The Disappearance I

The Disappearance 1

On February 1st, 1896, Fountain and his eight-year old son, Henry, disappeared near the White Sands on their way home to Mesilla. They were returning from Lincoln, New Mexico, where Fountain had been assisting the prosecution of cattle rustlers, in particular, Oliver M. Lee and William McNew. Fountain and his friends knew his safety might be in jeopardy because of his relentless pursuit of the rustlers. In fact, Fountain had brought his son Henry along thinking that no harm could befall him while he had such a young boy alongside him. On their way back to Mesilla, Fountain would run into a mail carrier. The carrier shared with Fountain that he had seen horsemen, apparently following Fountain and his on, several miles distant but had never met up with them. It is presumed that these riders trailed along behind Fountain and his son until they had an opportunity to ambush and kill both the father and son. Fountain’s horses returned home. However, all that was found at the site of the disappearance were Fountain’s buckboard wagon, several empty cartridge cases, his cravat and papers, and two pools of blood. The only sign of Henry was a blood soaked handkerchief with two powder blackened coins, the handkerchief carefully knotted in one corner. The previous day, Henry had made a purchase of sweets in La Luz and wrapped the change from his quarter in the handkerchief. Missing were the victim’s bodies, a blanket, a quilt, and Fountain’s Winchester rifle. (4)

Some speculated that the outlaw “Black Jack” Ketchum and his gang were involved. Most, however, were convinced the disappearances were attributed to Oliver Lee, a noted rancher, land developer and part-time Deputy U.S. Marshall. Lee’s employees, Jim Gililland and William McNew, were also suspected of involvement. Lee and Gililland were pursued by lawman Pat Garrett and a posse, which engaged them in a gunfight near Alamogordo. After Deputy Sherriff Kent Kearney was killed in the gunfight, Garrett and his posse fled. Lee and Gililland would later surrender to others. They were defended in court by Albert Fall, the same Albert Fall that Fountain had defeated for the seat in the New Mexico Legislature in 1888 and lost to in his re-election bid in 1890. (4) Years later, Albert Fall would become the first Senator from the State of New Mexico and later given the Secretary of the Interior cabinet position in the administration of President Warren G. Harding. He would soon resign and become the first United States presidential cabinet member sentenced to prison for his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal.

As the bodies of Fountain and his son were never found, the prosecution was greatly hampered. No one was ever charged with the murder of Fountain. Lee and His employee’s, Gililland and McNew, were tried for the murder of Henry Fountain. Charges were never filed in the death of Deputy Sherriff Kearney. In the infamous trial that took place in Hillsboro, New Mexico, the charges against McNew were dismissed while Lee and Gililland were both acquitted. (4) It was these unsolved murders among other incidents that contributed to New Mexico’s lawless reputation and the delay of statehood until 1912.

Corey’s version

Albert's Son
Photograph of Albert Fountain's son Henry taken the 1890's before he went missing with his father for good near White Sands, NM.