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King Rustler

John Kinney

This photo was taken in Santiago in 1898. The man on the left is Kinney, and the other two men are friends of his.

John W. Kinney was born in Hampshire, Massachusetts in 1847 (other sources say 1848, and some even say 1853). He and his family moved to Iowa shortly after John was born. On April 13, 1867, Kinney enlisted in the U. S. Army at Chicago, Illinois. On April 13, 1873, at the rank of sergeant, Kinney was mustered out of the U. S. Army at Fort McPherson, Nebraska. Kinney chose not to stay around Nebraska, and he went south to New Mexico Territory. Kinney took up residence in Dona Ana County. He soon became a rustler and the leader of a gang of about thirty rustlers, killers, and theives. By 1875, the John Kinney Gang was the most feared band of rustlers in the territory. They rustled cattle, horses, and mules throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. However, the headquarters for the gang was around the towns of La Mesilla and Las Cruces, both of them located in Dona Ana County. Kinney himself was a very dangerous gunslinger. His apprentice in the gang was Jessie Evans. On New Year's Eve in 1875, Kinney, Jessie Evans, and two other John Kinney Gang members named Jim McDaniels and Pony Diehl, got into a bar-room brawl in Las Cruces with some soldiers from nearby Fort Seldon. The soldiers beat the four rustlers in the fight, and the outlaws were tossed out of the establishment. Kinney himself was severely injured during the fight. Later that night, Kinney, Evans, McDaniels, and Diehl took to the street of Las Cruces and went in front of the saloon they had recently been tossed out of. The four rustlers opened fire on the saloon, shooting through the saloons and walls. When the shooting had stopped, two soldiers were dead, one civilian was dead, two other soldiers were wounded, and one other civilian was wounded. Kinney and his gang participated in several other killings later on. In early 1876, Jessie Evans left the John Kinney Gang, and took with him other members of the gang. With these men, Evans formed his own gang, called the Jessie Evans Gang, or the Boys. The Jessie Evans Gang and the John Kinney Gang still worked together in a way though, since they were both links in the chain gang. The chain gang was an association all the rustling gangs in the west had with each other. One gang would steal some cattle and sell it to another gang, who sold it to another gang, who sold it to another gang, and so on. This way the stolen animals could get moved across the country, with no way to determine the original owner, or the original theif. Other links of the chain gang were the Clanton Gang and the Seven Rivers Warriors. On November 22, 1877, Kinney shot and killed Ysabel Barela in the street in La Mesilla. Kinney and his gang fled for Silver City, in Grant County, New Mexico Territory. They continued their illegal activities in Silver City, until they were hired to fight in the El Paso Salt War. The John Kinney Gang went to San Elizario, Texas and were deputized. There, they murdered several people and raped several women. After the Salt War ended, the John Kinney Gang stayed in Texas, with Kinney working at a saloon in El Paso. They shortly after returned to Dona Ana County and in June of 1878 were hired by District Attorney William Rynerson to fight for the Murphy-Dolan-Riley side in the Lincoln County War. The John Kinney Gang reached Lincoln on June 22, 1878 and were deputized by Sheriff George Peppin, a Dolan man. Furthermore, Kinney was offered $500 worth of John Tunstall's cattle by Jimmy Dolan if he killed Alex McSween. Fighting in the war also reunited Kinney with Jessie Evans, whose gang (along with the Seven Rivers Warriors) was also fighting for the Dolan side. While serving in the war, Kinney bosted he had already killed fourteen men. Kinney had his gang ransack the village of San Patricio, where the Regulators hid out, but they did not find the Regulators. The John Kinney Gang participated in the Five-Day Battle in Lincoln from July 15 to July 19. At the end of the battle, at dusk of July 19, the Regulators inside the burning McSween home fled the house. During this time, the fleeing Billy the Kid fired a bullet into Kinney's face, but Kinney survived. Kinney and his gang looted the Tunstall store the next day, and they shortly after returned to Dona Ana County. On November 30, 1878, Kinney was arrested for the murder of Ysabel Barela. The trial was held not in Dona Ana County, but in Grant County. On December 21, 1878, Kinney was acquitted of the murder of Barela. He and his gang then continued their illegal activities, while Kinney took another job serving as a scout for the army. In 1881, Kinney was deputized and was assigned to be one of the men to escourt the convicted Billy the Kid from La Mesilla to the jail in Lincoln. Charged with cattle rustling, Kinney was arrested in 1883, brought to trial in Mesilla, and convicted. He was sentenced to pay a five-hundred dollar fine and to serve five years in the Kansas State Penitentiary at Leavenworth. Kinney paid the fine, served a little less than three years in prison, and was released on February 19, 1886. By this time, his gang was long gone, and he got a job running a feed lot in Kingman, Arizona. He also later served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. After this, he became a successful miner at Chapparral Gulch, Arizona, and later settled in Prescott. He died there on August 25, 1919.

John Kinney, and his daughter

This photo of Kinney and his daughter, Mary Lynn, was taken probably in Prescott, Arizona, shortly before he died.