For over 100 years the Lincoln County War (1876-79) has fascinated people interested in the causes of the war and the lives of the participants, especially Alexander and Susan McSween, Billy the Kid, John H. Tunstall, L.G. Murphy, Sheriff James Brady, James J. Dolan, and Col. Nathan Dudley. Numerous books and articles have been written about the Lincoln County War and its participants, especially in recent years. While the war is well known through historic documents, very little has been recovered from the archaeological record of the area. The archaeological record contains details about the War, the lifeways of the McSweens, and life in frontier New Mexico not recorded in the historical record.
Architectural remains and burned artifacts from the McSween House in Lincoln, New Mexico, were recovered during archaeological test excavations conducted in the summers of 1986, 1987, and 1988. The Alexander and Susan McSween house was the scene of the most famous gun battle of the Lincoln County War, a violent struggle between two rival factions of businessmen, ranchers, and lawyers for political and economic control of the county. A 5-day siege of the McSween House ended during the evening of July 19, 1878, when Alexander McSween, Billy the Kid, and others fled the burning house.(View Floor Plan) McSween and four others were killed just outside the house, while the other defenders reached the safety of the brush along the Rio Bonito.
Today, two more recent houses occupy the site of the U-shaped McSween House. In 1986, archaeologists excavating under the floor of one of the houses (the Fresquez House) found an alignment of adobe bricks covered by a compact fill with small fragments of charcoal and burned adobe. These adobe bricks may be the foundation of the outside wall of the east wing of the McSween House, which was occupied by the Shield family, Susan McSween's sister Elizabeth and her husband and children. Other tests under the house exposed stratified deposits with window glass fragments, charcoal, and burned adobe. A very thin, white layer may be the remains of wall plaster.Learn More..