Life in Mogollon
In 1912, the bustling mining town of Mogollon was
part of western Socorro County. While the mines and mills around Socorro
were in decline, those at Mogollon were producing 70 percent of New
Mexico’s gold and silver.
The dominant mining operations were the Last
Chance and Maud S. mines, operated by the Ernestine Mining Company; and
the Little Fanny and Champion mines, operated by the Socorro Mines
Mogollon, with a population of about 1,500 people,
had produced nearly $3 million in gold and $7 million in silver by
This wealth allowed Mogollon, in many respects, to
become a modern town. Some of the mines were electrified and electric
lighting illuminated the main street and some businesses. Telephone
service had arrived for those who could afford the $2 monthly fee. Even
Mogollon Deputy Sheriff Cipriano Baca had a telephone in his office. An
automobile or motor-truck would occasionally be seen on her dusty
streets, although mule-drawn wagons and folks on horseback were still
the common sight.
In spite of these modern 20th century
conveniences, Mogollon was still a very remote mining camp filled with
rough miners, hard gamblers and others keeping the reputation of the
“Wild West” alive. To them, it was still the 1800s. Although the Gun Law
of 1899 prohibited the carrying of deadly weapons in New Mexico’s towns
and cities, this seemed to have had little effect in Mogollon.
These must have been interesting days for Mogollon.
People enjoying the modern world of electricity, telephones and the
automobile amid a population of ruffians still toting their six-shooters
and Winchester rifles.
The Mogollon Mercantile Company was one of the
mining town’s active businesses. It was here where folks purchased about
anything they needed from food to clothing, building materials to tools,
tobacco to wine and, of course, mining supplies.
The mercantile also had a large safe and acted as
a holding bank, keeping the money of many of Mogollon’s residents and
businesses safe and secure. The Ernestine Mining Company had it’s main
account, and money, secured in the Silver City State Bank with the
Mogollon Mercantile as their local banking agents.
Unlike Socorro, Mogollon had no nearby railroad.
The nearest railhead was at Silver City, 85 miles to the south. All
goods and supplies arrived in Mogollon by daily freight wagons, a hard
daylong trip through the rugged Gila Mountains. Although Mogollon was
part of Socorro County, the majority of commerce was conducted with the
closer Silver City. In fact, Silver City made several attempts to annex
Mogollon into Grant County before Catron County was created in 1921.
One Dark Day
Early on Monday morning, Feb. 19, 1912, barely a
month after New Mexico’s statehood, Charles Freeman opened the Mogollon
Mercantile Company as usual.
Freeman was manager and co-owner of the mercantile
business. He was soon joined by store clerk William Clark and bookkeeper
Eugene Burns. This would be a long day, because the Last Chance mine
paid it’s workers on the 20th of each month. The monthly payroll would
be arriving late in the day by an armed guard express.
Later that morning, Earl Alford Wayne, general
manager of the Ernestine Mining Company, received a telephone call from
the Silver City State Bank. The monthly payroll of $3,710 — equivalent
to about $80,000 today — was on it’s way to Mogollon. Wayne no doubt
informed manager Freeman that the payroll would be arriving at the
express office in the early evening.
About 7 p.m., manager Freeman and bookkeeper Burns
left for the express office, leaving clerk Burns alone in the store. The
guarded payroll had just arrived by the Bennett Auto Company from Silver
City. Freeman and Burns counted the money, signed for the delivery, and
carried the package of money the few doors down the street to the
mercantile. Burns placed the payroll into the safe, closed the large
steel door, and spun the combination dial to ensure it was locked and
secure. The payroll was safe for the night.
Two cowboys with Winchester rifles entered the
store, not especially out of place in wild Mogollon. Clark approached
the men, offering his assistance. The two customers raised their rifles,
one pointed squarely at Clark and the other at Freeman standing behind
the counter. With no warning, they squeezed their triggers. Clark and
Freeman fell to the floor — both were dead.
The Feb. 24, 1912, Socorro Chieftain reported the
murders as follows: “Two Mexicans entered the store carrying Winchester
rifles. One report says Clark was shot without a word and as Freeman
stepped around the end of the counter to see what was going on was also
shot. Another report states that both were shot at about the same time.
