Harvey Whitehill (1837-1906) – A miner and lawman, Whitehill was born in Ohio on September 2, 1837 but by 1859, he was in Leadville, Colorado and was one of the first discoverers of gold in California Gulch. By 1860, he had taken some $15,000 in ore out of his claim and the following year, moved to New Mexico. He worked as a freighter and a miner and by 1870 had settled in Silver City. He built one of the first houses in town and mined for silver for a number of years. Somewhere along the line, he married a woman named Harriet Stevens, and the couple would eventually have ten children.
In 1874 he was elected Grant County Sheriff. One of his first “claims to fame” was Billy the Kid’s first arrest. When Billy, known as Henry McCarty at the time, was just 15 years-old, Whitehill arrested him for stealing several pounds of butter, but after Billy apologized and promised never break the law again and Whitehill, who had really only arrested the boy in order to ”scare him straight,” released him. But Whitehill’s tactics didn’t work, as he arrested the “Kid” again in September on a charge of stealing clothing from a local Chinese laundry. However, the young boy wasn’t placed in a cell and escaped the next day.
That same year, Whitehall hired a Dan Tucker, who would go on to make a “name” for himself as a lawman — most notably — “Dangerous Dan.” Whitehall continued to hold the office until 1882, when he was elected to the territorial legislature. However, by 1884, he was once again working as a lawman and assisted in capturing the Kit Joy band of train robbers. In 1891, he was indicted for allowing a prisoner to escape, as well as embezzlement, ending his lawman career. He then turned to farming and cattle ranching. He died on September 8, 1906 in Deming, New Mexico and buried at Silver City.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.