Contributed by Robert McGrath.
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Fun-March Ends In Death
M. R. Ballou Cattleman, Shot and Killed
SHERIFF'S ACT, SELF DEFENSE
Testimony Before Coroners Jury Results in a Verdict
Exonerating Officer From All Blame.
Murdoch R. Ballou, one of the best-known cattlemen
of Grant County was shot and instantly killed. Thursday evening
by Sheriff Herbert McGrath. The killing was the result of an effort
on the part of the officer to disarm Mr. Ballou, was done in self
defense and was absolutely justifiable.
The events which lead to the unfortunate affair are as follows.
In the early part of the evening Mr. Ballou and some companions
were having some amusement with a couple of unknown characters about
town. After a time the fun became a little more rough and resulted
in the two men being bound together with a trace chain securely
pad-locked. They were both led up Broadway in this shape when one
of the victims of the sport became tired of the game and called
night watch man Price B. Heather, to secure their release. Mr. Ballou
was with the two men at this time. Mr. Heather spoke to Mr. Ballou,
stating that the matter had gone far enough; that the amusement
had been had and that the affair was causing some disturbance. Mr.
Ballou seemed to resent the interference on the part of the officer.
He left the street for a few moments, went to his room in the Palace
Hotel, was supposed to secure his gun and returned. Some further
words then passed between the officer and Mr. Ballou in the course
of which the latter told the two men chained together to proceed
with their noise if they wanted to, and, according to the statement
made by the night-watchman before the coroner's jury, made a motion
as if to draw a gun. He did not, however draw any weapon, but proceeded
down the street accompanied by the men. Mr. Heather, feeling that
the matter might become serious summon Deputy Sheriff James Dickinson,
who knowing that the Sheriff was a warm personal friend of Mr. Ballou,
in turn informed Mr. McGrath, who was at the Elks Club rooms, and
he at once came down town and met the officers, who explained what
had happened. Upon inquiry it was found that Mr. Ballou had taken
the men over to Hudson street. The Sheriff then told Messrs. Heather
and Dickinson to remain, saying that he could easily adjust matters
and proceeded alone to follow Mr. Ballou.
The Sheriff met the party on Hudson street at a point nearly opposite
the Wellington Corral. He engaged Mr. Ballou in conversation, telling
him that he understood he was armed and asked him in a friendly
manner to give up his gun and let the men go. Mr. Ballou at this
time had a hammer in his possession with which he intended to break
the locks. This the Sheriff obtained, but he refused to turn over
his weapon, saying that no one could disarm him. A conversation
of a several moments ensued during all of which time the Sheriff
used every argument within his power to persuade Mr. Ballou to comply
with his request without trouble. Two or three men were standing
near and overheard the conversation. Noticing this Mr. Ballou requested
the sheriff to step behind an adjoining building and talk in private.
Both men then walked around the corner where the talk was resumed.
This continued several minutes along the same lines, Mr. McGrath
saying that it was his duty to get the gun, that he was a friend
and that to-morrow Ballou would be glad he had done this. During
the early part of the conversation Mr. Ballou took a pocket knife
from his pocket, which held in his left hand. The knife, however,
was unopened. Seeing this the sheriff caught his left hand and held
it, still trying to persuade him to surrender his gun. A few moments
later Mr. Ballou drew his gun with his right hand, saying: "Get
it if you can." The Sheriff saw the move and waited until the gun
was in plain sight and was being raised, then loosing his hold of
Ballou's left hand he jumped back a few steps, drew his own gun
and fired three shots in quick succession. Before Mr. Ballou drew
his gun, however, he had become very angry. Mr. Ballou staggered
back toward the side of the building and sank to the ground. The
Sheriff rushed to a nearby telephone and summoned medical aid.
Drs. O. J. Westlake and Frank P. Whitehill responded within a few
minutes, but when they reached the scene nothing could be done.
Justice of the Peace W. H. Newcomb was then notified and upon his
arrival empanelled a coroner's jury consisting of John E. Casey,
James A. Shipley, Jesse Stowe, Buch Smith, J. W. Wilson and E.E.
