John Kinney – King Pin of the Cattle Rustlers


John Kinney at Left

John Kinney at Left

John Kinney (18??-1819) – Leader of the John Kinney Gang of New Mexico, Kinney was known as the “King Pin of Cattle Rustlers.” His gang, also known as the Rio Grande Posse, made themselves available as hired gunmen when they weren’t otherwise busy profitably stealing cattle. Primarily operating in Dona Ana County in the early 1870’s, the gang hired out in 1877 to fight in the El Paso Salt War.

The following year, they made their guns available to the DolanMurphy faction in the Lincoln County War. Upon their arrival in Lincoln County, Kinney was deputized by Sheriff George Peppin. With his gang acting as his posse, they were given the freedom to run rampant in the county. Once the “war” was over, most of the gang members returned to Dona Ana County and their profitable cattle rustling activities. However, a few of them remained and joined up with another gang called Selman’s Scouts.

John Kinney and his men continued to flourish until he was arrested in April, 1883. Convicted of cattle rustling, Kinney was sentenced  to serve five years in the Leavenworth, Kansas State Penitentiary. By the time he was paroled in February, 1886, his men had all scattered. He returned to Arizona where he worked at a feed lot in Kingman for a time, However, when the Spanish-American War broke out, he joined up and was serving in Cuba in the Spring of 1898. After the war, he returned to Arizona where he worked as a miner in Chapparral Gulch. He died of natural causes at Prescott, Arizona on August 25, 1919.


By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.


Also See:

Outlaws on the Frontier

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