Emil Fritz came from Stuttgart, Germany. He emigrated to California to look for gold, volunteered into the Union Army in 1861, came to New Mexico as a captain the California Column and was mustered out in Albuquerque in 1866.
Lawrence G. Murphy was a native of Wexford, Ireland, who had once been a divinity student. He emigrated to America and joined the army, serving in Utah and New Mexico. When he was mustered out of service in 1866, he became post sutler at Fort Stanton. He stayed until 1873, but when charged by the Post Commanding Officer with sharp practice and profiteering, moved to La Placita (Lincoln) where he had recently opened a second store, and where he was soon engaged in unscrupulous practices again. Shortly after the move he took Fritz as a partner in the business. Fritz died in 1874, and in 1877, the firm became J.J. Dolan and Company when Murphy went into semi-retirement on account of poor health.
James J. Dolan, first one of Murphy's clerks, then his junior partner, too as a junior partner John H. Riley. Both of these men were native Irishmen, like Murphy. Dolan had received his discharge at Fort Stanton in 1869; Riley was a small rancher.
The "Murphy men" were being challenged by newcomer, John Henry Tunstall, a 23-year old Englishman and son of a London merchant who arrived in November 1876 and acquired property along the Rio Feliz south of Lincoln. Tunstall became convinced that the readiest way to wealth lay in the livestock business.
Alexander A. McSween had arrived in Lincoln in the spring of 1875. He was Canadian by birth, well-educated, and frankly ambitious, both professionally and politically.
During the 1870s a group of merchants had gained control over the economy of Lincoln County, including a monopoly on filling lucrative contracts from the military at Fort Stanton. L.G. Murphy and J.J. Dolan, who owned huge cattle ranches in Lincoln County, had a monopoly on the cattle and merchant trade. This group and their allies were called The House.
They were backed by Thomas B. Catron, the leader of a group of Republican lawyers and businessmen known as the Santa Fe Ring. The Ring speculated in land and directed New Mexico elections by buying Hispano votes. Catron was the owner at one time of more than a million acres, probably the largest private land holding in the history of the United States. He was from near Lexington, Missouri, and lived to become a U.S. Senator and ambassador to Chile.
The firm enjoyed influence far outside the Bonito Valley. New Mexico Territorial Governor Axtell had borrowed $1,800 from J.J. Dolan and Co. Moreover, the firm kept up distinctly cordial relations with the officers at Fort Stanton. By 1877, the firm was widely suspected of buying stolen cattle (including Chisum cattle) from some of the least desirable elements among the Seven Rivers cowboys, among whom was the known outlaw, Jesse Evans, a boyhood friend of Billy the Kid.
In 1877, their control was challenged by Alexander McSween, a Lincoln attorney, and John Tunstall, an English entrepreneur -- who were backed by the day's biggest cattle baron, John Chisum. Chisum's employees and supporters were known as The Regulators, and followers of The House violently resisted them. The battle was fought not only in courtrooms but also through gunfights, murders, and cattle rustlings. Learn More...