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Billy the Kid Days in song, story, dance proves great success; Large crowd packs auditorium for portrayal of early days of Lincoln County

Actors in a 1956 Chaves County Historical Society skit. Seated from left are Mrs. John Martens, Miss Hazel Vineyard, Mrs. Leonard Hunt, Miss Annie Laurie Snorf and Mrs. William Ramer. Standing are Ed Raymond, Leonard Hunt and Ray Dearholt. (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society for Southest New Mexico)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

An article in the Roswell Daily Record dated Feb. 27, 1931, tells of a performance hosted by the Chaves County Historical Society, with at least one actor who actually knew Billy the Kid. What a fun event this must have been!

Sheriff Pat Garrett’s daughter Elizabeth at the piano. Elizabeth
Garrett composed our state song, “O Fair New Mexico,” and the theme song for the play “My Pecos Valley Home.” (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico)

The drama of Billy the Kid in song, story and dance was unrolled last night to more than 1,000 people who packed the Junior High school auditorium to its utmost capacity. It was one of the largest crowds ever within this beautiful building and everyone was enthusiastic and delighted with the result of the few weeks of work by members and friends of the Chaves County Historical Society.

The object of the evening was primarily to set the people right on many events of the early days of old Lincoln County, which then included Roswell and practically all of southeastern New Mexico. A further object was to raise some money for the use of the Historical Society in caring for relics and the preservation of the old days, and such other objects of historical and archaeological value as might be deemed worthy of preserving. Both were successfully carried out. Information of real value was disseminated by the “0ld Timer,” for he is John Meadows of Tularosa, who was closely associated with both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett during the troubled days that finally led to the death of Billy the Kid at the hands of the noted sheriff, Pat Garrett. A considerable sum of money was realized for the Historical Society. The exact amount is not known for all ticket sellers have not yet reported, but it must be in the neighborhood of 500.

There are so many persons to whom real credit should be given for the success of the evening that one hesitates to start on the task. There were many on the stage who aided in the background and others who starred. Miss Elizabeth Garrett, daughter of Pat Garrett, was general director in charge of the performance. Mrs. John C. Martens, soloist in the chorus, was also responsible for the beautiful arrangements of the stage and it was really beautiful. Lieutenant M. Sansom was soloist and dancer and impersonated The Kid. Elza White directed the square dancing and called the numbers in real old time style and he knew how from many years of experience in this almost lost art.

And then there were the dancers, the singers, the fiddlers, the cowboys and then the Old Timer himself!

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The Program

The curtain rolled up for the first time upon a beautiful scene, the New Mexico Military Institute band conducted by Capt. Jack Fletcher. The band of 38 pieces, ranged in an arc facing the audience, with the beautifully decorated stage and the multi-colored lights playing over it, presented a picture that will not soon be forgotten. Three numbers were played by the band, the stirring Zacatecos March and Old Loved Irish Melodies. The band played like veterans, and only a musician can write how well they did. But it pleased the audience and they were enthusiastically greeted as a great credit to the Institute and to Captain Fletcher, so long identified with the band music in Roswell and at the Institute.

The theme song, “My Pecos Valley Home,” written by Elizabeth Garrett, was sung by Lt. M. Sansom, attired to impersonate Billy the Kid and he did it extremely well. It is a beautiful song and caught the fancy of all who heard it.

The Dancing

Elza White then took charge of the old time dancing. The square dancers in their old time costumes, the ladies with the long dresses of fifty years ago and the men in old time cowboy costumes, brought back to memory pictures of the Old Times when The Kid roamed from the Rio Grande to the mountains of Colorado. The square dancers, led by Elza White, who also called the numbers, were Mr. and Mrs. Elza White, Mr. and Mrs. R.F. Ballard, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Crosby, Mr. and Mrs. John Beers, Mr. and Mrs. Albert H. Pruit, Mrs. E.A. Cahoon and John C. Peck, Mrs. C.A. Baker and Henry Russell, Mrs. W.W. Phillips and H.M. Dow.

The dancers took part enthusiastically and not only gave the audience great pleasure but seemed to enjoy themselves to the limit.

Old Time Fiddlers

The Old Time Fiddlers were real artists in the tunes of old, “Turkey in the Straw,” etc., and the very quick tunes started toes to tapping and brought back old memories to the older people.

The fiddlers were W.C. Massey, Eric Graves and Frank B. Coe, all old-time experts with the resin and the bow. They were accompanied by Albert Stockley, who played the banjo for W. C. Massey and Frank Coe, and by A. D. Bynum, who played for Eric Graves during the fiddling.

