Book Review – Las Cruces Author Details Fountain Murders Based on Pinkerton Investigation
Las Cruces Bulletin
By Mike Cook
The disappearance of Judge Albert J. Fountain and his eight-year-old son, Henry, on Feb. 1, 1896, is one of the great and enduring mysteries of the Southwest.
“The evidence indicated that although Fountain was killed during the ambush, his son was taken alive, and only killed the next day,” Las Cruces author David G Thomas said in his new book, “The Stolen Pinkerton Reports of the Colonel Albert J. Fountain Murder Investigation.” Thomas is listed as editor of the book.
“The case file for the crime contains no information,” Thomas said. “There are no trial transcripts (Oliver Lee and Jim Gilliland were tried for and found not guilty of Henry’s murder) or witness testimonies. The only reports that exist today of the investigation of the case are these Pinkerton reports, which were commissioned by the territorial governor and then stolen from his office four months after the murders. The reports, now recovered, are published here.”
The Pinkerton report is based on the investigation conducted by the agency’s most competent operatives, John Conklin Fraser and William C. Sayers, Thomas said. His book, published earlier this year, is based on a copy of the Pinkerton report that is part of the Katherine D. Stoes Papers in New Mexico State University’s Archives and Special Collections. Stoes’ husband, Henry Stoes, was a member of the Fountain posse.
Fountain was the staff attorney and lead investigator for the Southeastern New Mexico Stock Growers’ Association, Thomas said in the book’s first paragraph. “He had been aggressively pursuing a campaign against rustlers in southern New Mexico.” Fountain traveled from Mesilla to the county courthouse in Lincoln County to place evidence he had collected before a grand jury.
“Colonel Fountain was well aware that he had a risky job, that the men he was pursuing were capable of extreme violence,” Thomas said. “It was this self-evident danger that had induced Col. Fountain’s wife, Mariana, to convince Col. Fountain to take his son with him on the trip to Lincoln. She believed that the presence of her youngest son would prevent any violence directed at Col. Fountain.”
Thomas’ book details the lives of all those involved in the case, including Col. Fountain, Henry, Maria, Doña Ana County Sheriff Pat Garrett and defense attorney Albert Fall.
It gives lurid details from the crime scene near La Luz, which included a pool of blood that “was 7 or 8 inches deep and twice or three times as large as a spittoon.” Marks on the ground at a nearby campfire “suggested that Col. Fountain’s body had been carried there wrapped in a blanket and that Henry was still alive.”
The book also details the investigation of the disappearance and the 1899 trial of Lee and Gilliland in Hillsboro. It has nearly 30 images of the people and places involved, including a hand-drawn map of the routes taken by the Fountain posses.
Thomas learned earlier this month that another of his books, “Killing Pat Garrett, The Wild West’s Most Famous Lawman – Murder or Self-Defense?” was named a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards.
To buy the Fountain book and for more information about it, visit a local, independent book store or www.amazon.com/Pinkerton-Reports-Colonel-Fountain-Investigation/dp/0982870965.