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Lincoln County History

Get In Touch With Your Inner Kid!

Billy, that is.  There's more frontier history in and around Ruidoso than anywhere else in New Mexico, and the evidence of it is still fresh. The trail is still warm. 

Lincoln County has been home to some of the most storied historical figures in the history of the West.  The Mescalero Apache homeland surrounds us.  Soldiers serving at Fort Stanton, built in 1855 to protect settlers in “Indian Country”, include a veritable who’s who of the West: Kit Carson, Blackjack Pershing, and the Buffalo Soldiers were all based at the Fort in the mid to late 19th Century.

The Lincoln County War broke out in 1878 in a squabble-turned-deadly over supplying Fort Stanton, notable for the number of semi-mythical participants - Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, John Chisum and merchants L.G. Murphy, James Dolan and John Tunstall were all major figures in the war. Old Lincoln is now a restored historic district, one of Americas top 10 "True West Towns."

A year after the Lincoln County Wars, gold was discovered near White Oaks, NM, and it quickly became the state's second largest city (after Santa Fe).  A haven for cattle rustlers and outlaws (including Billy), and known for its brothels and casinos; the gold was mined out, and it became a ghost town.

Three annual events put the spotlight on Lincoln County western history:

Fort Stanton Live takes place at the Fort each July, and features historical re-enactments, candlelight tours, lectures on the events that shaped the region, live music and food. Visit the Fort Stanton website here.

Old Lincoln Days held in Lincoln the first weekend in August, includes re-enactments of Billy the Kid’s Last Escape, a pageant, parade, arts and crafts and food. Visit the Billy the Kid Pageant website here.

By far the most popular Lincoln County event is the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium, held during the second weekend in October. Each year Ruidoso Downs plays host to the nation's finest cowboy festival with old west storytellers, musicians (including the world famous Texas Playboys), chuckwagon cooks, chuckwagon cookoffs, western artists and craftsmen for three days of events, cowboy competitions, horse demonstrations, western swing dancing, kids rodeo and educational activities. In 1996, the symposium was selected as the Best Cowboy Cultural Event by the National Cowboy Symposium Association. In addition, the LCCS has been named one of North America's top 100 events by the American Bus Association. Visit the Cowboy Symposium website here

For an up close look at Western history, the Hubbard Museum of the American West is a must-see.  An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the Hubbard is a first-class museum featuring the history of the American West with an emphasis on the local and regional arts, history and culture. Visit the Hubbard Museum's website here.

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