The people of Las Cruces and Mesilla
had been going there to get salt for
years. What Magoffin intended to do
was to close off the supply and sell it
from then on.
Things didn't get done in a hurry in El
Paso any more than than they do now, so
two years passed after Magoffin 'took
possession' of the San Andreas salt
fields, and the people kept on going
up there after salt as if nothing had
But then, in January of 1854, Magoffin
learned that a train of oxcarts was
about to leave Dona Ana County going
after salt. Time something was done,
so he called on the El Paso County
Sheriff, one William Ford, to get up a
posse to repel the invaders-a move,
incidentally, that involved an invasion
of the Territory of New Mexico.
Ford managed to get 28 men into the
saddle: 17 Americans, 10 Mexicans
and one Englishman. A complete roster
of the posse has never been found,
but the names of James and Samuel
Magoffin were included in the list of
ten men who were ultimately indicted
in the U.S. district court for the Third
Judicial District of New Mexico.
The commandant of Fort Bliss had to
have known about it, and he had to
have closed his eyes to the impending
invasion and even supplied them with
armaments; the posse in fact dragged a
small howitzer along with them when
they went whapping up the justice
They didn't take off straight away.
Things aren't done that way on the far
west edge of Texas. There was a lot of
shouting and milling around, and the
nippy chill of the January morning air
demanded a few nips of Pass-of-theNorth
brandy be taken before they
went a-whoppin' and a-hollerin' on the
trail of the dastardly would-be stealers
of Magoffin's salt.
They managed to reach the east entrance
to the San Augustin Pass the
following afternoon, and they set up
camp to wait for the oncoming salt
But the people in the caravan evidently
had heard about the posse's coming, because
they either took another route to
the salt lake or just sat and waited till
the posse got tired of hanging around.
Three days passed and nothing happened,.
and the posse decided to trail
on north to Chinos. The only source of
fresh water for miles around was at
Chinos, and the posse decided to wait
there for the caravan.
This time, it didn't take so long. In
fact, the caravan, about 125 men with
26 carretas, caught up with the Texans
a couple of miles short of the Chinos
A parley was called for. I mean, Sheriff
Ford and his men represented the
forces of Law and Order. Ford even
had papers. He tried to serve those papers
on the Mesilla men, but they just
laughed at him. Who the hell was he to
serve papers on them? And, more, just
who the hell did this Magoffin think he
was, trying to get them to pay a toll on
salt? No way, Sheriff!
Ford told them they'd have to come
with him to El Paso to answer for trespassing,
and the laughter grew even
Their authority in heavy question, the
posse spurred away and took possession
of the freshwater pond.
Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Winter 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45443/. Accessed March 16, 2014.