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MAXWELL'S RANCH.
 
 
 
 One of the most interesting and picturesque regions of all New Mexico
 is the immense tract of nearly two million acres known as Maxwell's
 Ranch, through which the Old Trail ran, and the title to which was
 some years since determined by the Supreme Court of the United States
 in favour of an alien company.[59]  Dead long ago, Maxwell belonged
 to a generation and a class almost completely extinct, and the like
 of which will, in all probability, never be seen again; for there
 is no more frontier to develop them.
 
 Several years prior to the acquisition of the territory by the
 United States, the immense tract comprised in the geographical limits
 of the ranch was granted to Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda,
 both citizens of the province of New Mexico, and agents of the
 American Fur Company.  Attached to the company as an employer,
 a trapper, and hunter, was Lucien B. Maxwell, an Illinoisan by birth,
 who married a daughter of Beaubien.  After the death of the latter
 Maxwell purchased all the interest of the joint proprietor, Miranda,
 and that of the heirs of Beaubien, thus at once becoming the largest
 landowner in the United States.
 
 At the zenith of his influence and wealth, during the War of the
 Rebellion, when New Mexico was isolated and almost independent of
 care or thought by the government at Washington, he lived in a
 sort of barbaric splendour, akin to that of the nobles of England
 at the time of the Norman conquest.
 
 The thousands of arable acres comprised in the many fertile valleys
 of his immense estate were farmed in a primitive, feudal sort of way,
 by native Mexicans principally, under the system of peonage then
 existing in the Territory.  He employed about five hundred men, and
 they were as much his thralls as were Gurth and Wamba of Cedric of
 Rotherwood, only they wore no engraved collars around their necks
 bearing their names and that of their master.  Maxwell was not a
 hard governor, and his people really loved him, as he was ever their
 friend and adviser.
 
 His house was a palace when compared with the prevailing style of
 architecture in that country, and cost an immense sum of money.
 It was large and roomy, purely American in its construction, but the
 manner of conducting it was strictly Mexican, varying between the
 customs of the higher and lower classes of that curious people.
 
 Some of its apartments were elaborately furnished, others devoid of
 everything except a table for card-playing and a game's complement
 of chairs.  The principal room, an extended rectangular affair,
 which might properly have been termed the Baronial Hall, was almost
 bare except for a few chairs, a couple of tables, and an antiquated
 bureau.  There Maxwell received his friends, transacted business
 with his vassals, and held high carnival at times.
 
 I have slept on its hardwood floor, rolled up in my blanket, with
 the mighty men of the Ute nation lying heads and points all around me,
 as close as they could possibly crowd, after a day's fatiguing hunt
 in the mountains.  I have sat there in the long winter evenings,
 when the great room was lighted only by the cheerful blaze of the
 crackling logs roaring up the huge throats of its two fireplaces
 built diagonally across opposite corners, watching Maxwell, Kit Carson,
 and half a dozen chiefs silently interchange ideas in the wonderful
 sign language, until the glimmer of Aurora announced the advent of
 another day.  But not a sound had been uttered during the protracted
 hours, save an occasional grunt of satisfaction on the part of the
 Indians, or when we white men exchanged a sentence.
 
 Frequently Maxwell and Carson would play the game of seven-up for
 hours at a time, seated at one of the tables.  Kit was usually the
 victor, for he was the greatest expert in that old and popular
 pastime I have ever met.  Maxwell was an inveterate gambler, but
 not by any means in a professional sense; he indulged in the hazard
 of the cards simply for the amusement it afforded him in his rough
 life of ease, and he could very well afford the losses which the
 pleasure sometimes entailed.  His special penchant, however, was
 betting on a horse race, and his own stud comprised some of the
 fleetest animals in the Territory.  Had he lived in England he might
 have ruled the turf, but many jobs were put up on him by unscrupulous
 jockeys, by which he was outrageously defrauded of immense sums.
 
