This happened at about three in the
The Mesilla men came on slowly till
their oxen sensed the water and began
crowding toward the pond. Probably
not using all of their brains, the posse
rushed out to try to capture the oxen,
whereupon the New Mexicans dashed
up, shouting "Cuidado! Cuidado!
There was a sudden roar of rifle shots
and everybody milled around in a fine,
high confusion that lasted all of ten
minutes. Then the El Paso men shot off
the howitzer and the Mesilla men stampeded,
although two more howitzer
rounds were needed before the carters
were driven off and the oxen captured.
The big bad El Paso Twenty-eight left
the battlefield immediately and drove
the captured oxen over the Texas border
by the next day.
After their return to El Paso, one of the
posse members was heard to remark
that three men had been killed. This,
by God, would prove to everyone you
couldn't get salt out at San Andreas
without fighting for it!
It proved nothing of the sort. What it
did prove was that getting pushy was
not without its consequences. Magoffin
and the others were indicted at Mesilla
for armed conspiracy against the peace
and dignity of the Territory of New
But the U.S. court might as well have
been whistling in the wind for all the
good it did, because the defendants
were outside the jurisdiction of the territorial
court and, no matter how hard
he tried, New Mexico Governor David
Meriwether couldn't get them extradited
to stand trial.
Finally, Magoffin agreed to pay for the
animals captured at the Chinos Pond,
and two years later, the U.S. district
attorney had the charges for conspiracy
and, in Magoffin's case, assault to
commit murder, dropped.
After this escapade, Magoffin settled
down to straight merchandising,
freighting and farming, and the people
continued going out to get their salt
without paying any tolls or taxes, as
they had been doing for years beyond
Nobody thought much about salt for
the next 23 years, and El Paso was a
relatively quiet zone . . . until another
anglo appeared upon the scene with
land-grab profits sparkling in his eyeballs
. . . but that's another story.
Alex Apostolides is a writer/photographer/archaeologist
who lived and
worked in the California deserts, Mexico
and the Middle East before making
El Paso his home. His articles and
photographs have appeared in Westways,
Arizona Highways and New
Mexico magazines, among others.
He writes and co-produces (with Patty
Walker) Desert Landscape: The Edge
of Texas, a weekly radio show on the
archaeology and history of the Southwest,
airing each Saturday at 6:00
p.m. on KTEP, El Paso's NPR station.
He is Scribe for the El Paso Corral of
Westerners International, an organization
devoted to research and publication
of the history of the American
West. A Winedale Scholar (Nov '81),
Alex is presently curator of El Paso's
Wilderness Park Museum.
'' 1i i -
Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Winter 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45443/. Accessed October 20, 2014.