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Who was that Outlaw?

By Linda Kirkpatrick
I always listened to the intriguing stories told by members of my family. Many of these stories are plagued with unanswered questions and some have never had an ending. These stories throw me into a big research mode.

During a time without rain and grass my great grandparents moved their herd of a nine thousand head of sheep from the Lampasas, San Saba areas of Texas to the Land of Enchantment… New Mexico. They did find grass but life there was not the enchanted dream that they had hoped.

My great grandparents, Samuel Lewis and Sarah Ann Fleming Kirkpatrick left their home in Texas sometime after 1891 and arrived in New Mexico around before 1894. The births of their children Oliver born 1891 in Texas and their next child Lora born in 1894 in New Mexico document this. Sarah Ann’s family, the Fleming also tagged along on this adventure. My grandfather, Lewis Burleson Kirkpatrick rode a donkey or walked the entire way.

Living conditions in the Otera County sheep camp were difficult at best. They family and sheep endured a 28 day blizzard that killed many of the sheep. The state itself was unsettled. The casualties and upsetting times left by the Lincoln County War still hovered over the land.

The family story tells of a wounded young man riding up to Samuel Lewis Kirkpatrick’s sheep camp. The story continues to tell of my great grandmother nursing this fellow, who everyone recalled as being an outlaw, back to health and sending him on his way with a fresh horse and a sack full of groceries. The young man was so appreciative that he continued a relationship with the Kirkpatrick’s through letters and after the family returned to Texas this young man came to visit and then returned to New Mexico never to be heard from again. I often wondered, just who was that outlaw and what was his story?

I could not stand this. Was this wounded young man a real outlaw? What was his name? And why did he ride into the Kirkpatrick’s sheep camp, was it by chance or did he know them? I had so many unanswered questions.

After a few phone calls to relatives Marie and Deanna, I learned the name of the outlaw and the story of Victor Queen began to take shape. As it turns out, Marie, who married my dad’s cousin is of the Queen family. The world sometimes just gets smaller!

The ancestors of Victor Queen migrated to Arkansas from the east, just like a lot of other families of the time. It seems that so many of these brave pioneers were looking for better land and greater opportunity. The ravages of war would soon divide the land they left.

Victor Queen was born September 5, 1871 in Arkansas. He married January 2, 1904 and died December 13, 1904 in Silver City, New Mexico at the age of thirty-three. His thirty-three years were very eventful to say the least.

Shortly after his birth, the family migrated to the Lampasas area of Texas. The family grew and there are descendents of the family in that area to this day. At this same time, the Kirkpatrick and Fleming families came to this same area of Texas.

It seems as though to every good family there is a bad seed or maybe it could be that life just didn’t deal them a good hand. At a young age, Victor Queen rode off with his Uncle Kep Queen and joined the Whitley Gang. This gang and several others of the time grew out of violent and lawless ways that ran rampant after Civil War.

The Whitley Gang, led by Bill Whitley only wanted some change when they walked into the Cisco Bank in Cisco, Texas in 1888. The change amounted to about $9,000.00 along with other valuables. The gang became notorious. Texas and surrounding areas suffered the wrath of this gang. Though Kep was an active member of many of the robberies and antics of the gang, it is not known for sure when or how long Vic rode with the bunch. But it was obviously long enough that this easy way of making a living influenced him.

Vic left the gang at some point and followed his family to New Mexico. His new education of outlawry and cowboying just went along too. It seems that both professions went hand in hand for many young men of that time.

Vic became involved with a shady character named Martin M’rose. His education now grew to that of cattle rustler. It is not known when these two “threw in” together but it is suspected that it was around 1890. They soon had cattle rustling down to a fine art. Both were handy with the running iron and they claimed that they could cover any any cow their own. The Golden Ladder brand became the brand to dread. The brand traversed two long sloping lines up and over each side of the steer’s sides. So no matter what the original brand, enough cross bars on the ladder could obliterate it. They were quite proud of themselves to say the least.

M’Rose purchased a ranch, and as his herd grew so did his wealth. Everything seemed to be going just fine for these two industrious “gentlemen” that is until the New Mexico Livestock Association began to sniff around. Everything they found seemed to point right in the direction of Vic and M’Rose. Feeling the pressure, these two decided to liquidate and head south to Mexico. M’Rose’s wife Beula contracted outlaw turned lawyer, John Wesley Hardin of Texas to assist in getting the guys off the hook. Matters turned sour again when Beula fell madly in love with Hardin and he with her. Hardin and Beula left Mexico, leaving the two cattle barons/rustlers, Queen and M’Rose, stranded in Mexico.

New Mexico law set the infamous trap that lured M’Rose back across the border only to reward him with a fuselage of gunfire that left him dead on the spot.

Vic managed to get back to Eddy County, New Mexico. He decided to turn his life around. He turned himself in and challenged the courts to prove that he had actually stolen cattle. Mighty brave and daring on his part! The Daily Optic newspaper out of Las Vegas, New Mexico wrote that, “Vic Queen was arraigned before Justice Roberts of Eddy, on the charge of being to much interested in a cow. He gave bail of $1,000.00.”

The date that he showed up at my great grandparents’ camp is not known except that it was between 1891 and 1904. It is possible that he knew them back in Texas as his family and the Kirkpatrick’s and the Fleming’s were all from the same area around Lampasas.

Vic did try to turn his life around. He became gainfully employed at a mining company at Silver City, New Mexico. He married Mollie Lockwood on January 2, 1904. But obviously some still held a grudge against him. He was ambushed on December 17, 1904. They shot him twice in the back and the final shot, a shotgun blast to the stomach, ended the life of the Outlaw Victor Queen.

Thanks to Jim Tarbet, another person interested in Vic Queen; Tales from the Morgue, El Paso History—Lee Myers; Ancestry.com and especially my family.

© Linda Kirkpatrick

Somewhere in the West
August 7, 2010 Column
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