Another account says that the men were commanded to hold up their hands
and that Freeman delayed obeying the order or refused to obey and
The two banditos then leveled their rifles at
Burns and led the frightened bookkeeper into the back room. Burns was
ordered to open the safe — in fear of his life, he felt compelled to
obey. When the safe door swung open, the two grabbed the payroll package
and a sack of processed silver. They immediately made their escape, and
spared the life of Eugene Burns.
The terrified bookkeeper ran down the street to
the Sheriff’s Office and reported the robbery and murders to Deputy
Sheriff Cipriano Baca. Taking advantage of the last few moments of
sunlight, Baca immediately began to investigate the scene of the crimes.
He followed the suspects’ footprints down the alley from the store, but
lost their tracks when the two murders jumped across the creek to a hard
rock ledge and continued their flight. After returning to the store,
Deputy Baca found the package of silver that the banditos evidently
found to too heavy to be bothered with.
The Chieftain news article continued: “Freeman and
Clark were both shot through the heart and died almost instantly. The
bookkeeper, who was a witness to the whole affair, recognized one of the
men as Apolonino Durango, a Mexican well known around the camp. The
other man he was not able to recognize.
“C.A. Freeman has been a resident of Mogollon for
about five years, during which time he has been connected with the
Mogollon Mercantile company, first as manager for Mr. Craig, and later
as part owner and manager. He leaves a wife and three daughters residing
in Pasadena, Cal., to whom the sad news of his untimely death was sent
by wire last evening. (William) Clark was a native of Mogollon and had
been employed in the store for some time. His parents live in that
William Clark was buried in the Mogollon Cemetery.
His gravestone states he was 26 years and 2 months old when he was
killed. Freeman’s body was returned to Pasadena, where he was buried.
Deputy Baca promptly surmised the ruthless killers
had targeted the Last Chance mine payroll. Durango, being a familiar
face in Mogollon, was acquainted with the payday custom and knew the
company had the money in the safe at the time of the robbery.
Deputy Cipriano Baca
Cipriano Baca was one of New Mexico’s famed
lawmen, serving as a deputy sheriff in Grant County. He then moved to
Mogollon in the same capacity, in 1892, under Socorro County Sheriff
Leopoldo Contreras. A few years later, Sheriff Holm Bursum moved the
deputy and his family to Socorro. At this time, Baca had also been
elected as Socorro County Assessor, where he served several terms.
As deputy sheriff, Baca became well known for
capturing various outlaws over the years, including several members of
the famed Black Jack gang. This bunch of outlaws committed train
robberies from Lordsburg, N.M., into eastern Arizona. A posse led by
Baca captured several of the gang near Stein’s Pass in 1897.
However, the most notorious member of the Black
Jack gang, George Musgrave, managed to elude Baca’s posse. Musgrave was
an original member of the gang, having earned a reputation for
committing the first bank robbery in Arizona to the largest Santa Fe
Railroad heist in history. He also had a few notches on his pistol.
Baca pursued Musgrave, and lost him at the Mexico
border. With murder warrants for Musgrave’s arrest, Baca was highly
criticized by U.S. Marshall Creighton Foraker for driving the wanted
outlaw deep into Mexico and out of reach. Foraker must have gotten over
it, because he hired Cipriano Baca as a Deputy U.S. Marshall in later
Baca joined Fullerton’s Rangers in 1905, the
southern component of the New Mexico Mounted Territorial Police
protecting the U.S.-Mexico border. After 1907, Baca accepted various law
enforcement jobs, which took him from El Paso to the coal mines at
Socorro County Sheriff Geronimo Sanchez convinced
Baca to return to Mogollon, in 1910, to bring law and order to the wild
mining town. Baca accepted the job and had found his hands full trying
to tame the mining town ever since.
In 1918, Baca made the painful decision to end his
job as deputy sheriff in Mogollon to become a full-time ranger for the
New Mexico Mounted Police, once again serving along the border with
Baca ended his 50-year law enforcement career when
he fell into poor health in the mid-1930s. He died of colon cancer in
Albuquerque, in 1936, at 77 years of age. The Albuquerque Journal hailed
the longtime Socorro County resident as one of New Mexico’s great
Baca was 52 years old when he hopped into the
saddle to lead the Mogollon posse.
