|James Robert (Jim) Gililland (1874-1946)
Gililland was born in Brown County, Texas, March 22, 1874. The
Gililland family packed their belongings in a prairie schooner when Jim
was twelve years old, and with a small herd of cattle, made their way
to the Mimbres river country, some miles from Deming, New Mexico.
the next year the family moved to the Sacramento Mountains country,
near present-day Mountain Park. Young Jim worked as a cowboy on
several cattle ranches in the White and Sacramento Mountains and in the
Tularosa Valley, most of the time in association with Oliver M. Lee, with
whom he was implicated in the Fountain Case. On June 15, 1902,
Gililland was married to Adella Gould, daughter of Jim Gould, a well
known ranchman of the Sacramentos. With his wife, Gililland
established a cattle ranch in the San Andres Mountains in Socorro
County, operating it successfully for 37 years. In 1940 the Gilillands
sold the ranch property, traveled about for one year, then located in
Hot Springs, the hub of the country they knew so well, and within reach
of friends. Old-timers served as pallbearers at Gililland's funeral:
W.W. Threadgill, Frank Martin, W.W. Brazil, Oliver Lee, Jr., Lealon
Miller, Ed Sanders, Bert Bookout, George Shipley. Of Jim Gililland, it
is said by the Sierra County Advocate, August 15, 1946: "James Robert
Gililland was as typical a pioneer western cowboy as any author of
scenario, song or story could ask for." James Robert Gililland, who
probably knew more about the Fountain mystery than any man then
living, died in Hot Springs (T or C), Sierra County, New Mexico, on
August 8, 1946.
Jim's brand was sold with the sale of his ranch but has since been
brought back into the family when purchased by his great-nephew,
Jerry Neal Gililland.
|I WAS THERE
Were you there, the day they
Say it happened?
Were you there, did you say you
Rode that way?
If you weren't, how could you
Have the answer?
If you weren't, how could you
Have a say.
Did you see, the little boy's
Did you see Jim and Oliver
Likely not, you have only heard
Likely not, you would have run
I was there, the day they say
I was there, in 1896.
Since you weren't, you do not
Have the answer.
Since you weren't, it wasn't
Me you picked.
|By Jerry N. Gililland - Great-Nephew
In collaboration with Sam Gililland (now deceased), Roy and Carol Gililland,
Ina Ruth Gililland, and Frances Gililland
Much has been said and written about the events that took place at Chalk Hill February
1896. My wife and I recently attended the commemoration of the 100th. Anniversary of
the mysterious disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain.
We were hoping to attend a good historical presentation, but as it turned out, the
presentation was more of a "Jim Gililland" bashing than a remembrance of this very tragic
My wife and I would like to express our concern to the members of the Fountain family who
were there, because of the jokes and laughing and lightness made of a subject that is not
funny at all. After all these years, it still has to hurt not knowing the fate of their two
The speaker compared the event to the modern day "O.J." trial. Justice back in those
days was nothing like it is today. First of all, had the incident taken place this day and
time, there would have been no trial. There were no bodies, no eye witnesses, and only
circumstantial evidence. Reference made to a white Bronco, bulletproof vests, etc., we
felt, were all in poor taste, and that's not the half of it.
There were a lot of things said at Hillsboro that were totally incorrect, fabrications of
someone's mind, and fiction waiting for a book or movie to happen.
To set the record straight, first, it was said that Jim Gililland never married. Wrong! Jim
Gililland married Adella Gould, daughter of Jim Gould, on June 15, 1902.
There are those who would lead us to believe that Oliver Lee, Jim Gililland and Bill McNew
were awfully stupid men, that they would leave a trail that would lead a posse right to
them. These men probably knew more about trails and tracking than anyone. To leave a
trail implicating them of wrongdoing seems totally insane. Recalling the number of people
who either saw or spoke to the Fountains during their journey, one can only imagine how
many others were around that day. No only that, there was a range war going on about
that time. Albert Fountain was known to have many enemies, so if indeed Albert and Henry
Fountain were murdered that day, it could have been anyone.
