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Lincoln, New Mexico – From the courthouse to Billy the Kid, Lincoln is full of history

03 Aug Posted by in Road Trip, United States | 1 comment
Lincoln, New Mexico – From the courthouse to Billy the Kid, Lincoln is full of history
 

Fortunately, I decided to change my route one time when I was returning home to Albuquerque from the southeastern part of New Mexico. Something about the area as I drove through a very small town in the mountains spoke loudly even though you could miss the whole town if you sneezed. I did not even stop, but I knew I would come back, and I have done so several times.

Behind the scenes

Lincoln was a booming town in the 1880’s boasting a population of over 800, which is quite a number considering now it only has about 50 residents. In 1869, when Lincoln County was established, Lincoln was designated as the county seat. The government and the commerce was pretty much controlled by just a few established residents who went to extremes to protect what they felt was theirs, and theirs alone. Add to this some entrepreneurial “foreigners” to upset the apple cart, along with Billy the Kid, and you end up with so much history per square foot you will be amazed. It inspired me to read everything I could find and rent a lot of Billy the Kid movies. By the way, I thought CHISUM with John Wayne gave the most accurate facts.

Cowboys and Indians

Original Lincoln County Courthouse

Original Lincoln County Courthouse
Image Credits:Jimmy Emerson

If any of the main characters from the 1800s could come back to visit they would still find it quite familiar. The courthouse, general store and the thick-walled tower that was built to protect against Apache warriors are all still there, just a part of the inexpensive (about $5), self-guided tour. You could literally spend an entire day just going through the courthouse looking at pictures and all the letters written by outlaw, Billy the Kid, pleading his case. He was actually quite educated, but he sure was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The history at the courthouse and the store where he hung out is so authentic it is not hard to visualize him walking down Main Street, or even participating in one of the violent gun battles that gave him his infamous reputation.

Surrounding attractions

Lincoln is not the place to go for shopping, although you can venture 20 miles to Ruidoso, a wonderful little spot, on the other side of the mountain if you want that experience. However, you can stay in this quaint town at one of a few Bed and Breakfast options, all of which have their own history. You will enjoy the peace and quiet this little stretch of the Old West offers. Fort Stanton is only a few miles away, and it offers even more insight to the amazing history of the area. You can also visit Capitan just up the street about 10 miles where you will find some art galleries and a neat Smoky the Bear Museum.

A place to remember

It only takes about two and a half hours to arrive in Lincoln from Albuquerque by heading southwest. It is also easy to head there from other locations in New Mexico such as Roswell or Alamogordo. It lies just south of the Lincoln National Forest on U S Route 380. Put it on the very top of your list for places to visit in ‘The Land of Enchantment” since it is not always a recommended place, but it is a real treat. I will be heading there for a visit again this year for sure.


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  1. Linda08-05-11

    I loved our visit to Lincoln. What a fun step back in time. I would have enjoyed spending more time there.

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