Old-time songs

Then came the old time songs and solo dancing. The chorus, again in costumes of the old times, and some of them were beautiful, as well as somewhat wonderful in the light of today’s styles, both for men and women.

The chorus was directed by Elizabeth Garrett, who was also at the piano. They sang beautifully and presented a most picturesque scene.

The numbers follow:

• “Long, Long Ago,” by Mrs. John C. Martens and chorus.

• “Old, Old Day,” chorus.

• “Darling Nellie Gray,” by J.E. Wolfe and chorus.

• “Pop Goes the Weasel,” chorus.

• “Juanita,” chorus.

Theme song:”My Pecos Valley Home.”

A Spanish dance with castanets was executed beautifully by Miss Ruth Daughtry, who was heartedly applauded by the audience.

During the intermission at this point, H.M. Dow appeared before the curtain and thanked not only the audience, but those who had assisted in any way in making the event a success. Also, a cowboy quartet with string music and song, entertained during the intermission. Their performance was realistic and very entertaining. The quartet was composed of Odie Bynum, Eric Graves, Alex Dunnahoo and Henry Chewning.

The Camp Fire

Part two after the intermission show, the stage arranged to represent an old-time cow camp, with chuckwagon, campfires and cowboys arranged around the old timer, John Meadows. The cowboys sang songs of the old range, with stringed music and there was a beautifully executed clog dance by Mary Elizabeth Bell and Lt. M. Sansom.

Whoever arranged the scenery for this event knew their stuff. It was a fine representation of the campfire on the range.

The cowboys on the stage were Ed Amonett, Dick Ballard, E.E. James, and Buster James, of Caprock, who led the cowboy singing; Harold Crosby, Alex Dunnahoo, Odie Bynum, Henry Chewning, Albert Stockley, Eric Graves, C.D. Bonney, who questioned the Old Timer; Lucious Dills.

Story of The Kid

Then came the story of The Kid, as told by old-timer John Meadows of Tularosa. Mr. Meadows was closely associated with The Kid, with Pat Garrett and other famous characters of the Lincoln County War and the days that followed. He arrived in old Lincoln County in 1880 and has lived in this section ever since. Mr. Meadows is far from being a young man and in view of that, his performance last night was most remarkable, of the scenes of 50 years ago. He spoke clearly and one could easily follow the trend of his story.

The Record is getting a stenographic report of Mr. Meadows story in shape, it being revised and added to by Mr. Meadows and it will be published in The Record.

However, here is a brief summary of the story best told last night by Mr. Meadows:

Old Timer came to Lincoln County in 1880. He was then associated with The Kid and befriended by him. Old Timer and his partner, Tom Noris, of whom he spoke affectionately, came to the country, in March of that year. He was in the Fort Sumner section and had lost his hat there. His face had been badly burned and in that condition he was found by The Kid who took him to Pete Maxwell and arranged for his care until he was well. He said he could never forget that act of kindness by The Kid, of whom he spoke in most friendly terms, picturing good qualities, while fully recognizing his habits of outlawry and killing.

Then came the story of the killing of Tunstall, the Lincoln County War, the capture of The Kid by Pat Garrett near Portales, the protection of The Kid from the Las Vegas mob, his confinement in old Lincoln County and his escape.

After his escape, The Kid went to the Meadows home and was given food there. Meadows tried to persuade him to leave the country but he refused and went on to Fort Sumner where he was later killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett, who was accompanied by Deputies John Poe and Tip McKinney.

The story was well told and contained some new facts, as well as a beautiful tribute to Sheriff Pat Garrett as the officer in performance of his duty, rendering the lawless country safe for civilization. Mr. Meadows spoke most highly of Pat Garrett. It was his work in cleaning up the hard criminals and outlaws that made the country fit for development in the building of homes.

The Finale

With the close of the story, the old timer came to the closing theme song by the chorus back of the stage.

One must not forget the work of the ushers, both men and women. They did their work well, quietly and with dispatch.

Mrs. C.D. Bonney and Mrs. T.E. Whitney were at the door in old time costumes. Ewing L. Lusk took the tickets.

The ushers were in cowboy attire, being Prager Miller, Willard Prager, Henry C. Lutz, Hial Cobean, Walter Gill and Ed Amonett.

A wonderful and educational time was had by all!

Janice Dunnahoo is an archive volunteer at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or by email at jdunna@hotmail.com.

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