James Dolan (Lincoln County War)

James Dolan (Lincoln County War)

James Dolan (May 2, 1848 - February 6, 1898) was an Old West businessman, cattleman, and a key factor in the Lincoln County War, in New Mexico, which launched Billy the Kid to fame.

Early life and Murphy association

Dolan was born in Ireland, and moved to the United States at the age of five with his family. He served in the Union Army from 1863 until the Civil Wars end, after which he moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico. He worked as a clerk for Lawrence Murphy, and by 1874 the two men were business partners in a mercantile and banking operation. The venture was highly successful and profitable, mainly due to there being no other competition.

Dolan was known as a hot-tempered man. In May 1873, Dolan had attempted to shoot US Cavalry Captain James Randlett on Fort Stanton, resulting in "L. G. Murphy & Co." being evicted from the fort. On May 9, 1877, Dolan killed Hilario Jaramillo, claiming that the latter had charged him with a knife. George Peppin, a recent friend, later married Jaramillo's widow, and many suspected that the two had planned the killing of her late husband.

It would be the only killing he would personally commit, preferring thereafter to hire others to commit acts of violence under his direction. By this time, however, Dolan had became close friends with Sheriff William J. Brady, who later was suspected to have been corrupt. Because of the lack of competition, the Murphy-Dolan businesses charged high prices for their goods, making them hated by local farmers and ranchers.

To counter this, in 1876 rancher John Tunstall and businessman Alexander McSween opened a competing business, with the support of rancher John Chisum. The general store and bank, called "J. H. Tunstall & Co", was located near to the Murphy-Dolan businesses, in Lincoln, New Mexico, and enraged Dolan. With Murphy's support, Dolan hired gunmen with the intent of goading Tunstall into a fight. Dolan hired members of the Seven Rivers Warriors, the Jessie Evans Gang, and the John Kinney Gang. Of those hired by Dolan, Jessie Evans was the most feared. [http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-lawrencemurphy.html]

Lincoln County War

The gunmen rustled cattle from Tunstall, and dispersed his herds, in response top which Tunstall hired gunmen of his own, namely Dick Brewer, Charlie Bowdre, Billy the Kid, Doc Scurlock, George Coe and Frank Coe. On February 18, 1878, John Tunstall was shot and killed by Jessie Evans, William Morton, Tom Hill and Frank Baker. This sparked what would become known as the Lincoln County War, one of the most famous range wars.

Although Dolan was suspected, and it is likely, to have ordered the killing, Sheriff Brady did nothing. In reaction to this, Alex McSween organized the Lincoln County Regulators, who were deputized to capture and bring in Evans, Morton, Baker and Hill. William Morton and Frank Baker were captured on March 6 by the Regualators, who on March 9th, 1878 executed them both, along with fellow Regulator William McCloskey, who was suspected to have betrayed the Regulators and of being on Dolan's payroll. That same day Jessie Evans and Tom Hill attempted to disperse sheep on a local farm, and Tom Hill was killed by the sheep farmer, while Evans was wounded.

During that period, Dolan offered a reward for anyone who would kill Alex McSween. On April 1, 1878, the Regulators killed Sheriff Brady and his deputy George W. Hindman. Several killings followed, committed by both the Regulators and the gunmen hired by Dolan, who were often led by Jessie Evans. John Copeland was appointed to replace Brady, but when he refused to side with either faction, preferring to remain neutral and deal with both sides accordingly, he was dismissed and replaced by George Peppin, who was plainly on the side of the Murphy-Dolan faction. The range war lasted through July, 1878, culminating in the Battle of Lincoln.

Aftermath, later life

When the range war ended, Susan McSween hired attorney Huston Chapman to pursue charges against James Dolan and others, in addition to working toward amnesty for the Regulators. On February 18, 1879, ironically one year to the day from when Tunstall was murdered, Jessie Evans and Billy Campbell killed Chapman, then fled the territory. That murder also was attributed to Dolan, though his involvement was never proven. Dolan was indicted for the murder of John Tunstall, but was acquitted. Dolan later suffered from alcoholism, but did serve as the Lincoln County Treasurer for a time, as well as in the Territorial Senate. He died on his ranch in 1898, having by that time purchased all of Tunstall's property as well.

External links

* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/WWdolanJ.htm James Dolan]
* [http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-jamesdolan.html James Dolan, Lincoln County War]
* [http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-lawrencemurphy.html Dolan-Murphy]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Rapids/9755/NMLincolnCountyWar.html Lincoln County War]
* [http://www.southernnewmexico.com/Articles/Southeast/Lincoln/TheLincolnCountyWar.html Lincoln County War, "Competition Wasn't Welcome]
* [http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/outlaws/mccarty/3.html Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid] ]

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