tired of the escapades of the lawless people of their city and took
matters in their own hands. The Las Vegas Optic on April 8,
1880 posted this notice:
CONFIDENCE MEN, THIEVES:
Vegas have tired of robbery, murder, and other crimes that have
made this town a byword in every civilized community. They have
resolved to put a stop to crime, if in attaining that end they have to
forget the law and resort to a speedier justice than it will afford.
All such characters are therefore, hereby notified, that they must
either leave this town or conform themselves to the requirements of
law, or they will be summarily dealt with. The flow of blood must and
shall be stopped in this community, and the good citizens of both the
old and new towns have determined to stop it, if they have to HANG by
the strong arm of FORCE every violator of the law in this country." - Vigilantes
Soon after this notice, most of the
outlaws headed for new locations with less resistance.
However, the lawlessness wasn’t entirely done. In 1881, after
Billy the Kid
was killed at Fort Sumner,
his index finger was sent in a jar to the
The Las Vegas Optic reported about
finger] is well-preserved in alcohol and has been viewed by many in
our office today. If the rush continues we shall purchase a small tent
and open a side show to which complimentary tickets will be issued to
our personal friends."
though it was just not so apparent to the town’s citizens. Distracted by the earlier times of shoot-outs in the streets, they
didn’t notice a marked increase in cattle rustling.
By the late 1880's entire herds were disappearing.
Secretly led by a man named by
Vicente Silva, a respected
owner of the Imperial
the group was called the
Silva's White Caps, or Forty Bandits; or sometimes, the Society of
Bandits. Often meeting in
saloon, the gang held the area in a virtual stranglehold until
October, 1892. At this time the
citizens hanged a fellow gang member named Pat Maes. Soon
thereafter the bandit group gradually disintegrated. Silva
was eventually murdered by former members of his gang and was buried
at Camp de lost Cadillos on May 19, 1895.
Finally, the town
began to settle down and in 1898,
Las Vegas provided 21 Rough Riders to
Teddy Roosevelt, most of whom were at his side during the famed charge up
San Juan Hill. The town hosted the first Rough Riders reunion--attended by
the soon-to-be-president himself.
historic town of some 15,000 souls is one of
lesser-known tourist destinations that provides an extremely rich history
with much to see and do. Over 900 buildings in
Las Vegas are listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. With the old
Spanish colonists and the European immigrants, the city provides a myriad
of architectural treasures that give
Las Vegas its special charm.