On either side of the narrow highway that runs through the town of Lincoln, history was made in buildings that largely still stand. Lincoln Historic Site manages most of the town’s historical buildings and, while it seems frozen in the 1870s and 1880s when a Kid named Billy passed through, change has come to Lincoln. The site’s managers now strive to tell a more comprehensive story of the Apache people, Hispanic homesteaders, and Anglo settlers who clashed—and collaborated—here. They do so amid a stretch of adobe buildings in the Territorial style where the dying days of the Wild West played out.
You can still walk in the footsteps of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and other famous and infamous characters of the Wild West, and visit iconic buildings like the Courthouse, Tunstall Store, El Torreón, the San Juan Mission Church, the Convento, Dr. Woods’ House, the Montaño store and other historic structures. A modern building, the Anderson-Freeman Visitor’s Center & Museum, features historical exhibits in a timeline starting with American Indian prehistory.
The importance of this community and the signiﬁcance of the Bonito Valley in the prehistory and history of the Territory of New Mexico are interpreted within some of the 17 structures that comprise Lincoln Historic Site. These historic adobe and stone buildings are preserved as they were in the late 1800s and represent the factions involved in the Lincoln County War, 1878- 1881. With the Campaign for New Mexico History, Lincoln Historic Site will:
Perhaps one of the most well- known historic structures in New Mexico, the courthouse was the scene of William H. Bonney’s deadly jailbreak in 1881. Today, this signiﬁcant structure is in need of both structural rehabilitation and interpretive updates aimed at ensuring that visitors are immersed in New Mexico’s Wild West history.
The story of Lincoln and its community members reﬂects many themes critical to understanding the settlement of the American West, which affords a truly exceptional opportunity to immerse younger visitors in the lives of those who settled New Mexico. This educational experience would be a hands- on exhibit including opportunities for integration of appropriate STEAM- related activities in addition to traditional social studies curriculum.
Constructed in the fall of 1877, the store is one of the most iconic and signiﬁcant Territorial-era buildings in the state of New Mexico. It can be argued that the construction of the building was one of the major reasons that the Lincoln County War erupted and visitors travel from across the globe to walk through its doors and stand in the footsteps of John Tunstall, Alexander McSween, John Chisum, and of course Billy the Kid and the Regulators. The interior of the building has remained almost completely unchanged since it was donated to the state of New Mexico in 1957,but it reﬂects an era during the 1920s when the store was owned by the Penﬁeld family. This project would aim to restore a portion of the store to more closely resemble what it would have looked like during the 1870s. This would include restocking a portion of the store with the inventory purchased by Tunstall in 1877 and recreating Alexander McSween’s law ofﬁce.