John Henry Tunstall

John Henry Tunstall

In 1872 England’s John Henry Tunstall Sr. dispatched his son John Henry Jr. to look into declining profits at Turner, Beeton and Tunstall, a large dry goods store located on Victoria’s Wharf Street.

John Henry enjoyed the expanse of the new country and often rode out to the deserted Gold Stream mining camp. After meeting a sheep rancher named Kimberly, John Henry decided to take up sheep ranching in California. On February 18, 1876, he left Victoria aboard the steamer City of Panama.

Sheep ranching did not pan out so Tunstall moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico in November 1876. There, with partner Alexander McSween, he opened a general store then bought a cattle ranch.

Tintype of Billy the Kid (Nov 23, 1859?–?c. July 14, 1881); believed to have been taken outside a saloon at Fort Sumner, New Mexico in either 1879 or 1880.

Billy the Kid .

Tunstall’s arrival sparked a bitter conflict with James Dolan who operated a dry goods monopoly in the county. Each rallied lawmen, businessmen, ranch hands, and criminal gangs to their respective sides. The Dolan faction allied itself with Lincoln County’s Sheriff and the Jesse Evans Gang. The Tunstall-McSween faction, known as the Regulators, included a young cowboy named William Henry McCarty, later known as William H. Bonney or “Billy the Kid”.

The ambush killing of Tunstall by the Evans Gang sparked several months of back-and-forth revenge killings that climaxed in a five-day gunfight and siege known as the Battle of Lincoln. Pat Garrett, elected County Sheriff in 1880, quelled the hostilities, hunted down Billy the Kid, killing him and two other former Regulators.

For the complete story about Tunstall and Billy the Kid click here