 He was fond of cards, as I have said, both of the purely American
 game of poker, and also of old sledge, but rarely played except with
 personal friends, and never without stakes.  He always exacted the
 last cent he had won, though the next morning, perhaps, he would
 present or loan his unsuccessful opponent of the night before five
 hundred or a thousand dollars, if he needed it; an immensely greater
 sum, in all probability, than had been gained in the game.
 
 The kitchen and dining-rooms of his princely establishment were
 detached from the main residence.  There was one of the latter for
 the male portion of his retinue and guests of that sex, and another
 for the female, as, in accordance with the severe, and to us strange,
 Mexican etiquette, men rarely saw a woman about the premises, though
 there were many.  Only the quick rustle of a skirt, or a hurried view
 of a reboso, as its wearer flashed for an instant before some window
 or half-open door, told of their presence.
 
 The greater portion of his table-service was solid silver, and at
 his hospitable board there were rarely any vacant chairs.  Covers
 were laid daily for about thirty persons; for he had always many
 guests, invited or forced upon him in consequence of his proverbial
 munificence, or by the peculiar location of his manor-house which
 stood upon a magnificently shaded plateau at the foot of mighty
 mountains, a short distance from a ford on the Old Trail.  As there
 were no bridges over the uncertain streams of the great overland
 route in those days, the ponderous Concord coaches, with their
 ever-full burden of passengers, were frequently water-bound, and
 Maxwell's the only asylum from the storm and flood; consequently
 he entertained many.
 
 At all times, and in all seasons, the group of buildings, houses,
 stables, mill, store, and their surrounding grounds, were a constant
 resort and loafing-place of Indians.  From the superannuated chiefs,
 who revelled lazily during the sunny hours in the shady peacefulness
 of the broad porches; the young men of the tribe, who gazed with
 covetous eyes upon the sleek-skinned, blooded colts sporting in the
 spacious corrals; the squaws, fascinated by the gaudy calicoes,
 bright ribbons, and glittering strings of beads on the counters
 or shelves of the large store, to the half-naked, chubby little
 pappooses around the kitchen doors, waiting with expectant mouths
 for some delicious morsel of refuse to be thrown to them--all assumed,
 in bearing and manner, a vested right of proprietorship in their
 agreeable environment.
 
 To this motley group, always under his feet, as it were, Maxwell was
 ever passively gracious, although they were battening in idleness
 on his prodigal bounty from year to year.
 
 His retinue of servants, necessarily large, was made up of a
 heterogeneous mixture of Indians, Mexicans, and half-breeds.
 The kitchens were presided over by dusky maidens under the tutelage
 of experienced old crones, and its precincts were sacred to them;
 but the dining-rooms were forbidden to women during the hours of
 meals, which were served by boys.
 
 Maxwell was rarely, as far as my observation extended, without a
 large amount of money in his possession.  He had no safe, however,
 his only place of temporary deposit for the accumulated cash being
 the bottom drawer of the old bureau in the large room to which I
 have referred, which was the most antiquated concern of common pine
 imaginable.  There were only two other drawers in this old-fashioned
 piece of furniture, and neither of them possessed a lock.  The third,
 or lower, the one that contained the money, did, but it was absolutely
 worthless, being one of the cheapest pattern and affording not the
 slightest security; besides, the drawers above it could be pulled out,
 exposing the treasure immediately beneath to the cupidity of any one.
 
 I have frequently seen as much as thirty thousand dollars--gold,
 silver, greenbacks, and government checks--at one time in that novel
 depository.  Occasionally these large sums remained there for several
 days, yet there was never any extra precaution taken to prevent its
 abstraction; doors were always open and the room free of access to
 every one, as usual.
 
 I once suggested to Maxwell the propriety of purchasing a safe for
 the better security of his money, but he only smiled, while a strange,
 resolute look flashed from his dark eyes, as he said: "God help the
 man who attempted to rob me and I knew him!"
 
