Miguel Antonio Otero (1829-1882)

Born on June 21, 1929, in Valencia, New Mexico – what was then the first Republic of Mexico – Miguel Antonio Otero was one of the more fascinating New Mexicans. He rose to political prominence at a young age but was undone by political decisions that have proven to be on the wrong side of history and has kind of drifted into obscurity. But he accomplished a lot and the Otero family had great influence in the early history of New Mexico, including the creation of Otero County.

Miguel Antonio Otero (1829-1882)

Don Vicente Otero and Doña Gertrudis Aragón de Otero, Miguel Otero’s parents, were well to do New Mexicans. Don Vicente held a number of prestigious offices in both the Spanish and the Mexican Governments. This influence in the Spanish and Mexican governments – and subsequently to the United States – implies that the Oteros were easy to adapt to frequent changes in the 1800s. The Oteros were pro-American prior to the Mexican-American War and were well regarded by Anglo-Americans. This shrewd pro-American sentiment made the Oteros very influential in post-war New Mexico. If it were not this Otero’s support for the Confederacy, the Oteros might have more than just a New Mexican County named after them.

Miguel Antonio Otero was an Eastern educated ‘semi-aristocrat’ and was bilingual. After receiving private education locally in New Mexico, Otero enrolled in St. Louis University in Missouri in 1841, and ultimately graduated from Pingree College in Fishkill, New York. In 1851, he returned to Missouri where he was admitted to the bar in 1852.

While studying for the bar in St. Louis, Otero was introduced to his wife, Mary Josephine Blackwood, by her brother, William G. Blackwood, whom Otero had appointed to the New Mexico Territorial Supreme Court after rising the ranks of New Mexican Politics. Mary Josephine was a Southern Bell, being reared in Charleston, South Carolina and this Southern connection may have been influential in his subsequent Confederate sympathies.

In 1852, Otero became secretary of Territorial Governor William Lane, a pro-slavery advocate. Otero was then elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico at the age of 23. Two years later, he was appointed to be the Attorney General of New Mexico at the age of 25 Otero supported Nationalistic projects like the Southern Railroad – a big justification for the Gadsden Purchase. On March 4, 1856, he was elected to be a Delegate to the United States House of Representatives in a contested election. He served until 1860.

Voter Fraud

His election in 1856 was particularly interesting. Otero challenged the incumbent José Manuel Gallegos, who was the first Hispanic of Mexican descent elected as a Territorial Delegate to Congress and whom only spoke Spanish. After colluding with the press to defame Gallegos because he was a defrocked Catholic priest who only spoke Spanish, Otero contested the close election that Gallegos had initially won by 99 votes. Otero challenged the vote by asserting that citizens voted illegally. The election was decided by a House Committee on Elections, which ‘elected’ otero by a margin of128-22.

Otero was a vocal supporter of Westward Expansion and pushed for internal improvements in New Mexico. During his time as a Territorial Delegate, he obtained money to provide for the Butterfield Overland Mail delivery service to run through the Southern portion of New Mexico. He pushed for the federal government to own most of the land of New Mexico, probably resulting in the BLM lands we have today. Throughout the 1850s, Otero courted Southern politicians, such as Jefferson Davis, who, as Secretary of War, promoted Transcontinental Railroads, in order to promote New Mexican development. After the Gadsden Purchase (Treaty of Mesilla) in 1854, Otero



Martineztown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Albuquerque and is unlike anywhere else in the city. A former farming community that has always been a place of land investment/speculation, the current boundaries now lie between Broadway Blvd & I-25 and Odelia & Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. At one point in time, the parameters of Martineztown ranged from the train tracks to roughly a little east of I-25. Santa Barbara lied just north of Martineztown and I-40 divided the neighborhood the neighborhood when it went in.

People have also been traveling through Martineztown for nearly 400 years. There were multiple routes of ‘The Camino Real‘ and one went right through what turned into Martineztown. The lower route went closer to the river roughly just east of Rio Grande Blvd, but when the river flooded, they took the higher road, which is what is now along the windy road of Edith Blvd, starting around MLK and heading northbound.