Goodman. After reviewing the remains the jury adjourned until eleven
o'clock Friday morning. The body was then placed in charge of undertaker
O. C. Hinman.
The killing created a great deal of excitement as the deceased was
well known and had many friends. No one regrets the affair more
than Sheriff McGrath, as he and Mr. Ballou were close personal friends.
The facts however, completely justified this course.
A telegram was sent to the family of the deceased late Thursday
evening and a reply received Friday morning requesting that the
remains be sent to his home for final internment. They were shipped
Saturday afternoon and were accompanied by his cousin J. T. Ballou,
who was assisting the deceased in the conduct of his cattle business
in the Burro Mountains.
Mr. Ballou was a member of Silver City Lodge No. 413, B. P. O. E.,
and the members of that organization paid their tribute of respect
by accompanying the body to the depot as it left on the last sad
journey. Funeral services and final internment will be held at Brady
The coroner's jury met Friday morning at eleven o'clock at the office
of Judge Newcomb, which was crowded with spectators. The testimony
of a number of witnesses, including Sheriff McGrath, was had and
the facts as above related were developed, as also the fact that
the killing had occurred at about 9 o'clock. The testimony of the
doctors showed that Ballou had been shot three times. One of the
bullets entered at the left nipple penetrating the heart. Another
entered a short distance above into the lung. Either shot would
have proved fatal. The one which entered the heart produced instantaneous
death. The third was the left shoulder. There was also a flesh wound
in the left arm, indicating that the deceased had raised his arm
after one of the shots in his breast. At the conclusion of the testimony
the jury returned the following verdict:
Territory of New Mexico, County of Grant.}ss.
We, the undersigned Justice of the Peace and jury, who sat upon
the inquest held this 9th day of February, A. D. 1911, on the body
of M. R. Ballou found in precinct No.3 of the County of Grant, find
that the deceased came to his death by means of pistol shots fired
by Sheriff H. J. McGrath in the discharge of his duty and in self
defense and that the jury finds that he was justified in doing,
on the 9th day of Feb'y, A. D. 1911.
Witness our hands this the 10th day of Feb'y. 1911.
William H Newcomb, Justice of the Peace Precinct No. 3.
E. E. Goodman, Buch Smith, John E. Casey, J. W. Wilson,
Jesse A. Stowe, Jas. A. Shipley. Jurors.
Mr. Ballou was born in Brady, Texas, thirty-seven years ago. He
left home when about twenty-one years of age and came to New Mexico,
locating in Eddy County and coming to Grant County twelve years
ago. He entered the employ of the G O S Cattle Company as a cow-boy.
He was especially well trained and experienced in this business
and later on entered a partnership with Henry Barksdale and took
the T. J. brand of cattle under lease. Later on Mr. Downes purchased
the Barksdale interest. A sale of this property was made and with
the proceeds thereof Mr. Ballou purchased the Charles Campbell outfit
in the Burro Mountains. He was very successful in his business affairs
and at the time of his death owned property of considerable value.
He was regarded as one of the best cattlemen in this section. Deceased
was a man of most generous and likable disposition and had a wide
circle of friends and acquaintances. With all of whom he was very
popular. He was one of those rare characters who would do anything
to aid and assist his friends and no task was too great for him
to undertake when he thought his service was needed. His untimely
death was a severe shock to everyone here.
Mr. Ballou is survived by his parents, S. T. and Isabel Ballou,
both of whom live at Brady, Texas. Also by three brothers and one
sister residing at the same place, namely: Albert Ballou, Jesse
Ballou, Steve Ballou and Alice Ballou. Other sisters are Mrs. Thomas
Homsley of Commanche, Texas, and Mrs. John Draper of Rock Springs,
Texas, J. T. Ballou, resides in Grant County.
Also of interest in this issue was the LORDSBURG LOCALS: Mrs. M.
W. McGrath and granddaughters, Dewey and Ida, made a trip to the
pass city in the later part of the week.
Copied from the "Silver City Independent" issue of Tuesday February