Lincoln County Regulators

Lincoln County Regulators

The Lincoln County Regulators was a deputized posse in Lincoln County, New Mexico during the Lincoln County War, consisting of a dozen or so members who wanted revenge for the killing of their boss, John Tunstall. The group was formed days after Tunstall’s death, in February 1878, and would last for only five months when Alex McSween died in a siege on June 19, 1878.

Members history and friendships

The Regulators were formed out of numerous small ranch owners in the Lincoln area. Many of those who became best known as "Regulators" had a long history with one another previously. Ironically, Billy the Kid would become the best known, most likely due to the notoriety of his name, received due to news accounts that readily attached his name to everything the Regulators did. The Lincoln County War brought him to the front, but several of the other Regulators were actually the driving force behind the events, and had a history of killing alongside one another prior to the war.

Ab Saunders, Charlie Bowdre, Doc Scurlock, and the two Coe's had previously killed rustlers together. On July 18, 1876, that group had stormed the Lincoln jail, removing horse thief Jesus Largo, and hanging him. Ab Saunders and Frank Coe had tracked down cattle rustler Nicos Meras, shooting and killing him that same month in the Baca Canyon. Their association with Billy the Kid began when, in the Spring of 1876, at the time known as either Henry Antrim or William Bonney, the Kid moved to Lincoln County and began working for Doc Scurlock and Charlie Bowdre at their cheese factory. He later worked, for a time, for rancher Henry Hooker, and then for Ab Saunders and the Coe's on their ranch. By the time the Lincoln County War came along, those main core members, referred to as the "iron clad", were all more experienced and closer to being actual "gunmen" than was Billy the Kid.

Formation, Billy the Kid takes the front in the news

The Regulators received their cloak of legality from the Justice of the Peace of the town of Lincoln, John Wilson. They would go through three different leaders, all but one being killed. Although Billy the Kid would achieve fame as a member of the Regulators, he never led them. Their first leader was Dick Brewer, killed later by Buckshot Roberts and replaced by Frank McNab, who was killed by members of the Seven Rivers Warriors. McNab was replaced by the Regulators final leader, Doc Scurlock.

The Regulators were formed to counter what was believed to have been a corrupt Sheriff's Office under Sheriff William J. Brady, in addition to the Murphy-Dolan faction having hired gunmen of their own, to include the Seven Rivers Warriors, the Jessie Evans Gang, and the John Kinney Gang. The Lincoln County War and the Regulators would launch Billy the Kid to everlasting fame. However, in reality other Regulators, for certain Doc Scurlock, were closer to actually being "gunmen" than Billy. In some cases, Billy the Kid was credited with killings that in fact were carried out by other Regulators. By the Regulators end, any killings committed by them had his name attached, whether he was the actual shooter or not. This would eventually be detrimental to his attempts at amnesty.

The posse was made up by a mixture of American and Mexican cowboys who some considered the rowdiest bunch in all New Mexico. Before being called the Regulators, some of the main members called themselves the "Iron Clad." Their most famous shootouts during their existence was the Gunfight of Blazer's Mills and the Battle of Lincoln. The number of people killed by the Regulators during the range war varies, as some killings attached to them have never been substantiated.

It must be noted that William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, never made any efforts to become well known, or to be the main subject of news reports on the events taking place during the range war. Frank Coe commented years later, "He never pushed in his advice or opinions, but he had a wonderful presence of mind". []

Known members

*Billy the Kid
*Charlie Bowdre
*Richard Brewer - the first leader
*Henry Newton Brown
*Jose Chavez y Chavez
*George Coe (Lincoln County War)
*Frank Coe (Lincoln County War)
*Tom O'Folliard
*Jim French
*William McCloskey - traitor against the group according to the Kid and McNab.
*Frank McNab - second leader
*John Middleton
*Vicente Romero
*Ab Saunders
*Yginio Salazar
*Doc Scurlock - third and final leader
*Fred Waite
*Francisco Zamora
*John Scroggins - present at the Blazer's Mills gunfight
*"Tiger Sam" Smith - present at the Blackwater shootings, later killed by Indians.
*"Dirty Steve" Stephens - present at the Blazer's Mills gunfight

Timeline of events

*February 18, 1878, The death of John Tunstall sparked a conflict with another group, the Murphy and Dolan faction, which would later be called the Lincoln County War. Tunstall was killed by Murphy-Dolan gunmen William Morton, Frank Baker, Jessie Evans and Tom Hill. The next day, Bonney and Brewer swear out affidavits and warrants are issued by Justice of the Peace John Wilson for the sub-posse. While trying to serve the warrants, Waite, Bonney and Constable Martinez are detained by Sheriff William Brady. Waite and Bonney miss Tunstall's funeral, Martinez would be let go. On the 23rd Bonney and Waite are let out jail.