One of the most definitive history is the book entitled: Martineztown, 1823-1950: Hispanics, Italians, Jesuits & Land Investors in New Town Albuquerque

For the early part of Martineztown, it was just a common grazing area for the herds of Old Town. The residents would walk their sheep up what is now Mountain Rd. and allow their herds to roam. The Jesuits from Old Town bought some land for Santa Barbara Cemetery because Old Town’s cemetery wasfull, and then bought more land. Around the 1850s, a more permanent settlement took root when Manuel Antoñio Martin established a shelter on the the land. The Martin family grew, different people and families moved in, and a vibrant community began to emerge. It became known as Los Martinez, and later Anglicised to Martineztown.

El Camino Realis in Martineztown,

After the railroad came to the nearby community of Barelas in the late 1880s, the close knit and largely Hispanic community’s makeup and land use started to change significantly. The Jesuits continued land investments and others began to speculate on Martineztown land, mostly because it was close to the new city, nearby the railroad, cheap, and there were fewer barriers of entry. Some larger institutions moved in as well. On Grand Ave, St. Joseph’s Sanitarium was established in 1902 and nextdoor Longfellow Elementary School shortly thereafter. Incidentally, Grand Ave – aka Tijeres Canyon Trail – is now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.

La Iglesia de San Ignacio, undated

Religion also played an important role to the people of Martineztown. The local Catholic church La Iglesia de San Ignacio was established in 1916 on what is now Walter Blvd, and the Second Presbyterian Church was built in 1922 on Edith. The residential portion Martineztown was still a small community, full of adobe houses and dirt roads and farm animals. But the industrial and land speculation that begun shortly after New Albuquerque was established still continues to this day.

A good written history of the community by a direct descendent of the founding father of Martineztown

Community Action and Public Art

In the 1950s, ABQ re-zoned Martineztown away from residential to commercial, with the idea that the city would make improvements, such as a new City Hall and Convention Center in the neighborhood. In the 1960s, the city planned to build the Federal Courthouse in the neighborhood. The citizens did not support these ideas and fought back, resulting in the city building those buildings in what is now downtown.

Though these buildings never materialized, the damage was done. When the zoning was never returned to residential, the community stagnated because it had always been a residential neighborhood. But the neighborhood was now zoned commercial. As a result, the people were not able to obtain residential mortgages or other financing. Because of this defacto redlining by retaining the zoning as commercial as it limited what the people could do with their own land. Conversely, even if they wanted to, the residents of Martineztown also could not sell their property.

However, in the mid 1960s, with federal dollars, the people of Martineztown engaged in an urban renewal of their neighborhood. Infrastructure, such as paved roads, sidewalks, parks, and other public utilities were installed. Albuquerque High School was built in the early 1970s, moving from Central Avenue to where it is now, on Indian School and I-25.

The neighborhood became more integrated into the greater Albuquerque community and began to lead. In the 1970s, the city of Albuquerque began its famous public art programs, with its very first purchase of Luis Jiménez’ Southwest Pieta – a sculpture that honored the indigenous roots of the Southwest. This piece was supposed to be placed in Old Town. However, the residents of Old Town objected vehemently. The people of Martineztown, on the other hand, requested and accepted the piece with open arms. It is located on Edith Blvd.

The neighborhood is still changing, and, as all things, change is the only constant. The people are resilient and the sanctity of the community is strong. But, no matter what change comes next, it will forever be Martineztown.

Southwest Pieta by Luis Jiménez

Once these mountains were living people. An Aztec warrior and a woman he loved. But their love was not destined to be. The woman dies. The warrior is overcome with grief. In Southwest Pieta, we see the warrior and the woman at this moment of death and grief and we share their anguish. But the story tells us their love was so strong that in even in death their souls were transformed into the spirits and forms of the volcanoes.

Rudolfo Anaya


A wonderful video of the history of the community of Martineztown.

Above is another great little historical video about the rich cultural heritage of Martineztown and the work the people have done to maintain it.

Fort Craig, New Mexico

Established in 1853 by the United States Army, Fort Craig served an important role in the incorporation of New Mexico Territory into the United States. The fort, made mostly of adobe, was a sturdy and restful stop located within the Jornada del Muerto on el Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Today Fort Craig is a infrequently visited National Historic Site and is a short drive from I-25 and located in between Socorro and Truth or Consequences.

Ft. Craig, New Mexico. Building are approx. 1 mile round trip walk from parking lot.

Fort Craig was originally built due to the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which called for forts near the newly formed borderlands to protect the incoming American colonists from the marauding Native Americans. However, its most important contribution to history was during the Civil War. By 1862, Fort Craig had around 2,000 soldiers, many of whom were the New Mexico Volunteers.