“Within twenty minutes after the crime,” the
Socorro Chieftain reported, “Cipriano Baca, deputy sheriff at Mogollon,
with a posse mounted and armed was in pursuit of the murderers, and up
to the time when the telephone line went out of commission no news of
them had been received. Three parties are now in the hills and every
available man in the camp is out. Owing to the rough and sparsely
inhabited nature of the country which surrounds Mogollon, the capture of
the men will be a difficult task indeed.”
Prior to departing Mogollon with the posse, Baca
telephoned the Sheriff’s Office in Socorro with a report of the crime
and identity of the men. Unbeknownst to the murders, lawmen for 100
miles in every direction had been alerted of the murder and the killers’
identities within minutes.
Baca led his posse along the road to Alma, one of
the roads in and out of Mogollon. He found nothing. When the sun rose
the next day, a second posse followed the road to Silver City through
the Gila. A third posse, led by Socorro County Sheriff Emil James, was
also heading to the Gila country. It is possible that Sheriff James’
posse and their horses traveled from Socorro to Silver City by railroad.
This was common practice to get 100 miles under one’s belt in a few
hours rather than two or three days on horseback.
Tracks of the two murderers, and evidence of camp
sites, wandered around the region for a couple of days until they struck
off in a southerly route. This was no surprise. Most outlaws on the run
generally headed for the Mexico border with the law hot on their trail.
Durango and his partner were no different.
By Thursday evening, the desperados were spotted
about 10 p.m., near the James Bell ranch on the Gila River. Posse member
Scott Hartley (possibly a deputy sheriff), and a local rancher known
only as Holland, trailed the men all night. Shortly after sunrise Friday
morning, they followed the two outlaws to an old adobe hut near the Gila
farms, about 30 miles north of Silver City.
As Hartley and Holland approached the house, the
two bandits sprang from the front door and opened fire on the two
unarmed men. Hartley and Holland dived for cover. Miraculously, they
were not injured. Scott Hartley attempted to retrieve his Winchester
rifle from his saddle. However, the rain of bullets from the house
prevented his further advance.
Just as Hartley realized things were looking
fairly grim, the sound of galloping horses filled his ears. It was
Socorro Sheriff Emil James and his posse zeroing in on the sounds of the
gunshots. The two bandits wisely retreated back into the house. Gunfire
was exchanged between Sheriff James and the bandits on and off over the
next several hours.
The Feb. 24 issue of the Socorro Chieftain
reported the day’s events: “In the pitched battle that followed one of
the bandits was killed and the other barricaded himself in the house and
resisted all efforts to dislodge him until 5 o’clock this afternoon,
when he surrendered. Sheriff James, with his prisoner, arrived in Silver
City at 9 o’clock tonight (Friday) and the captured bandit was lodged in
jail where he is heavily guarded. Owing to the brutal nature of the
crime and the popularity of the two victims, there is a strong feeling
against the desperadoes. More than fifty shots were exchanged during the
encounter which resulted in the death and capture of the murderers.”
After the gun fight, Sheriff James found more than
$2,000 in cash on the dead man’s body. Another $1,500 was found secreted
in the house where they had taken refuge. Virtually every dollar from
the stolen Last Chance mine payroll had been recovered.
The bandit killed by Sheriff James was identified
as Juan Gregorio Torrango — not “Durango” as bookkeeper Burns recalled.
It was Torrango that had killed the store manager, Charles Freeman.
The captured man identified himself as Francisco
Rodriguez, although his identity was later confirmed to be that of
Francisco Granado. Hard to believe a cold-blooded killer would lie about
his name! It was Granado that had killed store clerk William Clark with
a point-blank shot to the heart.
Trial in Socorro
Sheriff Emil James transported prisoner Granado
back to Socorro, and arrived by train on Sunday. Monday morning, Granado
had his preliminary hearing before Judge Amos Green, pleaded guilty and
was remanded to the county jail. The court ordered that the prisoner be
While in the Socorro County jail, Granado talked
freely of the crime, and gave a full and detailed confession to Sheriff
James. According to law, any murder committed in the perpetration of a
felony is a first-degree murder. If found guilty, he could face the
The trial was held on Tuesday, April 2. Sheriff
James repeated Granado’s confession of the crime, along with other
witnesses from Mogollon.
The April 6 Chieftain reported the outcome of the
trial: “It took the jury only a very short time to find a verdict of
murder in the first degree. ... This means the capital penalty for
Granado, the first to be inflicted in the county since January 1907.”
