Lincoln County, New Mexico Regulators

John Tunstall

John Tunstall

The Lincoln County Regulators was made up of a group of young men ranging from 14 to 30 years old, which began as a deputized posse seeking revenge for the death of their boss and friend, John Tunstall.

Active during the Lincoln County War in New Mexico, a conflict between cattle barons was formed just days after Tunstall was ambushed and killed by Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady and his posse on February 18, 1878. The group was formed by Alexander McSween, Tunstall’s lawyer and friend who rounded up several men who had been employed by Tunstall, including Dick Brewer, John Middleton, Henry Newton Brown, Fred Waite, and Billy the Kid. Legally deputized by Justice of the Peace John Wilson, the group was initially formed to serve warrants issued for Tunstall’s murderers. For the next five months, violence would escalate. More men would join the Regulators including Charlie Bowdre, Henry Newton Brown, Jose Chavez y Chavez, George, and Frank Coe, Tom O’Folliard, Jim French, William McCloskey, Frank MacNab, Vicente Romero, Yginio Salazar, Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock, Francisco Zamora, John Scroggins, “Tiger Sam” Smith, and “Dirty Steve” Stephens.

Richard M. “Dick” Brewer was the group’s first leader until Andrew “Buckshot” Roberts killed him at Blazer’s Mill on April 4, 1878. Frank MacNab then took command but would also die less than a month later at the hands of a posse made up of the Jessie Evans Gang and Seven Rivers Warriors combined forces at the Fritz Ranch on April 29. Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock then took the lead.

The violence of the Lincoln County War continued to rage until finally, in September 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes removed New Mexico’s corrupt Governor Axtell from office and appointed Lew Wallace as New Mexico’s new governor. At first, Governor Wallace felt that conditions in Lincoln County might call for martial law. The President, however, advised lawbreakers to return to peace. On November 13, 1878, Governor Wallace proclaimed an amnesty for all those involved in the Lincoln County War if they were not already under indictment. This proclamation, however, did not include Billy the Kid. Officially, this ended the Lincoln County War, but not before 19 people had been killed in the conflict.

Range War

Range War

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See:

Billy The Kid – Teenage Outlaw of the Southwest

Feuds & Range Wars

Lawrence Murphy – Scoundrel Behind the Lincoln County War

Lincoln County War