After the Confederates took power in Mesilla, New Mexico, with little resistance, General Henry Sibley thought it would be relatively easy to march onward to Colorado and California. The belief by the Rebels was that if they could somehow secure the gold and silver located within the mines of Colorado and California, the CSA could continue the war and its own westward expansion. Thank goodness things did not end up as the racists had hoped.

In February of 1862, the Sibley Brigade marched towards the Fort but decided against attacking the Fort directly because of what appeared to be large cannons on the defensive bastions. Instead, the Confederates marched around the Fort and north to the Rio Grande. A little less than five miles north from Fort Craig, on the 21st of February, the Battle of Valverde ensued under the leadership of Sibley and Colonel Edward Canby. The battle itself was either a draw or a slight CSA victory, though the New Mexican Volunteers found Sibley’s supply wagons and burned them. Nonetheless, because Sibley had very few provisions and was unable to take the Fort, Sibley’s subsequent Battle of Glorieta Pass was not as successful.

After the Civil war, the Fort housed a large population of Buffalo Soldiers – named by the Native Americans – who largely served as soldiers in the ‘Indian Wars’ against the nearby Apaches. Interestingly, Buffalo Soldiers had the lowest desertion rate of any soldiers during that time period. The Fort was decommissioned and abandoned by 1885.

Today the Fort is an official National Historic Site and is located between exits 115 and 124 on I-25. Follow the signs, or the map below, to get there, or click through below for more information.

Engle, New Mexico

Old Schoolhouse/Church in Engle, New Mexico

There’s not much to Engle nowadays and maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Located on Highway 51, what was once a bustling town of upwards of half of a thousand people is nearly entirely deserted today. While the BNSF railway goes right through town and the headquarters of Armendaris Ranch (owned by Ted Turner) is visible. But the most prominent building, or at least what appears to be the most imposing, is the old schoolhouse / church / miscellaneous building. Who knows who owns it but it appears to be in decent shape. Fifteen miles or so miles south of Engle is Spaceport America. Perhaps when space tourism takes off, Engle might take off with it.

About a mile or so west of Engle is the original route of the Jornada del Muerto, or the Journey of Death – aptly named due to this being the most difficult stretch of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Not only was it – and still is – terribly dry, but when the Spaniards/Mexicans invaded this land, there were Native inhabitants who did not take too kindly of being abused and they appropriately made this route a difficult journey for the invaders. This was also ostensibly the same route Confederate General Sibley took to the Battle of Valverde – arguably the most important Civil War battle in the West – which occurred just north of Fort Craig.

All in all the drive to Engle from Truth or Consequences is worth it if you have the time and don’t expect to see much of anything. If you’re on a bike, it would be a pretty nice, mostly flat ride from the Elephant Butte Dam Village to Engle. For me, it was kind of interesting to spend a few seconds imagining what it would have been like as a person living in the 1500s-1880s traveling this route.

Gadsden Purchase

Gadsden Purchase

After the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was ratified on February 2, 1848, the southern portion of New Mexico and Arizona largely remained in Mexico, with most of the border in what is current day Arizona to be set at the Gila River. In New Mexico, things were a big more complicated as the town of Las Cruces remained in the Union yet the town of la Mesilla, which at the of of ratification remained across the Rio Grande but in Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo left somethings unresolved, namely, ownership of the Mesilla Valley and protection for Mexico from raids from the Apache and Comanche tribes.

Gadsden Purchase in yellow

The Gadsden Purchase, ratified by the US Senate on April 25, 1854, was the USA’s last continental land acquisition. It comprised of nearly 30,000 square-miles, most in Arizona, though an important portion was in New Mexico, the Mesilla Valley.

Mesilla Valley

That Gadsden Purchase is also known as “la Vente de La Mesilla” or “The Sale of Mesilla.” Mesilla, New Mexico, was important because, just the same as the countries disputed the ownership of the land in between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, Mexico and USA disputed ownership of the Mesilla Valley. Fearing another war and losing even more land, General Santa Ana sold to the Gringos the Gadsden Purchase for a whopping ten million dollars.

In 1853, President Pierce sent James Gadsden to negotiate with Mexico’s General Santa Ana for the land. The USA wanted a port in the Gulf of California and a flatter route for a Southern Transcontinental Railroad.

