On December 1, 1884, a cowboy named Charlie McCarty was celebrating the good life with a shooting spree inside a saloon in the Upper Frisco Plaza. When the saloon owner, Bill Milligan, requested Elfego Baca’s assistance, Baca rounded up three local Hispanics, disarmed McCarty, kept his revolver, and arrested him. What Baca didn’t know was that McCarty was a member of the John B. Slaughter ranch, a notoriously rowdy outfit. However, the local judge was too intimidated to try the case so Baca, who was running for Socorro County Sheriff, considered taking McCarty to the Socorro County jail. In the meantime, he and his friends “imprisoned” McCarty in an adobe house belonging to Geronimo Armijo. In no time, word of a “Frisco War” began to spread to the outlying ranches. The next day, some 80 cowboys surrounded the house and demanded McCarty’s release.
When Baca refused, the cowboys began firing. For the next 33 hours, Baca survived by lying prone on the sunken dirt floor and returning fire from the crevices between the wooden slabs. When the dust cleared, the unwounded Elfego had killed four cowboys and wounded eight more. Eventually, Baca agreed to give himself up to the Justice of the Peace but refused to turn over his guns. He was tried for murder but acquitted after the door of Aemijo’s house was entered as evidence. It had over 400 bullet holes in it.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.