*March 1st, "Dick" Brewer is appointed town constable by Justice of the Peace John Wilson, Billy is his deputy. They are to bring in Tunstall's murderers. Others are deputized and call themselves "The Regulators."

*March 6th, The Regulators arrest Bill Morton and Frank Baker. Three days later Morton, Baker and Regulator William McCloskey are killed at Agua Negra, with McCloskey believed to have betrayed the Regulators.

*April 1st, Jim French, Frank MacNab, John Middleton, Fred Waite, Henry Brown, and Billy Bonney shoot at the Sheriff and his deputies through makeshift portals of the adobe wall they were behind. Bonney is wounded by Matthews while attempting to recover the rifle taken from him by Brady. Sheriff Brady and Deputy Hindman are killed.

*April 4th, There is a gun battle at Blazer's Mill with Buckshot Roberts, a bounty hunter working for Dolan. Buckshot and Brewer are killed, Middleton is badly wounded, Bonney is grazed by a bullet, George Coe has his trigger finger shot off.

*April 18th, The Kid, Middleton, Waite and Brown are indicted for the murder of Sheriff Brady. Dolan, Evans, Matthews and others are indicted for the murder of Tunstall.

*April 29th, Frank McNab is killed by members of the Seven Rivers Warriors. Ab Saunders is badly wounded, and Frank Coe captured.

*April 30th, George Coe shoots and wounds Seven Rivers member "Dutch Charlie" Kruling in Lincoln. Seven Rivers members Tom Green, Charles Marshall, Jim Patterson and John Galvin are killed that same day, and although the Regulators are blamed, their involvement was never proven. Seven Rivers gang members at that time were beginning to turn on one another.

*May 15th, The Regulators gained some revenge by storming the area around Seven Rivers, capturing and killing Manuel Segovia, the cowboy who had killed Frank McNab.

*July 15th, the Regulators were surrounded in Lincoln at the McSween house. Facing them were the Dolan/Murphy/Seven Rivers cowboys.

*July 19th, the house was set afire. As the flames spread and night fell, Susan McSween was granted safe passage out of the house while the men inside continued to fight the fire. By 9 o'clock, those left inside got set to break out the back door of the burning house. Jim French went out first, followed by Billy the Kid, Tom O'Folliard, and Jose Chavez y Chavez. The Dolan men saw the running men and opened fire, killing Harvey Morris, McSween's law partner. Some troopers moved into the back yard to take those left into custody when a close-order gunfight erupted. Alex McSween was killed, as was Seven Rivers cowboy Bob Beckwith. With McSween dead the war was over.


Ultimately, the Lincoln County War accomplished little other than to fester distrust and animosity in the area and to make fugitives out of the surviving Regulators, most notably Billy the Kid. The Kid, Scurlock, Bowdre, Chavez y Chavez, Saunders, Brewer, Brown, McNab and the Coe cousins received the most notoriety as being "Regulators". Gradually, his fellow gunmen scattered to their various fates, and Billy the Kid was left with Charlie Bowdre, Tom O'Folliard, Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, and a few other friends with whom he rustled cattle and committed other petty crimes while negotiating for an amnesty that would never come, and evading capture.

Ab Saunders later died, in 1884 in San Francisco, California, during surgery to correct problems he still suffered due to his wound received on April 29th, 1878. Frank and George Coe moved around for a time, eventually returning to Lincoln, where they became highly respected citizens, and successful ranchers. Jose Chavez y Chavez eventually became a police officer, but became involved in a Murder for hire, for which he spent time in prison. After his release he lived a seemingly quiet life until dying in 1924. Doc Scurlock moved to Texas, where he became a respected citizen in both Potter County, Texas and Eastland County, Texas, dying at the age of 79. Despite the fact that the Regulators numbered some forty plus, most members, however, were relative unknowns, and their whereabouts after the war ended is lost to history.

Popular culture

The Regulators was featured in the movie "Young Guns", which only featured six members.

See also

* Lincoln County War
* Pat Garrett
* Lew Wallace
* John Chisum


* [ Chronology of Billy the Kid]
* [ Statements made about Billy the Kid after his death, by those who knew him]

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