We were also told at the commemoration in Hillsboro that Jim Gililland returned to the
scene at Chalk Hill sometime later and placed markers where the bodies were suppose to be
buried. That's as believable as "a cowboy without his hat and boots".
We heard about a belt buckle (must have belonged to one of the Fountains, we were told)
that could have belonged to anyone living on the Oliver Lee ranch. And then, there was the
story of the bodies being buried in a secret room under the Lee ranch house, bodies, by the
way, that were said to have been moved no less than three times. We must not forget the
mysterious Masonic pin that was said to have been taken from Albert Fountain's coat, was
given to the family by a cowboy who got it from someone who remains anonymous. This
presents questions. Was Albert Fountain the only member of the Masons who possessed a
Masonic pin? Did the person who had possession of the pin choose to remain anonymous
because if it were Albert Fountain's pin, possession could cause suspicion?
The stories were never ending, so many in fact, that many more books of fiction and
screenplays with several endings could be written. But "fiction" is all they would be. The
documentary about the events of February 1896 has been buried along with all those who,
and only who, knew the truth of what really happened that day.
Last but not lest, we were told for the first time, that Jim Gililland gave a confession to a
man by the name of Burris whose son (now deceased) supposedly overheard of the
confession, and told it to historian Leon Metz, many, many years later. (Odd that this
story should surface after all these years. Daughter of the younger Burris says, as far as
she is concerned, the information is all hearsay", if it were true, she would have heard it
straight from her father long before now. Never less, the story depicts Jim as a cold
blooded killer, with a sinister laugh, who takes pleasure in killing people, including children.
The Gilillands as a family take exception to these accusations.
Jim Gililland was happy, polite, and a gentleman, and on the other hand he was said by
members of the family to be loud and hard in nature, typical of a man that day and time.
He was a true pioneer in every sense of the work. And yes, he was known for his very
distinguishable and jolly laugh, which by the way, was nothing at all like the laugh
demonstrated by Mr. Metz.
There were only two occasions known by the family that gave Jim the opportunity to make a
confession. The first was in an interview with William A Keleher, author of "The Fabulous
Frontier". On that occasion there was no confession. If Jim knew anything at all about the
fate of Albert and Henry Fountain, he took it along with him to his grave, because he died
a few months later. On the other occasion, Dick Gililland, Jim's brother, went to Jim's
bedside and ask the question. "Did you kill that fellow"? Jim's answer, "I never saw that
man dead or alive". Dick was quoted as saying. "Jim has never lied to me in the past, and
that's good enough for me".
That's Truth, not Fiction! And for these Gilillands, "That's good enough for
OLIVER MILTON LEE
Oliver Milton Lee, known simply as Oliver Lee (October 1865 - 15 December 1941) was a
part time deputy U.S. Marshal, rancher, and gunman. Oliver Milton Lee was born in Texas,
and died in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where, a state park is named in his honor.
Lee lived an eventful life, spending most of it in southern New Mexico. Little is known about
his life prior to his move to New Mexico from Texas with his mother. He was a crack shot
with any firearm. His marksmanship even at an early age is mentioned in book "The Fabulous
Frontier". He also worked as a Deputy US Marshal. He was described in the book "Tularosa:
Last of the Frontier West" as being "magnificently muscled, straight as a young pine, catlike
in his coordination".
Lee moved into the area from Texas with his half brother Perry Altman. Their intention was
to raise and sell horses as well as to acquire land. His fair play ethics did not set well with
the local power brokers. Dee Harkey in his book "The Life of a New Mexico Lawman - Mean
as Hell" stated that he had many dealings with Oliver Lee and "so far as I know or ever
heard, he always dealt on the square." Nevertheless, it was not long before a range war of
the Lincoln County type began to fester.