 The sources of his wealth were his cattle, sheep, and the products
 of his area of cultivated acres--barley, oats, and corn principally--
 which he disposed of to the quartermaster and commissary departments
 of the army, in the large military district of New Mexico.
 His wool-clip must have been enormous, too; but I doubt whether he
 could have told the number of animals that furnished it or the
 aggregate of his vast herds.  He had a thousand horses, ten thousand
 cattle, and forty thousand sheep at the time I knew him well,
 according to the best estimates of his Mexican relatives.
 
 He also possessed a large and perfectly appointed gristmill, which
 was a great source of revenue, for wheat was one of the staple crops
 of his many farms.
 
 Maxwell was fond of travelling all over the Territory, his equipages
 comprising everything in the shape of a vehicle, through all their
 varieties, from the most plainly constructed buckboard to the
 lumbering, but comfortable and expensive, Concord coach, mounted on
 thorough braces instead of springs, and drawn by four or six horses.
 He was perfectly reckless in his driving, dashing through streams,
 over irrigating ditches, stones, and stumps like a veritable Jehu,
 regardless of consequences, but, as is usually the fortune of such
 precipitate horsemen, rarely coming to grief.
 
 The headquarters of the Ute agency were established at Maxwell's Ranch
 in early days, and the government detailed a company of cavalry to
 camp there, more, however, to impress the plains tribes who roamed
 along the Old Trail east of the Raton Range, than for any effect on
 the Utes, whom Maxwell could always control, and who regarded him
 as a father.
 
 On the 4th of July, 1867, Maxwell, who owned an antiquated and rusty
 six-pound field howitzer, suggested to the captain of the troop
 stationed there the propriety of celebrating the day.  So the old
 piece was dragged from its place under a clump of elms, where it had
 been hidden in the grass and weeds ever since the Mexican War probably,
 and brought near the house.  The captain and Maxwell acted the rôle
 of gunners, the former at the muzzle, the latter at the breech;
 the discharge was premature, blowing out the captain's eye and taking
 off his arm, while Maxwell escaped with a shattered thumb.  As soon
 as the accident occurred, a sergeant was despatched to Fort Union on
 one of the fastest horses on the ranch, the faithful animal falling
 dead the moment he stopped in front of the surgeon's quarters, having
 made the journey of fifty-five miles in little more than four hours.
 
 The surgeon left the post immediately, arriving at Maxwell's late that
 night, but in time to save the officer's life, after which he dressed
 Maxwell's apparently inconsiderable wound.  In a few days, however,
 the thumb grew angry-looking; it would not yield to the doctor's
 careful treatment, so he reluctantly decided that amputation was
 necessary.  After an operation was determined upon, I prevailed upon
 Maxwell to come to the fort and remain with me, inviting Kit Carson
 at the same time, that he might assist in catering to the amusement
 of my suffering guest.  Maxwell and Carson arrived at my quarters
 late in the day, after a tedious ride in the big coach, and the
 surgeon, in order to allow a prolonged rest on account of Maxwell's
 feverish condition, postponed the operation until the following evening.
 
 The next night, as soon as it grew dark--we waited for coolness,
 as the days were excessively hot--the necessary preliminaries were
 arranged, and when everything was ready the surgeon commenced.
 Maxwell declined the anaesthetic prepared for him, and sitting in a
 common office chair put out his hand, while Carson and myself stood
 on opposite sides, each holding an ordinary kerosene lamp.  In a few
 seconds the operation was concluded, and after the silver-wire
 ligatures were twisted in their places, I offered Maxwell, who had
 not as yet permitted a single sigh to escape his lips, half a
 tumblerful of whiskey; but before I had fairly put it to his mouth,
 he fell over, having fainted dead away, while great beads of
 perspiration stood on his forehead, indicative of the pain he had
 suffered, as the amputation of the thumb, the surgeon told us then,
 was as bad as that of a leg.
 
 He returned to his ranch as soon as the surgeon pronounced him well,
 and Carson to his home in Taos.  I saw the latter but once more at
 Maxwell's; but he was en route to visit me at Fort Harker, in Kansas,
 when he was taken ill at Fort Lyon, where he died.
 
