Murder of John H. Tunstall
In the year 1878, a violent conflict erupted in this part of New Mexico known today as the Lincoln County War. This historical marker recognizes the death of John H. Tunstall, a rancher whose murder exacerbated the violent conflict.
Backstory and Context
When residents of Lincoln switched their business to Tunstall’s store, Murphy-Dolan began a slide into bankruptcy. They first tried to put Tunstall out of business by harassing him legally, then trying to goad him into a gunfight and they even hired gunmen. In defense, Tungstall gathered supporters of his own.
In February, 1878, Dolan and Murphy obtained a court order to seize some of Tunstall's horses as payment for an outstanding debt. When Tunstall refused to surrender the horses, Lincoln County Sheriff, William Brady, formed a posse led by Deputy William Morton to seize them. Only the three deputies survived the confrontation. After protesting the presence of the posse on his land, Tunstall was shot in the head on February 18, 1878. This incident started what became known as the Lincoln County War.