Strange NM #1: Murder Cabin

It’s National Storytelling Month and October. I love to do spooky or weird stories in October, so here begins some strange tales about New Mexico. I have borrowed these from a Daily Lobo column that ran when I was in college called My Strange New Mexico by Mike Smith. I’ve always adored these stories and even kept them in a binder. This is the most local one I found so far:

A successful Taos businessman rode a good horse, carried hundreds of dollars in his pockets and traveled using mules to carry his belongings. His last name was Edwards, a man whose first name was lost in history.

In the fall of 1870, his business took him just east of Taos, through the north-central part of New Mexico, near the mouth of a canyon at the northeastern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Edwards had just stopped to water his animals at a lonely spring, when he noticed a tattered log cabin nearby, its walls already sagging around its chimney. The building was the only one around for miles, and the sun was setting. Edwards was pleased to find the cabin also doubled as a sort of hotel and tavern.

The cabin was built by Charles Kennedy, a large man with unkempt whiskers and wary blue eyes. Kennedy had been a hunter and trapper in the Rocky Mountains and, in 1868, had moved to the Sangre de Cristos with his wife and their baby son. There, where the area’s only two roads merged and entered into a mountain pass, he established a crudely developed ranch and invited travelers to stop and pay for a night’s lodging or a strong drink.

Kennedy, however, chose this isolated setting for only one apparent reason: to murder and rob his guests. He would kill them with an ax or a gun. One rumor claims he sometimes ate them as well.

From 1868 to 1870, as many as 100 trappers, travelers, miners and peddlers died or disappeared while traveling near Kennedy’s cabin. In the fall of 1870, the body of Edwards, the businessman from Taos, turned up nearby, robbed and shot. Its presence was blamed on the area’s Apache Indians.

Kennedy had allegedly killed two of his own children in fits of drunken rage. When Kennedy’s remaining son nonchalantly told a visitor about a dead man buried beneath the house, Kennedy swung the 3-year-old boy headfirst against the fireplace. After killing his son, he also killed the stranger. After killing the stranger, he drank until unconscious, and while he was unconscious, his wife ran away.

Kennedy had always told his wife that if she ever mentioned anything to anyone about the things he did, he would kill the children, but now he had already killed them. She had no one left to lose and no reason to protect him any longer.

Eighteen miles north of the cabin stood Elizabethtown, a prosperous gold-mining settlement that in 1870, boasted three dance halls, a much-patronized red-light district, seven saloons and several legendary outlaws – including Clay Allison, “The Gentleman Gunslinger.”

While growing up in Tennessee, Allison suffered a severe head injury and for the rest of his life was given to extremely wild mood swings. He could be a complete gentleman one moment, but a complete psycho the next. After moving to Texas and New Mexico, he seemed to grow increasingly bizarre – riding naked through dusty streets, dancing naked atop a bar or challenging an entire town to a gunfight, while naked.

In October of 1870, Allison – fully clothed – sat drinking in an Elizabethtown saloon when Charles Kennedy’s wife stumbled in and choked out a gruesome story that confirmed every suspicion anyone ever had about her husband.

Kennedy was quickly arrested and tried, but when the primitive forensics of the time were unable to prove if all the bones found on his property were human, it was allegedly Allison who rallied a mob together, dragged the terrified Kennedy from his prison, hanged him and cut off his head for display on a fence post.

Allison would die, too, 17 years later, when – in an early instance of drunken driving – he fell while intoxicated beneath his horse-drawn wagon, and a wheel rolled over his neck.

~ by accordingtoleanne on October 5, 2012.

One Response to “Strange NM #1: Murder Cabin”

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