New Mexico map

Frontierado is Friday, August 4th!

The various range wars of the Old West were not truly “wars,” of course but were more like modern-day gangster conflicts with very rare examples of outright good guys or outright bad guys. Frontierado is about the myth of the American West, not the reality, though, so think in terms of Renaissance Festivals. 

THE LINCOLN COUNTY WAR – Billy the Kid’s involvement in this range war has made this the most internationally famous of them all, so I chose it for this premier look at gangs fighting on both sides of the conflict. For fans of the original Young Guns movie I’ll lead off with the Regulators.   


Side: Tunstall-McSween Faction 

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

Comment: Like many of the units fighting in the Lincoln County War the Regulators were “deputized” by law enforcement personnel in the pocket of their faction’s leaders. This provided an arguable veneer of legality to the group’s actions. Dick Brewer led the Regulators until he was killed by Buckshot Roberts, then Frank McNabb led them and, after his death Josiah Scurlock took over.   

Prominent Members: Billy the Kid, Tommy O’Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, Jim “Frenchy” French, Dirty Steve Stephens, Tiger Sam Smith and the Coe Brothers. 


Side: Dolan-Murphy Faction

Seven Rivers New Mexico

Seven Rivers Area

Comment: This gang took their name from the Seven Rivers section of Lincoln County. Their members came from ranchers and ranch-hands united to fight cattle baron John Chisum, a cornerstone of the Tunstall-McSween Faction. Several members were killed during the range war and after it ended many survivors fell to in-fighting and wiped each other out. 

Prominent Members: Pony Deal (Who later joined up with the Clanton Faction in Tombstone, AZ), Joseph Nash, Hugh Beckwith, Dutch Charlie Kruling, Charlie “Lollycooler” Crawford and the Olinger Brothers.


Side: Dolan-Murphy Faction 

Jesse Evans

***  *** ** Jesse Evans

Comment: Jesse Evans formed his eponymous gang in 1872, six years before the official outbreak of the Lincoln County War. Billy the Kid started out in this gang for several months before defecting to the Tunstall-McSween Faction. Rustler gangs such as this aggravated the developing tensions in the county and periodic shootings and lynchings became a common occurrence long before John Tunstall’s murder sent things into high gear in February of 1878.  

Prominent Members: Jesse Evans, Pony Deal (Yes, he was in this gang, too), William “Buck” Morton, Tommy Cochran, Serafin Aragon and Ponciano “Pistolero” Dominguez.  

THE DONA ANA BUNCH (AKA the John Kinney Gang & the Rio Grande Posse)

Side: Dolan-Murphy Faction 

Dona Ana County

Dona Ana County

Comment: Headquartered in Dona Ana County this gang of hired gunmen killed time between mercenary jobs by rustling cattle. They were so successful that by the early 1870s John Kinney was known as the Kingpin of Cattle Rustling. In 1877 Kinney and his boys were hired guns in the El Paso Salt War and the very next year they were employed by the Dolan-Murphy Faction and “deputized” just like the Regulators.

Prominent Members: John Kinney, Rustling Bob Bryant, Johnny Chambers, R.L. Bryan and Caleb “The Prowler” Hall.



© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.





  1. Dave Snell

    “…with very rare examples of outright good guys or outright bad guys.”You fail lto percieve that the Lincoln County is one of those examples – with Billy fighting on the side of the g o o d g u y s.

  2. That’s the first pic of Billy the kid Ive ever seen where he don’t look like hes retarded.

    • Ha! I know what you mean!

      • David Snell

        You heard it here first: Truth is, no one has e v e r seen a picture of the Kid (that they knew of). There is much doubt to be raised about the one “authenticated” $2.3 million picture, and the crop of “new” ones are bogus. Billy is one of the most unfairly maligned people in all of American history.

  3. I love the way you bring topics from the old west alive! Ignore that weird Dave guy.

  4. Great article, Balladeer! But that Snell creep seems like this guy who kept stalking me around the internet. It makes me uncomfortable posting on the same thread that he is in. Can you do something to stop him from being a stalker?

    • Thanks for the kind words. You’re not the first woman to complain about Snell. I felt sorry for him at first but I promise I will watch to make sure he doesn’t try to harass or stalk any of you. No need to worry, I won’t let him make any of you feel unsafe.

  5. Balladeer your are a genius at making these old west things interesting!

  6. Really appreciate you sharing this blog article.Much thanks again. Want more.

  7. Nancy

    I love your western blog posts. You don’t come across as a redneck so that helps.

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