Three years ago I found Sallie Chisum's personal/private collection of tintypes and carte de visits. Sallie of course was the alluring niece of the famous rancher John Simpson Chisum. I found the photos, mostly tintypes on display in a little antique store in Bend, Oregon. It took me eight months to find them all. Some still may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of that little antique store.
After I had found about a dozen pictures, I shared the images with BBB, Fred Nolan and others. Both men were very polite and somewhat interested, but considered the collection only as intreguing. They asked for my provenance. I had honestly admit that I had none. They asked me where I found the photographs, I replied that I had found them in Oregon. BBB politely said to me, "You know Billy the Kid was never in Oregon". However after a two years of searching I found that Sallie's family did and are living in Oregon to this very day, furthermore they recall seeing some of these pictures.
While Sallie Chisum's early life was fun and exciting it did not end that way. She was twice divorced and estranged from her married families and from much of the Chisum family as well. Sallie moved about a bit, but she spend the last several decades of her life living in Roswell or Artesia New Mexico. During her final fourteen years she lived with her grandson, William Lee Roberts. (William Lee's father changed the families last name from Robert to Roberts to avoid the confusion of having two first names. However the western branch of Sallie's family retained the Robert spelling.)
Sallie's brother Walter Pitzer Chisum married Inez Vela Simpson in Dodge City Kansas in 1887. The couple was married in Dodge because Inez had a brother living there who was a prominent dentist, starting practice there in 1885. Inez and Walter Chisum had three children, they were Ara V. and Oscar (twins) and James. Ara and Oscar were born in 1892, and Jamie sometime later.
When Walter Pitzer Chisum died in 1919 Jamie, and Oscar moved to Troutdale Oregon. Ara and her mother Inez moved soon thereafter. Inez moved in with her son Jamie and his wife Effie. I don't know who Ara lived with. She soon married a man named Wayne E. Phillips whose family owned a large ranch in eastern Oregon. They still do.
Ara and Wayne moved onto the family ranch and had two boys Frederick Phllips II b. 1921 and Wayne E. Jr b. 1922 (I have never heard of Wayne being called "junior" however.) Ara died in 1974, her husband in 1968 or 69, but their two boys are still living, both are in their late 80's. I interviewed the two elderly men, who still live on their ranch but in seperate ranch houses. I showed them the collection. They recognized none of the "famous" people, but immediately recalled photos of children, including a wonderful carte de visit of Fred Robert(2).
The entire collection numbers about seventy photographs, sixty are tintypes (ferrotypes). I say "about" because some may not fit the collection, but look as if they should. I also know that I saw some that I didn't buy, not at the time knowing who they were pictures of. I missed for instance a wonderful picture of little Fred Robert sitting on his new tricycle. There are other pictures of him extant sitting on that same trike.
The pictures generally fall into four catagories. The first two groups are photos of the Chisum family and the Robertses, these include photos of William Robert's European family, whom William, Sallie and her boys visited in 1886. Sallie collected three or four photos of herself and one showing she and her first husband. This may be a wedding picture, but Sallie is about five months pregnant! (Could this be the reason for the mixup in marriage dates?) There are three pictures of Sallie's elder sister Mary Branch Chisum who died in Denton Texas in 1873, sitting with her is a women who must be Texana Nubern, who lived with the Chisum family in the 1860's and early 70's. There is also a women who is probably Sallie's mother, Ara Wright and maybe a favorite uncle, Johnny Johnson. I'm guessing a little here. There are half a dozen photos of Walter and Willie Chisum, Sallie's two brother, taken at different ages. There are three pictures who might be Dr. Oscar H. Simpson, his wife and daughter. I'm still researching this, but the daughter was recognized by Fred Phillips in 2007 when I showed it to him.
Then there are Sallies lady friends who lived in and around Lincoln. These include Lily Casey, Matilda Davis, a women named Angie Clouse, Eliza Jane Hester, Helena Tulley Coe and Phoebe Brown Coe. The Coe ladies photos have been positively identified by Dr. Carl Robert Coe, the living Coe historian.
The most interesting to most people are Sallie's friends who were involved in the Lincoln County War. I cannot positively identify all of the subjects, but I can take some educated guesses in some cases. Some pictures I believe I can positively identify and some have been positively identified by family members today.
Sallie collected two pictures of Billy the Kid, one of Tom O. Folliard, Jaun Patron and family, Sheriff William Brady, Alexander McSween, and Godrey Gauss. I think the identities of others are; Joe Smith (says so on the reverse) John Jones (same), Iginio Salazar, Doc Scurlock, and Dirty Dave Rudabaugh.
Some pictures were obviously lost. I am missing photos of James (Sallies father), and Pitzer Chisum. While I have several photos of Inez, Sallie's sister-in-law; copied from photos held by her great grandson; I do not have her tintype.
There are many duplicates of a dozen or so people. There are numberous pictures of Sallie's boys, John and Fred. There are also many photos of her two brothers Walter and Willie, as well as four of Sallie herself. One of her pictures shows her at about three years old.
I showed the photos to the Chisum family who lives not far from where the pictures were found. They are astounded. The older men were a little peeved that I had the pictures. I gave them fine copies. I asked them how the collection could have ended up in a local antique store.
Here's the story. Sallie Chisum died in 1934 and buried in the family plot on the South Park Cemetery in Roswell. Walter who died in 1919 is in there too, but is as far away from Sallie as Sallie could have her grave placed.
Probably soon after Walter's death Inez and her remaining family moved to Troutdale Oregon, where Inez died in 1936 (Her family speaks of her with great affection.) The photos found there way into Ara V. Chisum Phillips hands. She did not brag about the Chisum family experience with Billy the Kid or the loss of the South Spring Ranch. As a matter of fact the family is rather embarrassed about it. When Ara died in 1974 her daughter-in-law held a yard sale and emptied Ara's attic. The photos were packed into small groups or just tossed into old pink cake boxes. I have seen the boxes and watched Mary Davis the owner of the Glenrose Antique store dig through the boxes and pull out tintypes. I saw her pull out and place on her glass top counter the picture of an older Billy the Kid, Phoebe Brown Coe (George Coe's wife), Godfrey Gauss, and who I think is Dan Dedrick. I also watched her pluck out a wonderful and very clear photo of Frank Coe.
What happened to me is what old west fans dream of. I'll be happy to share any of the pictures of I can find a way to post them or get them to you.
I said in my first comment that I had a picture of an older Billy the Kid. He's not that old. The first picture I found shows him as a teenager. His hair is tussled, probably helped along by the wind as the think the picture was taken outside. His plaid bow tie is blurred by the wind. One can clearly see his clear light colored eyes, full but narrow lips closed over slightly bucked incisors, full checks and a little button chin. The photo has been tinted. His cheeks show pink. This photo includes it's original paper frame and is in nearly new condition.
In the other picture, which is also amazingly clear, is damaged. It's been torn from it's frame and has been pretty badly scratched, but the kid shows clearly. This has also been tinted and his eyes show a clear light blue, which matches his string tie.
He is wearing a new suite and is sitting close to the camera. The background is solid dark gray. I think that this picture was taken in Santa Fe, or even in Las Vegas after the kid was captured at Stinking Springs. Interestingly I found another photo on the same day, from the same little bundle of tintypes. It shows a much more sinister fellow, who is also sitting in front of a plain dark gray wall, and also close to the camera. The man is glowering into the lense. He is clean shaven but sports a medium and shaggy mustache. His brown hair turns up at the tips. He has a heavy brow. He has either a bad a split his lip or maybe a fever blister. I think that this man is Dirty Dave Rudabaugh. Historians have been searching for Dirty Dave's visage. I believe Sallie collected it; why not?
Eric here from Bend, Oregon. I grew up in Ruidoso, NM and spent my entire childhood exploring Lincoln and the Billy the Kid story. I have read just about everything there is to read out there. I saw the article in the Bulletin last year and have wanted to get in touch with you. I would love to see the photos. How about lunch sometime?
I have some interest in various things about the old west...my main focus at the moment is actually the history of six-man football in the state of Texas...but I did belong to a Vintage Base Ball team out of Buffalo Gap, TX and we dressed and played by 1860 rules (and 1883 rules) and I really got into that...base ball in the old west, the Irish in the old west, and Billy the Kid and Jesse James are my old west interests...as an aside on Buffalo Gap, TX...that is were Brushy Bill Roberts claimed he was born...I don't put much into his claims...almost zero
Have you checked with the Special Collections at University of Arizona about their photographs?
Re the cabin . . . . Is 10x10 inside. I built it in the early 70s. Started on it in '71 . . worked on it off and on . . moved in in '73 . . lived in it a couple of years before coming out to California. Go back and visit once in a while. Did some "fixing up" this spring. Glad ya like it :) . . . . I LOVE it :)
Cabin was built from discarded telephone poles. Between logs there is expanded metal mortared inside and out with an air space between. Stove back in '70s was made from a 55 gal drum. Stove now is a miltary surplus that was made for heating tents in WWII.
Telephone poles were being removed and replaced. All poles being replaced back then for miles around. So all had been in the ground a while and much of the smell disapated. Some I found to be rotten when cut and those becamer firewood. A little smell of creosote back then from cutting into them but it soon disapated.
I built the cabin between '71 and '73 . . . working occasionally when I was able to do so ( in and out of the area during those years). lived in it for 2 years full time. . . ( '73 - '74 ) . . . then back to visit off and on since. Did live in it for several months in the spring / early summer of '91.
I was working as a foreman for a construction company in the Cincinnati area and was only at the cabin at night and the weekends. There is a bigger window on the far side. I'll look around for a photo of the other side to post. Thanks for your interest in the cabin.
Wood burning stove, . . no electric for construction of for living in it, lights were candles and kerosene lamp, washed clothes in a bucket and hung them on the edge of the roof to dry, . . at first I hauled water from a spring that is about 150 yrds away and down hill to get to it . . up hill with the water . . it was a great day when the gutters were on and the first rain was filling the water barrels. A way to really appreciate water ! It was a great experience both building it and living in it.
I wasn't looking for any insights, . . . needed a home of my own . . . had the property, the poles, a chain saw and ax, also an old tractor for moving the logs. So proceeded with what I had to make myself a house. A simple as that. Initially lived from dawn to dark, . . then when employed got a box of military surplus candles for evening light ( 100 count of them for $ 6 back then ), later a kerosene lamp. Just lived like because it was what I had.
Morgan wasn't shot until March of '82 so there's a good chance he was in there. But Virgil’s another story as he was shot just about when it opened.
Ghosts - well I’ve only seen two and both in Bisbee. Don't know much about them.