           A boy's will is the wind's will,
           And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.
 
 How true it now seems to me, as the recollections of my boyish days,
 when I read of the exploits of Kit Carson, crowd upon my memory!
 I firmly believed him to be at least ten feet tall, carrying a rifle
 so heavy that, like Bruce's sword, it required two men to lift it.
 I imagined he drank out of nothing smaller than a river, and picked
 the carcass of a whole buffalo as easily as a lady does the wing of
 a quail.  Ten years later I made the acquaintance of the foremost
 frontiersman, and found him a delicate, reticent, under-sized,
 wiry man, as perfectly the opposite of the type my childish brain
 had created as it is possible to conceive.
 
 At Fort Union our mail arrived every morning by coach over the Trail,
 generally pulling up at the sutler's store, whose proprietor was
 postmaster, about daylight.  While Maxwell and Kit were my guests,
 I sauntered down after breakfast one morning to get my mail, and
 while waiting for the letters to be distributed, happened to glance
 at some papers lying on the counter, among which I saw a new periodical
 --the _Day's Doings_, I think it was--that had a full-page illustration
 of a scene in a forest.  In the foreground stood a gigantic figure
 dressed in the traditional buckskin; on one arm rested an immense
 rifle; his other arm was around the waist of the conventional female
 of such sensational journals, while in front, lying prone upon the
 ground, were half a dozen Indians, evidently slain by the singular
 hero in defending the impossibly attired female.  The legend related
 how all this had been effected by the famous Kit Carson.  I purchased
 the paper, returned with it to my room, and after showing it to
 several officers who had called upon Maxwell, I handed it to Kit.
 He wiped his spectacles, studied the picture intently for a few
 seconds, turned round, and said: "Gentlemen, that thar may be true,
 but I hain't got no recollection of it."
 
 I passed a delightful two weeks with Maxwell, late in the summer of
 1867, at the time that the excitement over the discovery of gold on
 his ranch had just commenced, and adventurers were beginning to
 congregate in the hills and gulches from everywhere.  The discovery
 of the precious metal on his estate was the first cause of his
 financial embarrassment.  It was the ruin also of many other prominent
 men in New Mexico, who expended their entire fortune in the construction
 of an immense ditch, forty miles in length--from the Little Canadian
 or Red River--to supply the placer diggings in the Moreno valley with
 water, when the melted snow of Old Baldy range had exhausted itself
 in the late summer.  The scheme was a stupendous failure; its ruins
 may be seen to-day in the deserted valleys, a monument to man's
 engineering skill, but the wreck of his hopes.
 
 For some years previous to the discovery of gold in the mountains and
 gulches of Maxwell's Ranch, it was known that copper existed in the
 region; several shafts had been sunk and tunnels driven in various
 places, and gold had been found from time to time, but was kept a
 secret for many months.  Its presence was at last revealed to Maxwell
 by a party of his own miners, who were boring into the heart of
 Old Baldy for a copper lead that had cropped out and was then lost.
 
 Of course, to keep the knowledge of the discovery of gold from the
 world is an impossibility; such was the case in this instance, and
 soon commenced that squatter immigration out of which, after the
 ranch was sold and Maxwell died, grew that litigation which has
 resulted in favour of the company who purchased from or through the
 first owners after Maxwell's death.
 
 He was a representative man of the border of the same class as his
 compeers--"wild-civilized men," to borrow an expressive term from
 John Burroughs--of strong local attachments, and overflowing with the
 milk of human kindness.  To such as he there was an unconquerable
 infatuation in life on the remote plains and in the solitude of the
 mountains.  There was never anything of the desperado in their
 character, while the adventurers who at times have made the far West
 infamous, since the advent of the railroad, were bad men originally.
 
 Occasionally such men turn up everywhere, and become a terror to
 the community, but they are always wound up sooner or later; they
 die with their boots on; Western graveyards are full of them.
 
