An Interview with Gwen Rogers: Instructional Coordinator of Lincoln State Monument

Aug 1, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) Gwen, what is your exact position and what are your duties?

Lincoln State Monument is composed of 17 of the 48 historic structures still standing in the tiny town of Lincoln.

As Instructional Coordinator, I am in charge of scheduling tours, most of which I conduct personally, handling outreach programs, on sight media, scheduling and training volunteers and making sure that our staff and volunteers are given ample and correct information for the interpretation of the area’s history. I have created interpretive guides for both Lincoln State Monument and Fort Stanton State Monument in addition to a Trail Guide for Fort Stanton. I have also been the liaison for our support groups, overseen special events and exhibits.

2) Tell us about where you work and it’s historical importance?

Lincoln State Monument is one of New Mexico’s 7 State Monuments, Lincoln, Coronado, Jemez, Bosque Redondo, Fort Selden, Camino Real and Fort Stanton. Lincoln is located on Highway 380 between Capitan and the intersection of Highway 70, about 35 miles from Ruidoso. Settled in the 1850s by Spanish families from the Santa Fe and Manzano area, the village was first known as La Placita de Rio Bonito, it was renamed Lincoln in the 1860s and designated as the Territorial County seat of Lincoln county.

In 1878 the quite village was the scene of the Lincoln County War, a conflict between merchants over economic power and government contracts. The two factions were the established Murphy Dolan and the new partnership of Tunstall and McSween. Tunstall was murdered by the opposing faction in the presence of his cowhands, one of whom was William Bonney, who would become known as Billy the Kid. The war gained national attention.

William Bonney was the only one tried and convicted of the more than three dozen murders, associated with the Lincoln County War. He was tried and sentenced to hang, but escaped from the Courthouse in Lincoln, killing his two guards, deputies Bell and Olinger. Sheriff Pat Garrett (who was not a participant in the Lincoln County War) tracked the Kid and killed him in Fort Sumner in July of 1881.

It was this daring escape and his evidential death at the hand of Garrett, that launched the legend of “Billy the Kid”. This western excitement caused a media frenzy which continues today. Lincoln is probably the most well preserved town in the American west, the Lincoln Courthouse itself has been a museum since 1939.

There are six buildings open to the public during the summer months and four during the winter: The Courthouse, Visitor Center (a large modern museum) the San Juan Mission and Montano Store are open year round, the Tunstall Store and Dr. Woods House are openly seasonally, admission is $5.00 for adults, children 16 and under are free. Sunday is free to all New Mexico Resident.

3) What would you say was the most important event that occurred at the Lincoln County Courthouse?

Lincoln County Jail & Courthouse, home of Billy the Kid for several days in 1881


The Escape of Billy the Kid.

4) About how many visitors do you get on a yearly basis?

Over 30,000.

5) What are some of the main questions that you get?

How did Billy escape, where was he killed and where is he buried.

6) Do you assist with any historical research?

I do a lot of research, some for visitors and families researching their area genealogy, a great deal on my own for future publications and some for the Lincoln County Historical Society.

7) What are some of the other attractions nearby?

Fort Stanton State Monument, located 12 miles from Lincoln, is presently operated by our volunteers of Fort Stanton, Inc. The Fort is probably the most well preserved fort of its era in the southwest, the history is intertwined with that of Lincoln. Visitors can tour the new museum located in the renovated Administration Building and then stroll around the Quadrangle.

Near by Capitan is the home of Smokey Bear and the Smokey Bear State Park and Museum.

Located 35 miles away on Highway 380 is Carrizozo, home of New Mexico’s first state governor W.C. McDonald. Carrizozo is also the home of several fine art galleries and antique stores.

And of coarse the village of Ruidoso, with the racetrack, casinos and ski area.

8) Do you have a web site where interested readers and historians can learn more about the Lincoln County Courthouse?


9) What have I neglected to ask ?

Old Lincoln Days are celebrated the first full week-end in August (this year Aug. 5,6 &7) every year. There is a folk art play “The Last Escape of Billy the Kid” is preformed Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. There are vendors and reenactors through out the village for the three day celebration. Fort Stanton Live is also held the same week-end.

For those interested in scheduling guided tours, I ca be reached at the Courthouse 575 653-4372, or at my office 575 653-4082 (please leave a message). School groups are free as part of our education program, admission for groups of 10 or more seniors admission is $1.00 per person.

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