Murder in Bonita City
Lincoln County, New Mexico
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Many years ago, Floy Skinner related the incident of the Mayberry Murder Mystery in Bonita City to A. L. Burke. Floy's parents, Rev. and Mrs. John Henry Skinner were surviving witnesses as they were among those living in Bonita at the time. In 1885, Bonita City was a sleepy little mining town, composed of log cabins, a saloon, a store, post office, and an enlarged adobe house that served as a hotel. It was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Mayberry. The Mayberry's children were Johnny, 17, Eddy, 7, and grown daughter, Nellie. Temporary residents at the time were Martin Nelson, age 24, Dr. R. E. Flynn, and Pete Nelson. In the early morning of May 5, 1885, Martin Nelson went on a shooting rampage, killing Johnny, Eddie, the Mayberry's and Dr. Flynn. Pete Nelson and Herman Beck, the grocery owner, were also slain as they came running to investigate.

The siege finally ended as Nelson was walking down the street. He was gunned down by Charlie Berry who was conversing with Randolph Schultz and Don Campbell out in the main street. Seven persons had lost their lives. Only Nellie Mayberry survived, and she left Bonita City and was never heard from again. The bodies were laid out in Pete Nelson's saloon. Rev. Skinner sent Rich Reeves and Robert Bourne for Sheriff John W. Poe who owned the VV Ranch. The deputy, Brent, and Thomas Henley arrived at the saloon late the next day. The bodies were buried side by side, and the body of the killer a reasonable distance away. Fear and shock remained for several years with the folks of Bonita.

After a time, all that was left of the memory was the old hotel. It stood vacant for 15 years before anyone entered its doors. Many believed it to be haunted and claimed strange happenings took place there. When Bonita Dam was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the remains of the victims were moved to Angus Cemetery. A large stone marks their resting place.

Old Bonita has become a memory, but the mystery remains. No one knows the reason behind Martin Nelson's rampage. He made friends, was young, and had no enemies. He was known to have a peaceful disposition. According to Burke and Skinner, "We realize to what extent the people of Bonita must have suffered, and the heroic manner in which they recovered from the shock. We draw the curtain on the Mayberry murder mystery and leave it with the reader."
Source: The Mayberry Murder Mystery of Bonita City, but A. L. Burke. Floy W. Skinner, Copyright Owner, Nogal, New Mexico. Alamogordo News, Alamogordo, NM. Contributed by Janelle Skinner Foster.

2005