 Maxwell, under contract with the Interior Department, furnished
 live beeves to the Ute nation, the issue of which was made weekly
 from his own vast herds.  The cattle, as wild as those from the
 Texas prairies, were driven by his herders into an immense enclosed
 field, and there turned loose to be slaughtered by the savages.
 
 Once when at the ranch I told Maxwell I should like to have a horse
 to witness the novel sight.  He immediately ordered a Mexican groom
 to procure one; but I did not see the peculiar smile that lighted up
 his face, as he whispered something to the man which I did not catch.
 Presently the groom returned leading a magnificent gray, which I
 mounted, Maxwell suggesting that I should ride down to the large
 field and wait there until the herd arrived.  I entered the great
 corral, patting my horse on the neck now and then, to make him
 familiar with my touch, and attempted to converse with some of the
 chiefs, who were dressed in their best, painted as if for the
 war-path, gaily bedecked with feathers and armed with rifles and
 gaudily appointed bows and arrows; but I did not succeed very well
 in drawing them from their normal reticence.  The squaws, a hundred
 of them, were sitting on the ground, their knives in hand ready for
 the labour which is the fate of their sex in all savage tribes,
 while their lords' portion of the impending business was to end with
 the more manly efforts of the chase.
 
 Suddenly a great cloud of dust rose on the trail from the mountains,
 and on came the maddened animals, fairly shaking the earth with
 their mighty tread.  As soon as the gate was closed behind them,
 and uttering a characteristic yell that was blood-curdling in its
 ferocity, the Indians charged upon the now doubly frightened herd,
 and commenced to discharge their rifles, regardless of the presence
 of any one but themselves.  My horse became paralyzed for an instant
 and stood poised on his hind legs, like the steed represented in
 that old lithographic print of Napoleon crossing the Alps; then taking
 the bit in his teeth, he rushed aimlessly into the midst of the
 flying herd, while the bullets from the guns of the excited savages
 rained around my head.  I had always boasted of my equestrian
 accomplishments--I was never thrown but once in my life, and that was
 years afterward--but in this instance it taxed all my powers to keep
 my seat.  In less than twenty minutes the last beef had fallen; and
 the warriors, inflated with the pride of their achievement, rode
 silently out of the field, leaving the squaws to cut up and carry
 away the meat to their lodges, more than three miles distant, which
 they soon accomplished, to the last quivering morsel.
 
 As I rode leisurely back to the house, I saw Maxwell and Kit standing
 on the broad porch, their sides actually shaking with laughter at
 my discomfiture, they having been watching me from the very moment
 the herd entered the corral.  It appeared that the horse Maxwell
 ordered the groom to bring me was a recent importation from St. Louis,
 had never before seen an Indian, and was as unused to the prairies
 and mountains as a street-car mule.  Kit said that my mount reminded
 him of one that his antagonist in a duel rode a great many years ago
 when he was young.  If the animal had not been such "a fourth-of-July"
 brute, his opponent would in all probability have finished him, as he
 was a splendid shot; but Kit fortunately escaped, the bullet merely
 grazing him under the ear, leaving a scar which he then showed me.
 
 One night Kit Carson, Maxwell, and I were up in the Raton Mountains
 above the Old Trail, and having lingered too long, were caught above
 the clouds against our will, darkness having overtaken us before we
 were ready to descend into the valley.  It was dangerous to undertake
 the trip over such a precipitous and rocky trail, so we were compelled
 to make the best of our situation.  It was awfully cold, and as we
 had brought no blankets, we dared not go to sleep for fear our fire
 might go out, and we should freeze.  We therefore determined to make
 a night of it by telling yarns, smoking our pipes, and walking around
 at times.  After sitting awhile, Maxwell pointed toward the Spanish
 Peaks, whose snow-white tops cast a diffused light in the heavens
 above them, and remarked that in the deep canyon which separates them,
 he had had one of the "closest calls" of his life, willingly complying
 when I asked him to tell us the story.
 
