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Book Review – The Frank W. Angel Report on the Death of John H. Tunstall

The Frank W. Angel Report on the Death of John H. Tunstall

Some things relating to the Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid and other characters involved in that period of time in Lincoln County, New Mexico, have proven to be elusive to historians and authors. A major one of these has been the 1878 Frank W. Angel report on the death of rancher John H. Tunstall.

It has been since 1976 when Lee Scott Thiessen wrote an article, “Frank Warner Angel’s Notes on New Mexico Territory 1878” for Arizona and the West (Vol. 18, No. 4, Winter, 1976), that much attention was paid to this important document. The obscure original document, 395 handwritten pages, has been difficult to access and only Thiessen’s notes have been generally available to historians.

Now comes Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid historian, David G. Thomas, with an account of Angel’s investigations into “Tunstall’s killing and the roles Governor Axtell and U.S Attorney Catron played…..” in this process.

Chapter six reveals the illegal attempt by Catron and Stephen Elkins to destroy the report. Appendix “A” provides brief biographies of the 71 men and women who had important roles in the Report events and Appendix “B” present a timeline of important events related to the Report.

All in all, this is an important contribution to Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid studies and is highly recommended.

— Roy B. Young, Wild West History Association Journal, June 2022