The Ketchum Gang, made up of a revolving list of members, was led by Black Jack Thomas Ketchum, working with his brother Sam. Others who came and went were Will Carver, Elza Lay, and Ben Kilpatrick, who also rode with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Other members included Dan Johnson, Sam Marr, Tom Thomas, and Ed Bullion, brother of Laura Bullion, who started out being Will Carver’s girlfriend and later Ben Kilpatrick’s.
The gang robbed retail businesses, post offices, and trains in New Mexico for three years. However, everything began to fall apart when members Sam Ketchum, Will Carver, and Elzy Lay pulled a heist without Black Jack Ketchum on July 11, 1899, in Folsom, New Mexico. Though they made off with some $50,000, they were soon pursued by a posse to a hideout near Cimarron, New Mexico. Sam Ketchum was seriously wounded in the ultimate shootout, and Sheriff Edward Farr was killed. Carver and Elzy escaped, but Sam Ketchum was taken to the penitentiary in Santa Fe, where he later died of blood poisoning on July 24.
Lay was arrested on August 16, tried and convicted for the murder of Ed Farr, and sentenced to life in prison. Carver later escaped to ride with the Wild Bunch. Ben Kilpatrick would go with him. In the meantime, Black Jack Ketchum decided to single-handedly rob the Colorado & Southern train on its return to Folsom on August 16, 1899. In the process, he was shot and wounded. Taken into custody, he was tried and sentenced to hang. On April 26, 1901, Black Jack Ketchum was the only person ever hanged in Union County, New Mexico, and the only person ever hanged for train robbery in the State of New Mexico.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated December 2022.