Friday, April 24, 2009
Outlaws in the valley
Thomas Edward "Black Jack" Ketchum and his gang were only a few of the "outlaws" that hung around Moreno Valley, Elisabethtown, Cimarron, and the Black Lake area. They were supposedly "laying low" after doing train robberies in Texas and other parts of New Mexico.
Black Jack was one of the only train robbers hung for that crime and not murder. He was hung in Clayton, New Mexico in such a bumbling way that he was decapitated. And it was later determined that it was unconstitutional to hang someone for robbing trains. Horses, maybe, but trains no, regardless of what the real robber barons (train builders and owners) wanted.
But if local stories are to be believed Black Jack was by no means innocent of murder. The charges were just never brought against him. And he participated in more than one lynching where he was not the guest of honor. One of these lynchings in Elizabethtown produced a head which Black Jack took in a sack to Cimarron and placed on the picket fence of the St. James Hotel. So maybe it was karma or fate that he later lost his head because of a rope.
Anyway even though Ketchum and his gang hung out here and worked for some of the local ranches between train robberies it is Clayton and Cimarron that got famous for him.