|The most historically important gravesites in Lincoln County, New Mexico, are in the Cedarvale Cemetery in White Oaks. Open 24/7 (no one is going anywhere). Why? Graveyards were not a high priority on the frontier, but White Oaks was really created by easterner attracted to the gold that was discovered here. It's been said that there were as many lawyers as miners in White Oaks at one time. A cemetery was an expected part of civilization to them. When historial Drew Gomber (often seen on the History Channel) was asked it there could be a "Graveyard Tour" of Lincoln County, he noted that "Most historic figures are buried on private land...except for White Oaks." Here you'll find many of the legendary participants of the Lincoln County Wars: Deputy X Bell (killed by Billy the Kid when he made his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse); Susan McSween Barber (another player in the Wars) and John McDonald (first governor of the State of New Mexico). There is no graveyard "directory" at Cedarvale. Please print this out and take it with you if you plan to drop in. (The graveyard is still in use; please be respectful.)|
William C. McDonald
WILLIAM C. MCDONALD, the first governor of New Mexico, was born in Jordanville, New York on July 25, 1858. His education was attained at Cazenovia Seminary in New York. He went on to study law, and in 1880 was admitted to the Kansas bar. He eventually moved to New Mexico, settling in White Oaks, where he found work as a miner, store clerk, and civil engineer. McDonald first entered politics as the U.S. deputy mineral surveyor for New Mexico, a position he held in 1881. From 1885 to 1887 he served as the Lincoln County assessor; and in 1891 he was a member of the New Mexico Territorial House of Representatives. He also chaired the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners from 1895 to 1897; was a member of the New Mexico Cattle Sanitary Board from 1905 to 1911; and served as chairman of the 1910 Democratic Territorial Central Committee. McDonald next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by popular vote on November 7, 1911. During his tenure, the state's governmental system was launched; and raids by Mexican bandits were dealt with. After leaving the governorship, McDonald secured an appointment to serve as the state fuel administrator, a post he held in 1918. Governor William C. McDonald passed away on April 11, 1918, and was buried in the Cedarville Cemetery in White Oaks, New Mexico.
Source: National Governor's Association, http://www.nga.org
In the southwest part of the cemetery you will find the grave of John V. Winters, who was one of the discoverers of the "Mother Lode" of gold in 1879. His grave is in a north-south direction rather than the traditional east-west direction. Why? Thinking ahead he had requested this so that he could be overlooking his strike in perpetuity.
Veterans buried at Cedervale Cemetery.
Tombstone rubbing is not specifically disallowed, but please be considerate and follow these steps. If the stone is old and degraded, please take a photo instead.
Susan McSween Barber
(There is no explanation as to why her name is spelled "MacSween" on her tombstone.)
SUSAN McSWEEN BARBER (December 30, 1845 – January 3, 1931) was a prominent cattlewoman of the 19th century, once called the "Cattle Queen of New Mexico", and the widow of Alexander McSween, a leading factor in the Lincoln County War, and who was shot and killed by members of the Murphy-Dolan faction.
Born Susan Hummer, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, she married Alex McSween in 1873. In 1875 the couple moved to Lincoln, New Mexico, where her husband had accepted a job with the company of Lawrence Murphy. Working alongside James Dolan, McSween soon lost his desire to work for the company, and had by that time became friends with John Tunstall, a powerful rancher. Through Tunstall, the couple met John Chisum, and by 1877 the three men had established a rival business to the Murphy-Dolan businesses. Problems between the two factions began there, and on February 18, 1878, outlaw Jessie Evans and members of his gang shot and killed Tunstall, which sparked the Lincoln County War. By that time, Tunstall and McSween had hired gunmen to counter those hired by Murphy-Dolan. While the latter had hired outlaw gangs like the Seven Rivers Warriors, John Kinney Gang, and the Jessie Evans Gang, Tunstall hired individuals, to include Billy the Kid, Dick Brewer, Charlie Bowdre, Doc Scurlock and others. The two factions clashed over Tunstall's death, with numerous people being killed by both sides, and culminating in the Battle of Lincoln, in which Susan McSween was present. Her husband was killed at the end of that battle, despite his being unarmed and attempting to surrender.
Susan McSween hired attorney Huston Chapman to pursue charges against those responsible for her husband's death, and also had him assist in negotiating with Governor Lew Wallace on amnesty for the Lincoln County Regulators, who had defended her husband and sought vengeance for Tunstall's death. Colonel Nathan Dudley was one of her main targets, and he did stand trial for his incompetence during that time, but was acquitted. Lawrence Murphy had died before the end of 1878, and James Dolan was charged in Tunstall's murder, but acquitted, and could never be linked directly to Alex McSween's murder. Jessie Evans killed Chapman then fled the territory, after which eventually the whole matter simply went away.
Susan McSween took over a large sum of land in the years after the Lincoln County War ended, establishing a ranch in Three Rivers, New Mexico. In 1880 she married George Barber, but later the couple divorced. By the mid-1890s her ranch holdings were some of the largest in the territory. She averaged during this time between 3,000 and 5,000 head of cattle, becoming extremely wealthy. In 1902 she sold her holdings to politician Albert Fall, and she moved to White Oaks, New Mexico, by that time a declining boomtown. She died there a wealthy woman, on January 3, 1931, and is buried in the White Oaks cemetery.
McSween is portrayed by Sharon Thomas in the 1988 movie Young Guns. The epilogue states that following the death of her husband she became a prominent cattlewoman. She is not depicted in the sequel.
Deputy James W. Bell
"DEPUTY JAMES BELL and Deputy Marshal Robert Olinger, of the United States Marshals Service, were shot and killed during an escape attempt by the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid. The suspect was later shot and killed," from a law enforcement "Officer Down" web page.
Frontier peace officer. J.W. Bell was a deputy sheriff of Lincoln County, NM under Sheriff Pat Garrett* in 1881. Bell, along with fellow deputy Robert Olinger, was killed in the line of duty by Billy the Kid when he escaped from custody in Lincoln while awaiting trial for the murder of the previous sheriff, William Brady. The murders of Bell and Olinger have been dramatized in the various Hollywood treatments of Billy the Kid. Deputy Bell is memorialized on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC at Panel 13, W3.
Bell's grave was unmarked for over 100 years, but was recently located and an impressive headstone erected.
Note: Recent research (as of 2010) has cast doubt on whether this is actually Bell's grave site. It may be appropriate to characterize this headstone as a cenotaph rather than an actual grave marker.
* The day Bell was killed in the escape in Lincoln, Garrett was reportedly in White Oaks buying lumber from the Gumm Brothers to build a gallows to hang The Kid.
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Billy the Kid artist rendition by Jeff Chapman . This site and www.museumsoflincon.com created and maintained by the White Oaks Arts Council, Inc .
Brad Cooper, designer.