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 Author: CowboyReporter
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:46 pm 
Interesting story behind lonely grave
HILDALGO COUNTY — As a reporter, I have to travel all the time, and I have driven past this particular exit on Interstate 10 several times and never got off the highway. This time I did exit, just to see what was there. As I went under the overpass, I noticed a cemetery jutting up from the prairie and, being a history nut, I had to stop and see and read the tombstones.

There are a lot of graves in the old cemetery, but one marker stood out.
It sort of looked out of place and very expensive. Most of the tombstones had dates from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most were pretty weather-beaten, but there was this one that looked pretty new.

The wording on it puzzled me as well. I thought the person underneath it must have been someone famous or rich, maybe both.

I took a few pictures and the quest to find out just who William N. "Bill" Mitchell a.k.a, John W. King, Henry "Baldy" "Bally" Russell, John Davis was ... was on.
Myself and Sun-News Bureau Chief Holly Wise looked just about everywhere we could think of for information on Mitchell and had just about given up when Jim and Bev Pershing stopped by the newspaper office.

Jim follows "On the Trail" and I showed him the picture of the grave stone. Well, he went right to work on it. I think he missed his calling as a detective. He found some information on Mitchell on a genealogical Web site.

As it turns out, Mitchell is the subject of a book by C.L. Sonnichsen called, "Outlaw: Bill Mitchell, Alias Baldy Russell." The book was first published in 1965. If you can find a first edition copy of it, latch on to it; it's worth a fair bit. Sonnichsen is a well-known author of Southwest history who died in 1991.

According to the book, on March, 23, 1907, Sheriff H. M. Denny and Deputy Ben Wooten from Alamogordo were headed to Eestery, N.M. They arrested a person using the name Henry Russell.

He actually turned out to be Bill Mitchell and he was wanted in Texas for murder. There was a family feud and a couple of men were killed. Mitchell had been on the run from the law for 30 years. He was put on train at Carrizozo and sent back to the Lone Star State.

From there the story says he escaped from jail on July 14, 1914, and headed back to New Mexico. The book says he died of a heart attack in Douglas, Ariz. in April 1928. The tombstone reports his death was on June 26, 1928.

Now, there is obviously much more to this, but that is Mr. Sonnichsen's story. Mine is really about the tombstone.

I also wonder why Mitchell is buried in this lonely place on the New Mexico prairie. Not a bad place really ... lots of grass and the sun shines most of the time.

Could it be that after reading Sonnichsen's story, relatives found his grave? Was there no marker before or did someone steal the original? Sadly that happens to tombstones in antique graveyards.

Out of respect for the dead, I have not given the exact location of the cemetery. Everyone deserves to rest in peace.

So, the next time you pass an exit sign in the middle of nowhere, take it. You never know what history you might find on the trail.

Sam Conn can be reached at sam@cowboyreporter.com, (575) 538-1033, or by writing Cowboy Reporter, P.O. Box 734, Bayard, NM, 88023. Most of my story ideas come from you. You folks keep me on the trail. Past "On the Trail" stories are available free online at http://www.cowboyreporter.com.

File comment: William N. "Bill" Mitchell, aka John W. King, Henry "Baldy" "Bally" Russell and John Davis, died in Douglas, Ariz. Why he wound up buried in this small Hidalgo County cemetery is a mystery. (by Sam Conn)
grave_2.jpg [ 33.08 KiB | Viewed 3551 times ]

File comment: Outlaw Bill Mitchell's grave is in a small Hildalgo County cemetery just off Interstate 10. (by Sam Conn)
grave_1.jpg [ 31.86 KiB | Viewed 3551 times ]

 Author: martyclabaugh
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:52 am 
Bill Mitchell is my relative. His father was Cooney Mitchell and his mother was Nancy Pond (Cherokee Indian). Uncle Bill fled Texas after killing two men of the Truitt family. My great, great, great, grandfather Cooney was hanged for these murders in Hood county Texas. He was the last man to be hanged in that county. Bill later came back to Texas and killed the brother who testified against his father Cooney. Uncle Bill was in all an outlaw for 47 years.
In an ironic twist, my parents who were raised in Texas move to Santa fe NM when I was five . I have a love for New Mexico that I will take to my grave.. I only found out about the family connection to Bill Mitchell whem my grandmother died a few years back. I had moved back to Texas by then. She never talked about her grandfather he spent over 10 years in prison for being part of the murders and she never mentioned that my great great great grandmother was Cherokee Indian.. We found papers and my Aunts did research on it . My mother did not live to know the truth as she died at 56.... Some of our papers indicate that Bill did some work for Tungstill or Chisum up in Lincoln County and at one point ran with Billy the kid. Fact or fiction we will never know as Billy the Kid had a lot of men at different times in his gang. Please feel free to email me at martyclabaugh@yahoo.com

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