The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941 Page: 61
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Nolan's "Lost Nigger" Expedition of 1877
What appeared to me as the confirmation of this hypothesis2'
came on March 8, 1938, in an interview with Mr. J. B. Sledge
of Portales. Mr. Sledge, as a young man, came to New Mexico
in 1895. As a part of his early activity in the new country
he hunted wolves for bounty and became familiar with the
topography of the southeastern portion of the state. Among
his associates was Bill Benson, "an old buffalo hunter and a
scout with Mackenzie in '74." On the site of Nigger Hill Benson
pointed out to Mr. Sledge where the "Forlorn Hope," of which
he was a member, yielded to incredible suffering and gave up
the trail, "the 'niggers' all down and horses dying like flies."
Here was the story and identification I had sought, told as
Benson had related it to his camp mate, who has stayed in
the country to become a prominent banker, merchant, and col-
lege regent. It was Benson and some of his associates who
gave the name to Nigger Hill as a memorial to the negro
troops of Captain Nolan.
In the Nigger Hill vicinity the second night out was spent;
again the camp was a dry one. On the third day, the relief
party sent to Laguna Plata for water not having returned, the
troops and buffalo hunters separated.27 Captain Nolan dis-
trusted the hunters' ability to find water, and the parting was
a bit strained. Cook, speaking for the hunters, says: "We
insisted that if we kept a northeast course we would all get
water that day." Captain Nolan, however, insisted on return-
ing to Twin Lakes and filed off with the troops in a southwest
direction. Harvey's men set off at a right angle toward the
northeast. At three o'clock in the afternoon an advance group
of the Harvey party did reach water at Yellow House Spring.
That Captain Nolan would have done well to have trusted the
hunters is demonstrated by the fact that it was not until thirty-
eight hours later that the troops reached their first water
supply in the Twin Lakes area. It was actually in these inter-
"''Some of the local traditions concerning this expedition were discussed
by me in "The Lore of Nigger Hill," in The Portales Tribune (Portales, New
Mexico), November 19, 1937 and April 1, 1938.
27Accounts differ as to whether the division took place in the morning
or afternoon of July 28. From the fact that water was reached by the
Harvey party in mid-afternoon and was sent back along the trail, the
weight of evidence would appear to be with a separation in the morning.
Compare Nolan's account of July 28 and the Cooper account in W. Curtis
Nunn, "Eighty-Six Hours Without Water on the Texas Plains," in South-
western Historical Quarterly, XLIII, p. 362, with Cook, The Border and
the Buffalo, pp. 270-271.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941, periodical, 1941; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/m1/69/: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.