James Gadsden by Charles Fraser, circa 1831, the Gibbes Museum of Art Accession Number: 1985.013.0003

The Text of the Gadsden Treaty is relatively straightforward and can be found below and here. Clause 1 changed the border and Clause 3 provided for the cost of acquisition.

The Gadsden Purchase (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) (cite September 1, 2020)

Alexander William Doniphan

The name Alexander Doniphan is rarely spoken in New Mexico. I don’t remember hearing it when I took New Mexico history in fifth grade, nor do I remember it during New Mexico history at University. Then again, I don’t remember much from college.

Nevertheless, we largely owe to Colonel Doniphan the foundation of most New Mexican law. You see, President Polk ordered General Stephen Kearny to conquer the West. After New Mexico capitulated, General Kearny left Colonel Doniphan in charge to conquer New Mexico and to write a new set of laws. These laws came to be known as the Kearny Code. And by sheer happenstance, the laws are largely based on Missouri law because, as you guessed it, Colonel Doniphan, and his assistant Willard Prebel Hall, were from Missouri. Hall happened to have a copy of the Missouri set of laws in his saddlebags and that is why New Mexico’s laws are largely based on Missouri’s laws. Ain’t that some shit.

Formative Years

When Doniphan was five years old, his father died and he was sent to live with his older brother, George, in Kentucky. He graduated college, studied law, and set out west, which was Missouri at the time, in search of fame or fortune. After being admitted to the bar in 1830, he became a prominent defense attorney (unsuccessfully defended the Mormons from expulsion), a local politician, and may have joined a local militia.

In 1838, the people of Missouri began to persecute the Mormons and the Governor called for the State Militia to intervene. Joseph Smith, the leader of the Mormons, was found guilty of treason in a Court Martial. Doniphan, who at the time was a Brigadier General in the state militia, refused to execute the Mormons as ordered, believing that the Court Martial was illegal as the Mormons were not part of the military.

“It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at 8 o’clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God.”

Colonel Doniphan wrote to General Samuel Lucan upon the order of executions of the Mormons
The War of the United States Against Mexico

In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico after a skirmish on what was arguably Mexican soil. In any event, the United States found itself needing soldiers to take over the West, and Colonel Doniphan heeded the call. He was placed in command of the First Missouri Mounted Volunteers. In June of 1848, Doniphan and his men accompanied his men to New Mexico, along with about 1,700 other soldiers as part of Kearny’s Army of the West. on August 9, 1846, General Armijo surrendered without much of a fight and General Kearny left Doniphan in charge of New Mexico in late 1846.

Doniphan eventually made his way to Southern New Mexico and went on to win the Battle of Brazito, near what is now Canutillo, TX, and the Battle of the Sacramento River, which allowed for the capture of Chihuahua, MX, after which his troops met up with then General Zachary Taylor at Buena Vista, MX. In all, he and his men marched some 5,500 miles throughout North America.

Kearny Code

The Kearny Code was the first set of laws of the territory of New Mexico after it became owned by the United States. Promulgated by General Stephen Kearny on September 22, 1846, the hastily created set of laws Coahuila y Tejas and the Livingston Code. There were obviously previous sets of laws under the Native Americans, Spanish, and Mexicans. The Kearny Code was submitted to Congress along with the Organic Act, which created the Territory of New Mexico. Many provisions of the code remain valid today. Interestingly, partly because Colonel Doniphan was a slaveholder himself prior to the Civil War but possibly contradictory to Missouri Code, the Code did not distinguish between Citizens and Non-Citizens, but granted rights to All Persons. The laws were mostly verbatim from a copy of the Missouri statutes that Private Willard Preble Hall, another Missouri attorney, had in his saddlebags.

Postwar Years

Doniphan returned to Missouri and opened a law practice, established the Ray County Savings Bank, and died on August 8, 1887, in Richmond, Missouri. There is a life-sized statue of Doniphan outside of the Ray County Courthouse in Richmond, Missouri.

A life-sized statue of Alexander Doniphan sculpted by fellow Missourian Frederick C. Hibbard is located outside of the Ray County Courthouse in Richmond, Missouri.

George W. Malone: New Mexico’s first African American attorney

George W. Malone

The following was authored by Janice Dunnahoo at the Roswell Daily Record

Special to the Roswell Daily Record

In honor of Black History Month, we are highlighting and recognizing notable African-American citizens who trailblazed a part of both their own history and our history here in the Southwest, as well as southeastern New Mexico.

