
the purpose of carrying out their threat to kill every man, woman, and child in
revenge for the shooting of their brothers. We spent the night in fear and
trembling, close by the side of our mother, but morning found us quite safe in
the old tower. The Horrells had accepted some kind of a truce offered by a
friend. They were notified for the time being and no one at all was
"I know now," said Mrs.
Church, "that our mother who possessed a brave and dauntless spirit and
never complained during those dangerous times must have often longed for the
peaceful security of her old home in Ireland."
The First Jail Built in Lincoln
Mrs. Church remembers the building
of the first jail in Lincoln, the
first occupant of which was Billy the Kid "I watched the men as they
worked on the jail." Said Mrs. Church. "They dug a square pit about
nine feet deep, then they lowered into it, a rough closet like cell without any
doors or windows. On top of the ground, over the cell they built a two room
adobe house for the jailer. I saw them lower Billy the Kid through a trap door
in the top to the cell below. There was a ditch running full of water close by.
I was horrified when I heard one of the men who lowered the "Kid"
inside say: 'Let's turn the water of that ditch into the cell and drown him
like a cat.'"
Knew Billy the Kid and McSweens
While many harrowing experiences
and murderings were indeliably impressed upon the young mind of Mrs. Church.
She also remembers many pleasant social occasions during the years she lived in
Lincoln. There were musicale parties and
dancing. She knew Billy the Kid who sang well and was a good dancer. He was a
welcome guest at many of the [early?] social affairs of the town. She often
visited in the home of Mr. and Mrs. McSween. Mr. McSween though he never
carried a gun, was one of the faction leaders of the Lincoln
War. She remembers Mrs.
McSween as being a woman of refinement and culture. She was a good musician and
owned a fine piano of which she was very proud. It was burned in her home, the
night her husband was killed in the final battle that practically ended the Lincoln County War which took place in July 1878.
Married to Joshua P. Church
Mrs. Church was married July 18,
1891 to Joshua P. Church then of Roswell who had
been a resident of Southeast New Mexico since
the spring of 1880. Children born to this union were Sophia (Mrs. L. L.
Ochanpaugh, who lived in Roswell) Joshua (a son,
who lives in Deming, New
Mexico) Aileen (Mrs. Langford Keith, who lives in Roswell)
and Elinor (Mrs. Richard M. Harrison, who lives in Nogalis, Arizona).
Old Pauly Hotel
The first home occupied by Mr. and
Mrs. Church, after their marriage, was the old Pauly Hotel which was the first
real hotel built in Roswell.
They purchased the interest and holdings in the building from Mrs. Aileen
O’Neal who had conducted the hotel for the first six months after its
construction in 1890.
After living in the hotel four
years Mr. and Mrs. Church built the home where Mrs. Church lives at the present
time at what is now 210 South
Kentucky Avenue, and where the death of Mr. Church
occurred in 1917.
Mrs. Church is one of the popular
leaders of the social life of Roswell.
She belongs to the Episcopalian Church, and is a member of the Roswell Woman's Club,
of the Southwestern History Club, and Chaves County Archaeological and Historical Society, to which she has
contributed much of her valuable time in the building of the Roswell Museum
and the progress of its cultural development that is proving invaluable to the
people of Roswell.
The beautiful Pueblo
style building designed by Frank Blandhardt Roswell architect. "Dedicated
to the Founders and Builders of Roswell" is the culmination of the ideas
of Mrs. C. D. Bonney and Mrs. Church, who first entertained the thoughts of building
a suitable place to house the splendid archaeological collection owned by the
society. It was completed as a W. P. A. Project in 1937.
In the selection of Mrs. Church,
by the committee of the society, as one of the four outstanding pioneer
builders of Southwest New Mexico, of whom a bust was to be sculptured for the
Roswell Museum, she was justly honored, above all the women contributors to the
up-building and advancement of what was an undeveloped new section of the
territory not so many years ago.
The life like heads modeled of
Mrs. Church, John Chisum, Captain Joseph C. Lea and James J. Hagerman, the work
of John Raymond Tirkin a Santa Fe sculptor, were
done under the W. P. A. Federal Art Project of New Mexico. They have been placed in [?]
especially designed for them built, shrine-like, in the four corners of the
foyer of the museum. Here they will be safe and serve to perpetuate the memory
of, not only Mrs. Church, but all the pioneer wives and mothers for whom she
stands, and not only of the three pioneer men, associated with Mrs. Church as
builders, but all tho'se pioneers for whom their sculptured heads stand as
symbols, who were contributors in the development and cultural advancement of a
new civilization in the country of Southeast New Mexico.
Mrs. Church has ever been
interested in, the welfare of the poorer class of people and has worked
ceaselessly through the years to improve and broaden the lives of tho'se less
fortunate in educational advantages and beautiful surroundings. Gardening is her
hobby. She is widely known because of her civic pride and achievements in
developing beauty-spots, in which trees and lovely lawns and flowers now
flourish, where in the early days she saw only salt grass, mesquite and weeds
grow in profusion.
Mrs. Church and her family are
appreciated and stand high in the regard of the Roswell people.
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