John S. Chisum, from a photo taken around the time of the Lincoln County War
John Simpson Chisum was born on August 15, 1824 at Hardeman, Tennessee. In 1867, Chisum and his brother Pitzer moved to New Mexico with a large herd of cattle and built a huge ranch at Bosque Grande, in Lincoln County. James and Jeff Chisum joined their brothers John and Pitzer at the ranch shortly thereafter. In 1873, Chisum created another ranch 18 miles south of Fort Sumner, in San Miguel County. Then in 1875, Chisum started another ranch at South Spring, a few miles from the Pecos River and near the Seven Rivers area and present-day Roswell, again in Lincoln County. In the same year, he was forced to sell most of his stock holdings as well as the Bosque Grande Ranch to the cattle contracting firm of Hunter & Evans. However, he stayed on at the Bosque Grande Ranch as a manager, so basically nothing changed for him in his daily life. Chisum became a very hated man by the smaller ranchers in Seven Rivers, due to the fact that the massive Chisum herds were using all the public domain land for grazing. His herds were constantly stolen by the likes of the Jessie Evans Gang, the John Kinney Gang, and most of all, the Seven Rivers Warriors. This also caused Chisum to grow to hate the monoplozing L. G. Murphy (later Jas. J. Dolan) & Co., because they bought his stolen cattle. In 1876, Chisum started yet another ranch, this one in Sulphur Springs, Arizona. In 1877, Chisum and his brothers fought against the local rustling gangs in what was later called the War on the Pecos. Before the start of the Lincoln County War, Old John went into business with John Tunstall and Alex McSween and became the president of Tunstall's Firt National Bank on Lincoln. During the war, Chisum was able to avoid being near the actual gunfights through a few of his schemes. However, after Tunstall was killed and the avenging posse known as the Regulators were formed, Chisum did loan the Regulators his Hunter & Evans cattle detective Frank MacNab. His large South Spring Ranch often served as a hideout for the Regulators as well. After the war, Billy the Kid asked Chisum to pay him $500 for his services in the war. When Chisum refused, Billy decided to take the money Chisum owed him out of his cattle, allegedly figuring that each cow was worth $5 of the $500 Chisum owed him. Billy and the Rustlers stole hundreds of head of cattle from Chisum. Chisum was one of Billy's and the Rustlers' biggest enemies after the war and was mainly the reason that Pat Garrett became sheriff of Lincoln County. In summer of 1884, Chisum, a heavy pipe smoker, developed a painful abscess on the right side of his neck. On his way to New York to have the affliction treated, he stopped in Kansas City, Missouri, where doctors refused to allow him to press on in such a condition and instead immediately lanced and drained the growth there on July 17. As the wound seemed to heal properly, Chisum apparently believed himself cured and started back for home. Along the way, the abscess returned to its original size, prompting Chisum to depart for Eureka Springs, Arkansas, hoping the mineral baths there would alleviate him of his illness for good. It didn't work as he planned, however, and Chisum died of the abscess's effects in Eureka Springs on December 22, 1884, his body being buried in Paris, Texas shortly thereafter. After his death, his cattle empire throughout New Mexico and Arizona collapsed, being completely gone by 1891.