Dedicated To The Memory Of H.B. Birmingham, Beloved Catron County NM Historian (1915-2013). This Website Relates To The History of Catron County NM and Beyond. Catron County Recreation at its best! Educational while fun too, in the form of personal historical tours of the area that takes you back to the days of the old west.
This is also the old stomping grounds of Geronimo, Victorio, Mangas Colorado, Cochise, Loco, Nana and many more. I will be glad to show you the mountains they roamed, the lands of the old reservations, and locations of skirmishes. DML
To see tour options please see the lower section of the page. Please note, the tours are guided tours by vehicle of landmarks and sights. No walking is necessary unless you prefer to do some walking.
The above photo was taken at the Slash Ranch shipping pens in New Mexico during the 1960’s in the fall when the calves were shipped by cattle truck. For eighty five years and prior to trucking, the cattle were driven by cowboys riding horseback over the Stock Drive Way to the railhead at Magdalena, NM. This particular truck was driven by Jack Price, an employee of Apache Truck Lines. Loyd (my Dad) and John Milligan (my Uncle) along with their father, Albert, owned Apache Truck Lines. They hauled cattle, feed and building supplies for the ranchers in the area. The photo was taken by the Lee family, who owned the Slash Ranch at the time of the photo. The area of the Slash Ranch relates to Ben E. Kemp (of the Cow Dust and Saddle Leather book) and Nat Straw (of the Mogollon Mountain Man book) who both worked the area in the late 1800’s as cowboys and chuck wagon cooks for the VXT Ranch (V Cross T). The VXT Ranch, in it’s day, took in thousands of acres and was first owned by John B. Slaughter of Texas. Slaughter’s ranch was known prior to 1886 (when it sold for $125,000) as the Slaughter Ranch/Outfit. Later, the VXT Ranch headquarters (according to the book Slash Ranch Hounds) was known as the Slash Ranch, which was just a part of Slaughter’s original ranch. When Slaughter sold his ranch to English fellas in 1886, the ranch made history here a second time as the largest employeer but eventually went broke. The first time the Slaughter Outfit made history within the area was in 1884, when the Slaughter cowboys and other area cowboys got in a gunfight with Elfego Baca, a Socorro County Deputy, about events of the Alamo. Many of the cowboys were originally from Texas. This area was Socorro County then, until 1921, when it officially became Catron County. The Slaughter/VXT Ranch had more impact on this area than you can imagine. Many folks that are here today are a part of the history because their forefathers traveled here for employment on the Slaughter Outfit/VXT or came out with Slaughter to bring in the first Hereford cattle in these parts. Their families liked the area so well, they never left. I understand completely. Debbie Milligan Lee
“In Catron County NM, when the air is cool, you can SMELL the mountains, and believe me, they smell good!” Debbie Milligan Lee- Tour Guide
Schedule a tour today by calling 575.533.6089 – Apache Creek Old West Tours. Please see the Tours page for more information.
The tours and website are also dedicated to all the pioneers, homesteaders, cowboys, cowgirls, rustlers, outlaws, wranglers and Apaches that made our history and especially to the authors of the history books of this area of New Mexico. Due to my love of history, I am honored and excited about sharing with you what I have learned about the history of the area. DML
Click link to see a video of Ben E. Kemp’s Homestead in Catron County NM. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgg6taJcFCY
The tours feature sight seeing related to the stomping grounds of Ben Kemp, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, Montague Stevens, Nat Straw, Ben Lilly, the Warm Springs Apaches and the Chiricahua Apaches that mingled with them, all inclusive – Geronimo, Victorio, Mangas, Cochise and the Apache Kid and others. Tour landmarks over a wide span of country where you’ll rope in the beauty of the West travelling where the history makers roamed. You will see the peaks and valleys and places the people in “The Books” rode horseback, by wagon and some on foot. You’ll see things such as where the cattle were driven over the San Augustin Plains of New Mexico to the railhead of Magdalena, New Mexico and where the dust bowl homesteaders settled in the New Mexico community of Pie Town and other areas. There are beautiful sights such as the San Mateo Mountains that extend from Socorro County nearly to Sierra County, New Mexico. These mountains were the home of the Warm Springs Apaches. You’ll hear stories such as how my young Great Grandpa Boney traveled with his father, William Riley Milligan, over the San Augustin Plains from Magdalena during a blizzard in November to bring supplies to their business at Milligan Plaza. Other historical events you may hear include the gunfight at the NH Corral near Apache Creek over a milk cow, the story of Dead Man’s Spring where a shootout occurred over a cowboy defending his sister’s reputation, the Elfego Baca story and more depending on the route we take and what you’re interested in seeing.
The tours and this website are also dedicated to my Great Great Grandfather, William Riley Milligan, who brought in the first family to settle in Milligan Plaza which is now known as Reserve, also known as Frisco Plaza.
Last but not least, this dedication extends to my paternal Grandparents Albert and Skeeter Milligan for stories shared about Apache Creek and Horse Springs, New Mexico and other local places. To my maternal Grandparents, Charlie and Isabelle Thacker for making history by coming to the WS Ranch in Alma, New Mexico in 1937 to make their home. We’re blessed that Captain William French recorded the history of the WS Ranch and surrounding areas in “Recollections of a Western Ranchman”, one of the best books ever in my opinion.
Lastly, a very special dedication to my friend, H.B. Birmingham, for taking care of the history relating to Catron County and sharing it with me and everyone that was interested. He was a walking history book.
I welcome you to this site, I hope you enjoy it.
Debbie Milligan Lee, Tour Guide for Apache Creek Old West Tours.