Today, we are highlighting George W. Malone, who was the first black lawyer in New Mexico and lived in Blackdom, a small community south of Roswell, and Roswell during part of his life.

In the absence of first-hand or family stories, we can only present this in a sort of timeline form, gathered from documents found by those of us who researched Malone and his life and times.

Credits should go to Linda Osborn of Las Cruces, who began the search for the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association. Her research took her from Mississippi, where her information there would not have been possible without the work of Judy Flowers of Coahoma County, Mississippi.

Linda and her husband traveled to our archives here at the Historical Society for Southeastern New Mexico in Roswell last March to research Malone’s life and times while he lived in this area.

The Blackdom school and church where George W. Malone taught (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico).

This is where I was privileged to join in the search of Malone’s legacy by helping Linda with researching his days here in Blackdom and Roswell. Linda then followed him to Albuquerque and his time spent there, to his final days in Kansas City, Kansas, where he died and is buried beside his third wife.

— Janice Dunnahoo

A letter submitted by Roswell attorney Harold Hurd to the Honorable Jose D. Sena in support of Malone’s admission to the New Mexico bar.
Malone’s signature (third from top) on the Supreme Court Roll of Attorneys showing his residence as Blackdom along with the date he signed, Aug. 8, 1916. (Images courtesy of New Mexico Black Lawyers Association).

George W. Malone was born in the year 1875 in Chaqueta Chau, Alabama. By the year 1880, he had moved with his family and was living in Sharkey County, Mississippi.

In 1892, Malone and his mother (Clancy Malone) each made a $50 payment on a tract of land and had two promissory notes due in 1893 and 1894.

On April 12, 1896, Malone married Betty Bessie Gilmore in Friars Point, First District, Coahoma County, Mississippi. By the year 1900, the Coahoma County census shows George and Bessie having two sons, George (age 2) and Moses (age 1.) Malone’s mother, who was living with them, was a widow at this time.

In that same year, 1900, Malone, with much effort, obtained his law degree from Walden University in Tennessee.

On Nov. 21, 1903, Malone and a man by the last name of White paid $75 for property to house the Masonic Lodge there in Mississippi. On Feb. 25, 1905, Malone bought Lot 7, Block B, in the town of Coahoma for $150. On June 29, 1905, Malone borrowed from the Exchange Bank, in Friars Point, Mississippi, and the security was Block B, Lot 7, in Coahoma County, Mississippi. On July 25, 1905, Malone sold Lot 6, Block A, in Coahoma County, Mississippi, for $100.

On Oct. 4, 1909, Malone petitioned the court for admittance to the bar in Mississippi. Permission was denied, so it was suggested that he study for six more months and retake the exam. In 1910, he retook the law exam and was admitted to the bar in Bolivar County, Mississippi.

At some point, there was a fire in the Friars Point, Coahoma County, Mississippi, courthouse and many of the records were destroyed. This is all the records that could be found showing that Malone did practice law in Mississippi. Most of his practice was wills and probate cases.

By 1915 or ‘16, George and Bessie were in New Mexico moving to a community by the name of Blackdom, which was a farming community that was created and inhabited by African-Americans moving west in those days. Malone was a schoolteacher in Blackdom while he was awaiting admittance to the New Mexico Bar Association. Bessie Malone became the postmistress at the Blackdom Post Office.

In April 1916, Malone applied to the state of New Mexico Lawyers Association for admittance to practice law, and in December 1916 he was awarded a license to practice law in New Mexico.

By 1917, Malone sold his land and holdings in Mississippi. Then in 1919, his mother, Clancy, passed away (probably in New Mexico). Malone’s brother, Seymour, deeded his mother’s land grant to him.

On Sept. 13, 1919, Malone bought land in Roswell from R.E. and Florence Morris. He likely lived at the house at 212 Bland St., which is still standing.

Malone’s wife, Bessie, died in December 1920. She is buried in South Park Cemetery in Roswell. By 1922, Malone had remarried a woman named Daisy, and the next year they moved to Albuquerque.

The 1923 Albuquerque City Directory has Malone listed as a real-estate attorney, office at 316 N. Third St., and his residence at 1206 N. 12th St. In 1924, he was listed as living at his residence 511 N. Third St., but no spouse was listed.

We next find Malone speaking at the AME church at the corner of Greeley and Third Street in Kansas City, Kansas.

