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Train Robber - Black Jack
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Edward "Black Jack" Ketchum was born on October 31, 1863 in San Saba
County, Texas. His father, Green Berry Ketchum, Sr. died at the age of 48 when Tom
was only five years old. His mother, Temperance Katherine Wydick
Ketchum, suffered from blindness before she died when Thomas
was just ten. Both are buried at China Creek Cemetery in San Saba
County, Texas. Thomas
was the youngest of eight children -- six boys and two girls.
older brother, Green Berry Jr., became a wealthy and noted cowman and
horse breeder. Another older brother,
Samuel married and had two children, but left his wife when their son
was only three.
Sam worked as
on ranches throughout west
northern and eastern
New Mexico. On
their many cattle drives, they quickly learned the territory as well as the
settlers and ranchers in the area.
Edward "Black Jack" Ketchum. This
image available for photographic prints & downloads
In 1892, Tom (Black Jack), his
Sam, and several other
outlaws learned that an
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was on route to Deming,
with a large payroll. The gang set up to rob the train just outside
a water station about 20 miles north of Deming.
The gang stopped the train, holding it
up at gunpoint, and made off with about $20,000. During the robbery,
the conductor had sneaked away, making his way to Nutt, where he
telegraphed for help. Soon, a posse from Lake Valley, 18 miles to the
north was on its way. However, by the time the posse arrived, the gang
was well hidden in their safe house, and Black Jack soon slipped into
$20,000 was never found.
On December 12, 1895, Tom and several
other men shot and killed John N. "Jap" Powers, a neighbor in Tom
later admitted he took part in the murder, but claimed he was paid to
do it. After this episode, Tom and
Sam high-tailed it out of
back to New
Ketchum Gang were well known at many of the dances, social
These well-mannered young men, riding good horses, flashing plenty of
money, and claiming to be
cowboys, would arrive at
the local functions where the women were enraptured by their manners.
They were known to have frequented several establishments in
Elizabethtown as well as
Lambert's Inn (now the
St. James Hotel.) Not until
later, when they were captured, did townspeople learn these young men
were actually members of
Black Jack Ketchum's outlaw gang.
in late 1895, the brothers worked at the Bell Ranch until sometime in
early June 1896, when they quit, stealing supplies from the ranch
before they left. On June 10th, they showed up at the small settlement
north of present-day
During the night, they robbed a local
store and post office, which was operated by Levi and Morris Herstein.
Ketchum brothers rode hard to the Pecos River after the robbery,
with Levi Herstein and several other men chasing after them. A gun
battle ensued at the Pecos River, leaving most of the posse dead. The
brothers then headed west to
were they sometimes rode with
Ketchum Gang felt confident in robbing trains in this specific area of
Folsom and Des Moines. The area was the point where the old
wagon road crossed the
and Southern Rail tracks near Twin Mountain.
Their habit was to stop the train and uncouple the mail and express
cars, which were then taken about a mile and a half down the track and
looted. On September 3, 1897 Black
Jack and his gang were back at it, robbing another train, making off
with about $20,000 in gold and $40,000 in silver. They escaped after
the robbery, hiding in a cave south of
Mexico where they remained until the next day.
July 11, 1899, the gang struck again, this time without the help of Black
Jack. After camping at the head of Dry Canyon in northeast
Elza Lay, and an
named McGinnis made off with some $50,000 from the train in
Mexico. They were soon pursued by a posse to a hideout near
outlaws were better armed with high-powered rifles and smokeless
powder, while the posse had conventional black powder guns, the smoke of
which, gave away their positions.
Sam Ketchum and McGinnis were both wounded in the gun battle and
captured. The posse faired even worse, with two of its members,
including Sheriff Edward Farr, killed and another posse man injured. Both
Sam and McGinnis were taken into custody, where
Sam developed gangrene from his wound. On July 24, 1899 he died in the
penitentiary and was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery.
McGinnis later recovered to serve time in the
penitentiary. On August 16th,
Elza Lay was arrested and was later tried and convicted for the
murder of Ed Farr and sentenced to life in prison.
Carver escaped to ride with the
Railroad Train, 1900.
This image available for photographic prints
the meantime, Thomas
"Black Jack" Ketchum, unaware of the fate of his brother,
Sam, made a final solitary attempt at train robbery on August 16,
1899. Waiting in a in a cave south of
Folsom until after dark, he then rode to the location where he
intended to rob the train. Boarding the train from the blind side of the
baggage car, he planned to force the train to stop, where he could
disconnect the mail and express cars from the rest of the train.
Black Jack's best-laid plans were doomed to fail eventually. He
crawled into the engine and drew his pistol on the engineer and fireman,
forcing them to stop the train. However, he had miscalculated the
stopping point, which was on a curve, leaving the train in a cramped
position where it was impossible to uncouple the cars.
Continued Next Page
"Black Jack" Ketchum.
image available for photographic prints & downloads
and his gang often hid here in what is now called Black Jack
New Mexico. Photo submitted by Sheri Verrett
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From Legends' General Store
Lynchings, Hangings & Vigilante Groups - By
Owner/Editor of Legends of America
Execution by hanging was the most
popular legal and extralegal form of putting criminals to death in the
United States from its beginning. Brought over to the states from our
English ancestors, hanging soon became the method of choice for most
countries, as it produced a highly visible deterrent by a simple method.
It also made a good public spectacle, considered important during those
times, as viewers looked above them to the gallows or tree to watch the
punishment. Legal hangings, practiced by the early American colonists,
were readily accepted by the public as a proper form of punishment for
serious crimes like theft, rape, and murder. It was also readily practiced
for activities that are not considered crimes at all today, such as
witchcraft, sodomy and concealing a birth.
Autographed. 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.2 inches, paperback -- 78 pages. Published by
Roundabout Publications, 1st edition, January 2014.
Made in the USA.