Don’t you just love history and the surprises it holds? Read the following article written Thursday, March 30, 1939, by Amelia Church. It was published in the Roswell Dispatch on the same date.
El Torreon was built between 1840 and 1850, according to all the native people who were there at the time I came to Lincoln to live which was in 1873. Andricus Trujillo, the man who built it, died in 1870, according to the best information. He built El Torreon for protection against the Indians, as he was the only settler of the town of what is now Lincoln. He cultivated the fields that are just beyond the river north of Lincoln.
The story of El Torreon and Andricus Trujillo was frequently discussed by the Spanish people. While I was just a child when we came to Lincoln, I remember it very well and as I grew to womanhood the subject was still a favorite topic among the native people, so that I am quite familiar with the history.
The thing that impressed me most about Trujillo was his deathbed request to have the big boulder that stood near the old cemetery south of town — not the new one on the road — dragged by yokes of oxen after he was buried, and placed over his grave. This was done, and it still remains there. He was a strong Penitente, and at the end of Holy Week every year, when the Penitente’s season was over they finished their ceremonial always at his grave and left the big pine cross leaning against this boulder. Many of the native people will vouch for what I have said about the boulder and about Trujillo being a Penitente.
Don Saturnino Baca was the first owner of the premises on which the old tower stands, after the Trujillo family. Don Saturnino moved from his place on the Bonita to the Trujillo property about 1875, and remained until 1879, when it was transferred to Mrs. A.A. McSween. We have with us today a daughter of Don Saturnino Baca, who I am quite sure was born here on the grounds. The McSweens and Bacas lived in the house built by Trujillo after the Torreon had served its purpose. Following Mrs. McSween, Major Howell, who will be remembered by many of the old-timers, lived in the house, and as I remember it, he and his family were the last tenants in the old house, where they lived before moving to Roswell.
Regardless of what people say, that the Torreon was never plastered, I will have to correct that — the Torreon was kept plastered by all owners until it came into the possession of Mrs. McSween, and if there were any arrow marks or bullet holes they were in plaster surrounding the port holes, and not in the rock.
Had the Dolan men not been cut off from El Torreon on the day that Major Brady and his deputy were killed by the Kid and his men in a surprise attack, the Kid would never have been able to cross the field yonder and reach the hills, and make his escape.
And if the Kid had been killed that day a good many lives might have been saved, but they were shooting at him from too long a range, and though they shot volleys, he was too far away and moving too fast.
The only time we took refuge in El Torreon was when I was quite a small child, during the Horrell War, in the winter of 1874-75.
Twenty seven women and children spent a night in it then, but there was no attack that night because one of the Horrell Brothers, the older one, was a high-degree Mason and so was Major Murphy, and the people appealed to Major Murphy, for protection. The Horrells were scheduled to come across the mountain from their home on the Ruidoso, and it was rumored they were going to annihilate the town and kill everyone. We heard afterwards that Major Murphy wrote a letter and sent it with his Masonic ring to the hill to intercept the Horrells and ask them to spare innocent people and not attack the town.”
Among her many works, Mrs. Church was attributed with saving the Torreon, and it’s important history in this part of our Old West!
Janice Dunnahoo is a volunteer archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico.