When Cimarron Meant Wild
The Maxwell Land Grant Conflict in New Mexico and Colorado
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
278 Pages | 6 x 9 | 20 b&w illus.
Cimarron country churned with the tensions of the Old West—land disputes, lawlessness, violence, and class war among miners, a foreign corporation, local elites, Texas cattlemen, and the haughty “Santa Fe Ring” of lawyerly speculators. And present, still, were the indigenous Jicarilla Apache and Mouache Ute people, dispossessed of their homeland by successive Spanish, Mexican, and American regimes. A Mexican grant of uncertain size and bounds, awarded to Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda in 1841 and later acquired by Lucien Maxwell, marked the beginning of a fight for control of the land and set off overlapping conflicts known as the Colfax County War, the Maxwell Land Grant War, and the Stonewall War.
Caffey draws on new research to paint a complex picture of these events, and of those that followed the sale of the claim to investors in 1870. These clashes played out over the following thirty years, involving the new English owners, miners and prospectors, livestock grazers and farmers, and Native Americans.
Just how wild was the Cimarron country in the late 1800s? And what were the consequences for the region and for those caught up in the conflict? The answers, pursued through this remarkable work, enhance our understanding of cultural and economic struggle in the American West.
“All the elements of the settlement of the American West are here in David Caffey’s carefully researched story of the Maxwell Land Grant and the various groups and people who sought to make all, or even a small piece, of it their own at the end of the nineteenth century: cattlemen, miners, Mexican settlers who came earlier, American settlers who came later, the Jicarilla Apache and Southern Ute people who had called the region home for hundreds of years, corrupt politicians, the Santa Fe Ring, hired gunmen, and absentee corporate landlords. All of them created a volatile mix that erupted over the largest private landholding in the United States. Caffey elucidates on how the ingenious use of American land laws and policies coalesced with the American dream of land ownership to provide the rationale for settling and “civilizing” the wild territory of Cimarron.”—Veronica E. Velarde Tiller, author of The Jicarilla Apache Tribe: A History, 1846–1970
“An engaging and readable retelling of the Colfax County War and the troubles over the settling of the Maxwell Land Grant in northeastern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Through the lens of extrajudicial violence, David Caffey explores how local ranchers, farmers, and miners took the law into their own hands in order to seek justice and settle old scores.”—María E. Montoya, author of Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Problem of Land in the American West