Please click the following link for information on the Farr Ranch History and the Stock Driveway from an interview by Brenda Wilkinson Part I: Farr Ranch History/Stock Driveway History
Please click the following link for the 2nd part of the Farr Ranch History/Stock Driveway History Part 2 (by Brenda Wilkinson): Part II Farr Ranch/Stock Driveway History
Please click link below for information on the WS Ranch Cemetery.
Please click link below for information about the Apache ambush on Soldier Hill.
Please click link below for information about the Apache Kid.
Please click link below for information on Cooney’s Tomb in Catron County NM.
Tour Information: Please call Debbie at 575.533.6089 to schedule a tour or for lodging suggestions.
“The Tours” are guided tours by vehicle where you get a viewing of the historical areas along the highways and roads that were once wagon tracks and livestock trails featured in the books. Because of my love of history, I am honored and excited to be your tour guide. My goal is to get you more familiar with the legends represented in the books and for you to see and get to know their places of travel and everyday living. Essentially, to give you the feeling of walking a mile in their footsteps during a time period when life was much harder and without the modern comforts we have today. No actual walking is involved unless you choose to do so. Current tour options are listed below. Most tours are scheduled for Saturdays unless other arrangements have been made. Please also read the tour policy and notes listed below the tour options and follow the link provided to access lodging information in the Catron County NM area. Most tours begin in Reserve, NM (Milligan Plaza) at 8:30 A.M. I thank you for visiting Apache Creek Old West Tours. Debbie Milligan Lee
2 Hour Tour: Covers approx. 60 miles.
The Half-Pint Tour – Includes the area of what was once Milligan Plaza/Frisco Plaza and the Apache Creek, Whiskey Creek and surrounding areas. Local area history relating to the following books: These Also Served, Cow Dust and Saddle Leather, Recollections of a Western Ranchman, Mogollon Mountain Man and more. $100.00
1/2 day tour (approx. 4-5 hours): Cover approximately 100 miles.
The Recollections Of A Western Ranchman Tour – Related to the historical events through Saliz Canyon and Alma and Glenwood NM. History includes the story of a family that walked from Tyrone to Apache Creek after the flu epidemic of 1918 and to the books: Recollections of a Western Ranchman and Meet Mr. Grizzly. $250.00
All Day Tours: (approx. 7-8 hours): Covers approximately 200 miles.
The Full Recollections/Mining Tour – Related to the historical events of Alma, Glenwood, Mogollon and Saliz Canyon. Relates to the same as the half day tour but also includes the town of Mogollon, The Catwalk at Glenwood and Soldier Hill near Pleasanton, NM. Related Books include: Mogollon Mountain Man, Recollections of a Western Ranchman, Victorio, Apache Voices and I Fought with Geronimo. $350.00
The Cattle Drive Tour – Features the areas of Fort Tularosa, Apache Creek, Horse Springs, Datil, Magdalena and may include Kelly NM if you’re interested in the remains of an old mining town. Relates to the books: Cow Dust and Saddle Leather, Meet Mr. Grizzly, No Life For A Lady, Apache Voices ,In the Days of Victorio, Indeh and Woman of the Century and Cowboy Spur Maker, (the story of Ed Blanchard). $350.00
The Homesteader Tour – Includes Apache Creek, Fort Tularosa, Horse Springs, Datil, Quemado, Fence Lake area and Pie Town. Relates to the books: Cow Dust and Saddle Leather, Meet Mr. Grizzly, No Life For a Lady, Pie Town Woman, From the Top of the Mountain, Homesteader’s Daughter and from Dust to Dust. $350.00
The Cow Dust and Saddle Leather/Slash Ranch Hounds Tour/Mogollon Mountain Man Tour – Will only be given a couple of times a year due to the remoteness this involves. Involves the most information on the VXT Ranch. Please call for information. The majority of this tour is on dirt roads and could be 10-12 hours+, depending on the road conditions. $500.00
Customized tour options are available according to your interests. Please call for more information.
“The Tours” are guided tours by vehicle where you get a viewing of the historical areas along the highways and roads that were once wagon tracks and livestock trails featured in the books. On the tours, you will hear of the history of the locations and settings as portrayed in “The Books”. Please also note the tour policy notes listed below. Once you have decided which tour you may want, please call Debbie at 575.533.6089 to schedule your tour or just to ask questions.. You may choose to ride with me or ride in your own vehicle. Taking a tour requires signing a waiver of liability. Riding with me constitutes no smoking, alcohol, pets or children under 14. Tour fares includes 1-3 people in my vehicle or 4 in your vehicle. Group tours/rates welcome for colleges, universities and other clubs and organizations. Please call if you have any questions. 50% deposit required to hold a tour date. Cancellations within 1 week of tour results in half of your deposit returned to you. If for any unforeseen reason Apache Creek Old West Tours has to cancel, it will result in a full return of your deposit and any monies paid. You will need to make your own arrangements for lodging and meals. Full day tours run from when daylight savings time begins in the Spring until it ends in the Fall. Less than full day tours run year round dependent on the weather. Cancellations due to weather in the Catron County area will be fully refunded. I look forward to meeting you and sharing the history of Catron County NM and beyond with you. Debbie Milligan Lee
Note: We will stop at one of the historical communities for lunch in one of the local establishments or at one of our local country grocery stores. The cost of lunch is not included but snacks, water and sodas will be provided. Please remember we are in remote areas and cell phones do not always work in some locations. Please bring sturdy shoes and clothing in case you would like to take a short stroll in the areas and please don’t forget your camera.
I thank you for visiting my site and your interest in history.
Debbie Milligan Lee