Granado was sentenced to be hanged May 3, 1912,
Immediately following the trial, Sheriff James
transported the convicted murderer to the penitentiary in Santa Fe for
safe keeping, along with several other prisoners found guilty by the
Granado’s defense attorney, J.A. Lowe of Socorro,
filed an appeal for the conviction and sentencing of his client. He
claimed errors were made in the trial in that his client did not realize
the consequences of his confession, which was made without legal counsel
present, and no evidence was presented to prove his guilt.
The appeal was heard by the New Mexico Supreme
Court and published in the Pacific Court Reporter journal.
The court summarized the case, adding, “All of the
facts were fully established by the evidence and witnesses and the
establishment of guilt of the defendant (Granado) was there left the
slightest doubt. The defendant did not testify. This fact would not
excuse or exculpate the crime or save the defendant from the punishment
prescribed by the law.”
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on March 20,
1913, “Finding no error in the record, the judgment of the lower court
is affirmed, and the judgment and sentence of the court shall be
executed on Friday, April 25, 1913.”
Execution of Granado
In mid-April 1913, Granado, and another prisoner
named Ivory Frazer, were transferred from the penitentiary in Santa Fe
to Socorro for the court-ordered execution.
Frazer was convicted of the Nov. 7, 1911, murders
of Deputy Sheriff Thomas Hall and Al Smithers upon a jail break from
Many people felt that now, with New Mexico finally
achieving statehood, the state should be above hanging criminals as they
did in the Territorial days. With the Supreme Court upholding the
sentencing, Gov. William McDonald was confronted to intercede. The
state’s first governor declared his office should not be a court of
final judgment and refused to commute the sentences.
The gallows were built at the Socorro County jail.
State law allowed hangings to be a public event. However, Sheriff James
decided to hang the men, as ordered, promptly at sunrise to avoid a
spectacle created by a large crowd.
In the darkened hours of April 25, 1913, Sheriff
Emil James led Ivory Frazer and Francisco Granado to the gallows. As the
sun rose, the Socorro County sheriff performed the formalities of
reading the charges and order of execution, asking the two men if they
had any last requests.
Granado remained silent; Frazer’s final words were
“May death on the gallows be a warning to young men of New Mexico.”
With the sun barely above the horizon, the two men
dropped through the trap doors. The only known public witness was a
reporter from the Santa Fe New Mexican, who wrote “At 4:52 AM on the
25th, Ivory Frazer and Francisco Granado became the first individuals
put to death in the newly created state of New Mexico. The men were
executed in the county jail of Socorro, and the sentence was meted out
by hanging. Both men’s necks being broken in the simultaneous drop from
the gallows, their death was reported as instantaneous.”
Thus, Socorro County has the distinction of
conducting the first executions in the state of New Mexico.
There are no known copies of the Socorro Chieftain
for 1913. As a result, it is not known how Socorro’s newspaper reported
There were 20 executions by hanging in New Mexico
since statehood. The last was the hanging of Francisco Vaisa in Estancia
on April 6, 1923. In 1929, the state legislature changed the manner of
execution from hanging to electrocution. More importantly, the law
transferred the responsibility of execution to the state penitentiary, a
welcome relief to county sheriffs across the state. Between 1929 and
1956, seven men were executed by electrocution.
In 1955, the state legislature changed the law
again, requiring executions to be performed by lethal gas in an attempt
to find a more “humane” method of capital punishment. Only one person,
David Cooper, was put to death in New Mexico’s gas chamber in 1960. In
1979, the manner of execution was changed to lethal injection. Convicted
child killer Terry Clark was put to death on Nov. 6, 2000 — the only
person executed in the state by lethal injection. The death penalty was
removed as a form of punishment under Gov. Bill Richardson in 2009.
Some of the references used in this article:
“The George Musgrave Story,” by Karen and John Tanner; “Fullerton’s
Rangers,” by Chuck Hornung; “Ore Deposits of New Mexico” (1910), by
Louis Graton and Charles Gordon; Socorro Chieftain newspapers; Robert
Eveleth, New Mexico Bureau of Geology; and Bonnie Wayne McGuire,
granddaughter of Last Chance mine owner E.A. Wayne.