Early New Mexico life
Lee soon became friends with Albert Fall. This alliance would last for decades. It also put
him on the side of the Democrats who were at odds with the Republican faction led by
Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain. Due to his land owning, Fountain was a powerful rival to
land owners Lee and Fall. The struggle between the two men was well characterized in the
book "The Two Alberts - Fountain and Fall". The political party in the majority in the area
at the time was the Republicans and these were an extension of the Santa Fe Ring, a secret
coalition of lawmakers bent on controlling public offices in New Mexico Territory.
Albert Jennings Fountain murder case
The range war came to a boiling point in the winter of 1895-6. Colonel Fountain had gone to
the Lincoln court room and obtained 32 indictments against 23 ranchers for theft of
livestock and/or defacement of brands. Lee, Jim Gililland and William "Billy" McNew were
among the accused. This led to their being suspected in the February 1896 disappearance
and presumed murder of Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain and his young son Henry, dubbed
the Albert Jennings Fountain disappearance case. They were pursued in relation to that case
by lawman Pat Garrett and a posse, and some months later, Garrett and his men engaged in
a gun battle near Alamogordo at Wildy Well, resulting in the killing of Deputy Sheriff Kurt
Kearney. Lee later testified that Kearney and Garrett both shot first at Lee and Gililland
who were sleeping on the roof of the adobe house at Wildy Well before asking the men to
give up. Lee and Gililland both shot back in self defense. Garrett ducked so fast that Lee
later said he thought he had killed Garrett. Garrett and his men were pinned down in an
indefensible position and Lee and Gililland allowed them to retreat, albeit without their
weapons. Lee and Gililland attended to Kearney but he died of his wounds.
It would be almost three years before the matter was settled in court. These events led to
the political maneuvering which led to the formation of Otero County. Lee believed that if he
surrendered to Garrett he would never make it to trial. This is attested to in Dee Harkey's
book "The Life of a New Mexico Lawman - Mean as Hell". Lee's friend, Albert Fall and the
Democrats offered to honor Otero, the Republican Governor, with the creation of a county
named after him. The boundary of this new county would put the location, and so the
jurisdiction of the Fountain case, in the new county. The only thing the Democrats wanted
was that the sheriff of the new county would be their choice. Once the county was
established and Lee's friend, George Curry was appointed sheriff, Lee promptly surrendered
and was later acquitted of involvement with the Albert Jennings Fountain case at a much
publicized trial in Hillsboro.
Fountain, however, showed little fear of the Fall/Lee faction, and challenged them openly in
the courts as well as in the political arena. Albert Fall and others defended all three of the
men who were eventually charged with the crime of killing Henry Fountain (Albert's young
son). No one was ever charged with the murder of Albert Fountain. Charges against McNew
were dismissed, while Lee and Gililland were acquitted.
Oliver Lee later held office in the New Mexico Senate and continued operating his ranches
until his own death in 1941. He has several descendants still living and ranching in New
· Tularosa: The Last of the Frontier West by C. L. Sonnichsen, 1980, University of
New Mexico Press
· The Fabulous Frontier by William A. Keleher, 1962, University of New Mexico Press
· Last Frontier West by George L. McNew, 1985, unpublished
· The Two Alberts – Fountain and Fall by Gordon R. Owen, 1996, Yucca Tree Press
· "The Life of a New Mexico Lawman - Mean as Hell" by Dee Harkey 1948,
University of New Mexico Press
· Otero County Pioneer Family Histories Volume 2, Tularosa Basin Historical Society,
1985, Tularosa Basin Historical Society
· Murder on the White Sands: The Disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain by
Corey Recko, 2007, University of North Texas Press
· The Life and Death of Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain by A. M. Gibson, 1965,
University of Oklahoma Press
William "Billy" McNew
It should be noted that there were two men by the name of "William McNew" ranching in
Otero County, New Mexico. William H. McNew was born circa 1859 in Arkansas or Missouri,
and is most likely not Billy McNew. The second William McNew was born in Texas, circa
1866, and is most likely the Lee confederate. 1900-1920 Federal Census records: Otero
County, New Mexico
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Lee_(New_Mexico)"