 "It was in 1847.  I came down from Taos with a party to go to the
 Cimarron crossing of the Santa Fe Trail to pick up a large herd of
 horses for the United States Quartermaster's Department.  We succeeded
 in gathering about a hundred and started back with them, letting
 them graze slowly along, as we were in no hurry.  When we arrived
 at the foot-hills north of Bent's Fort, we came suddenly upon the
 trail of a large war-band of Utes, none of whom we saw, but from
 subsequent developments the savages must have discovered us days
 before we reached the mountains.  I knew we were not strong enough
 to cope with the whole Ute nation, and concluded the best thing for
 us to do under the ticklish circumstances was to make a detour,
 and put them off our trail.  So we turned abruptly down the Arkansas,
 intending to try and get to Taos in that direction, more than one
 hundred and fifty miles around.  It appeared afterward that the
 Indians had been following us all the way.  When we found this out,
 some of the men believed they were another party, and not the same
 whose trail we came upon when we turned down the river, but I always
 insisted they were.  When we arrived within a few days' drive of Taos,
 we were ambushed in one of the narrow passes of the range, and had
 the bloodiest fight with the Utes on record.  There were thirteen
 of us, all told, and two little children whom we were escorting to
 their friends at Taos, having received them at the Cimarron crossing.
 
 "While we were quietly taking our breakfast one morning, and getting
 ready to pull out for the day's march, perfectly unsuspicious of the
 proximity of any Indians, they dashed in upon us, and in less than
 a minute stampeded all our stock--loose animals as well as those we
 were riding.  While part of the savages were employed in running off
 the animals, fifty of their most noted warriors, splendidly mounted
 and horribly painted, rushed into the camp, around the fire of which
 the men and the little children were peacefully sitting, and,
 discharging their guns as they rode up, killed one man and wounded
 another.
 
 "Terribly surprised as we were, it did not turn the heads of the old
 mountaineers, and I immediately told them to make a break for a clump
 of timber near by, and that we would fight them as long as one of us
 could stand up.  There we fought and fought against fearful odds,
 until all were wounded except two.  The little children were captured
 at the beginning of the trouble and carried off at once.  After a
 while the savages got tired of the hard work, and, as is frequently
 the case, went away of their own free will; but they left us in a
 terrible plight.  All were sore, stiff, and weak from their many wounds;
 on foot, and without any food or ammunition to procure game with,
 having exhausted our supply in the awfully unequal battle; besides,
 we were miles from home, with every prospect of starving to death.
 
 "We could not remain where we were, so as soon as darkness came on,
 we started out to walk to some settlement.  We dared not show
 ourselves by daylight, and all through the long hours when the sun
 was up, we were obliged to hide in the brush and ravines until night
 overtook us again, and we could start on our painful march.
 
 "We had absolutely nothing to eat, and our wounds began to fester,
 so that we could hardly move at all.  We should undoubtedly have
 perished, if, on the third day, a band of friendly Indians of another
 tribe had not gone to Taos and reported the fight to the commanding
 officer of the troops there.  These Indians had heard of our trouble
 with the Utes, and knowing how strong they were, and our weakness,
 surmised our condition, and so hastened to convey the bad news.
 
 "A company of dragoons was immediately sent to our rescue, under the
 guidance of Dick Wooton, who was and has ever been a warm personal
 friend of mine.  They came upon us about forty miles from Taos, and
 never were we more surprised; we had become so starved and emaciated
 that we had abandoned all hope of escaping what seemed to be our
 inevitable fate.
 
 "When the troops found us, we had only a few rags, our clothes having
 been completely stripped from our bodies while struggling through
 the heavy underbrush on our trail, and we were so far exhausted that
 we could not stand on our feet.  One more day, and we would have been
 laid out.
 
 "The little children were, fortunately, saved from the horror of
 that terrible march after the fight, as the Indians carried them to
 their winter camp, where, if not absolutely happy, they were under
 shelter and fed; escaping the starvation which would certainly have
 been their fate if they had remained with us.  They were eventually
 ransomed for a cash payment by the government, and altogether had not
 been very harshly treated."