WPA Mrs. Ella Davidson
Writer: Georgia B. Redfield
Interview with: MRS. ELLA (
DAUGHTER OF FRONTIER ARMY-MAN
PIONEER WIFE AND MOTHER.
Mrs. Ella Bolton Davidson, is one
of the few living pioneer women, who experienced all the hardships and dangers
of the first years of settlement of the new country of
Mrs. Davidson, as a child, lived
Wherever she has lived she quietly
became one of the leaders in all cultural and educational [movements?]
instituted for the improvement and enjoyment of the town's people. In 1871,
when six years of age Ella Bolton and her mother Ella (Doyel) Bolton and a
brother and older sister - who is Mrs. Amelia Bolton Church - came to America
from their native town and country, Wexford, Ireland. They joined their husband
and father, John Bolton, at
After the voyage from
They were allowed to make only thirty miles a day and were required to make camp at Government Army Posts, stationed along the route. At night the wagons and ambulance were place in a circle in which the mules, used for their conveyances, were confined where they could be watched and guarded from Indian raids.
There were no Indian attacks, and no Indians were seen on their entire journey, tho'ugh there may have been some hidden in many places who dared not attack the well armed soldiers who were constantly on the alert.
The ambulance was, comparatively speaking, easy riding, but the slow traveling had become monotonous and uninteresting long before the three weeks time taken far the journey had passed. They saw no houses or human beings for hundreds of miles in some districts, except the soldiers at the army stations.
The children becoming restless and
adventuresome, on the frequent stops, would wander short distances from the
wagons. On one occasion while gathering little stones , found on mounds
made by ants, which they put in little tobacco sacks, discarded by the
soldiers, they were suddenly running and screaming from the pain of many ant
stings. This becoming an experience of the journey, they never forgot. Also red
chili peppers called "
The fort was named for Captain
Henry W. Stanton, First Dragoons, who was killed January 19, 1855, sixty-six
miles southwest of
As an army post the fort was abandoned in 1861, was again occupied by the army in 1863 and substantial stone and brick buildings and other improvements for defense, were constructed in 1868.
In this reconstructed fort John Bolton, after the arrival of his family in 1871, built their adobe house and here, in this, her first New Mexico home, Ella Bolton with her parents and her sister and brother spent three of her early childhood years.
In 1873 John Bolton moved his
Ella Bolton met the young desperado at a dancing party given by a woman hostess who shared the belief of many others, that "the Kid" had been led into evil paths, and through kindness and friendliness of hospitality might be led back into the "straight and narrow way". Billy the Kid thoroughly enjoyed the party and the occasion of his dancing with Ella Bolton until in his exuberance of enjoyment of the dance, he lifted her and lightly swung her off her feet. Then he who had boasted of conquests and murderings of numerous big strong man, was made ashamed when he was left on the dance floor, where he stood in confusion, vanquished by a small young girl.
On April 1, 1878 Major William Brady, Sheriff of Lincoln County was fired upon and killed by the McSween partisans, among them "Billy the Kid". The gang lay in wait, concealed by an adobe wall, until Sheriff Brady should walk by after having gone through the motion of dismissing court, that because of threats of shooting and murdering had never convened.
On hearing the shots that killed Sheriff Brady and Deputy Sheriff George Hindman who was one of three man who accompanied him (the other two were not shot) the Lincoln school master became excited and dismissed the school children who walked to their homes in danger of being shot by any of the throngs of armed men, who wrought to a high tension of excitement, would have shot to kill on any slight excuse.
The bodies of Brady and Hindman, no one dared remove, still lay in the street when the school children passed and Ella Bolton, among them, realized then that the slender grey-eyed youth, she knew as William Bonney, was possessed of a passion for murdering and destruction.
The story as an eye witness of parts of the final bloody battle that practically ended the Lincoln County War is best given in Mrs. Davidson's own words:
"On the Sunday evening before
the terrible days that ended the Lincoln
County War Mother said: 'Ella
this is the week that will end all this bloodshed and fighting and, I thank God
your father is away and won't be mixed up in the shooting, but I an afraid to
stay here with you children unprotected.' So that night after supper she took
us to stay with the Ellis family, in their house which was built with all the
rooms in one long row. About ten o'clock we heard someone with spurs on, come
clattering down the whole length of the house. The door where we sat opened and
there was Billy the Kid! He was followed by fourteen men who took possession of
the house. We went back to our home but Mother was afraid to stay there after
she thought our water supply would perhaps be cut off, so we went to Juan
Patron's house and about midnight that house was taken over by some of the fighters.
We then went to
So she took us two miles out of town [to?] where there were some tall poplar trees - they are still there - and about noon we saw heavy smoke. It was the McSween store that had been set afire by the Murphy men to burn out the McSween men (one of them was the Kid) who were surrounded, so they couldn't escape. When the fire was under way Mr. McSween calmly walked to the door as if surrendering and was shot down. Then, two others that followed were riddled with bullets. George Coe Henry Brown and Charlie Bowdre were among the crowd that escaped. Billy the Kid was the last one left in the building. During the excitement of the roof crashing in, he rushed out with two pistols blazing. Bob Beckwith whose shot had killed McSween was killed by one flying bullet and two others were wounded. The Kid, with bullets whizzing all around him, made his escape.
"After this battle that took place in July, 1878 everything quieted down, and my mother took us home. Mrs. McSween whose home was burned, stayed with us all night, and the next morning she asked me to go with her to see the ruins of her house. We found only the springs and other wires of her piano that was the pride of her life.
"She raked in the ashes where her bureau had stood and found her locket,
"That was the most
destructive battle of the
"We moved to the Block Ranch in 1879 and my father engaged in ranching. Indians made a raid one night while the ranch hands were away with all the ammunition. My father who was the only man on the place found four gun shells, these he fired, thinking to frighten the Indians, who were not to be scared off. They drove away eighty horses. I spent all of the time of the raid shaking with fright, hidden under the bed.
"We moved to White Oaks in 1880, where I was married in 1883 to Cyrus Leland
Davidson. We had two children, a boy named Cyrus, for his father who was born
in 1884 in White Oaks. Millie, our daughter was born in
1886 in Picacho where there was no phsician to be had for attendence of her
birth. We moved to
Mrs. Davidson, who is the only
surviving member of her immediate family, makes her home with her sister Mrs.
Amelia Church in
After having lived in
She is small in height and slenderly built, and has calm kind eyes and a placid countenance. There are no signs of strain or nervousness (in her quiet manner of bearing) that one usually finds in those who have lived under the strain of harrowing experiences.
She receives her friends in a
quiet restful atmosphere, where she has all the comforts and beauty of
surroundings of a modern home, that the pioneer, during the days of settlement,
never believed one would be able to obtain and enjoy in
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