By 1927, Malone had married his third wife, Lou, and was living in Kansas City, Kansas. The home is listed at 341 Waverly Ave.

From 1936 to 1940, Malone was listed as being a teacher in Kansas City. He apparently taught school for some time and ran a boarding house with his third wife, Lou.

Malone died in 1945, and is buried at Westlawn Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas. His third wife, Lou, continued living in the family home until her death in 1951. She is buried next to her husband in Westlawn Cemetery.

Malone made his mark in history as a teacher, a preacher and the first African-American lawyer in the state of New Mexico. From humble beginnings in the Deep South, Malone persevered, buying real estate and educating himself at a time when many blacks could not even attend school, let alone obtain a law degree.

The New Mexico Black Lawyers Association awards a scholarship each year in the honor of George W. Malone to underprivileged law students. His memory and faith and perseverance lives on to help others.

Janice Dunnahoo is a volunteer archivist at the Historical Society for Southeastern New Mexico.

© 2017 all rights reserved. Roswell Daily Record

Senator Albert Bacon Fall

The following article is a lovely history of one of New Mexico’s first US Senators, written by our friends at: New Mexico History Blog

Posted on  by Texoso

Albert Bacon Fall was born in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1861.  He was the son of William Fall, who had served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and the grandson of a Scottish preacher.  As an adult, Fall moved west, first to Indian Territory (later part of Oklahoma) and Clarksville, Texas before relocating to New Mexico.  After moving to New Mexico, he studied law.  After his admission to the New Mexico bar, he practiced law served a number of public offices before being appointed as a United States senator.

In Fall’s legal practice, he was known for his defense work in some high profile cases.  He successfully defended rancher Oliver Lee in the murder trial in which Lee and others were accused in the death of Judge Albert Jennings Fountain.  Fountain had disappeared along with his son, under suspicious circumstances in the White Sands area.  He also successfully defended John Henry Selman, the constable who killed John Wesley Hardin and Jesse Wayne Brazel, the accused killer of Pat Garrett.  He also developed various business interests including mining, lumber milling, dealings in land, railroading, farming and stock raising.

Fall served as a territorial representative from 1891 to 1892, was appointed judge of the third judicial district in 1893 and appointed associate justice of the territorial supreme court that same year.  He served as territorial attorney general in 1897 and again in 1907. Fall also had served in Company H of the First Territorial Infantry under the United States Army during the Spanish-American War at the rank of captain.  Fall was elected a United States Senator from New Mexico from 1912, when the seat was first established at the time New Mexico became a state, was reelected several times and served until 1921 when he resigned his Senate seat to accept an appointment to the Cabinet of President Harding.
(Image credit:

Fall was appointed to serve as Secretary of the Interior by President Warren G. Harding in March, 1921.  While serving in this capacity, Fall was accused of conspiracy and bribery pertaining to funds paid to Fall from an individual relating to the awarding of certain United States Navy strategic oil leases located in California and Wyoming in the matter known as the Teapot Dome Scandal.  Previous presidents had reserved these properties for emergency use by the Navy, should other resources be diminished.  The three main properties were Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills in California and Teapot Dome in Wyoming, the latter property being named for a peculiar surface feature.

Briefly, prior to the alleged illegal events, the properties were under the control of the Secretary of the Navy, but in 1922, Fall was accused of convincing the acting Navy Secretary to convey them to the Department of the Interior.  Then, rather than hold them in reserve, the properties were leased to Sinclair Oil, then known as Mammoth Oil, without competitive bidding.  Other properties were alleged to have been leased by Fall to a company named Pan American Oil in exchange for gifts and no interest loans.  As a result, Fall was accused both of bribery and conspiracy in connection with the awarding of the leases.

After a long court battle, Fall was acquitted of the charge of conspiracy, but was convicted of bribery.  After an unsuccessful appeal, Fall was fined and sentenced to prison.  He served nine months in prison in 1931 and 1932 before being released.  Fall’s health was failing and practically all of the time that he served was spent in the prison hospital.  The United States government later rescinded the oil lease agreements that were in question and the leases themselves were transferred back to the Navy.

One of the people who was alleged to have paid the funds to Fall was a former friend and acquaintance of Fall in New Mexico.  To the best of our knowledge, neither individual was convicted of any charges pertaining to the transaction.  A company connected to one of the individuals also later purchased Fall’s New Mexico ranch in foreclosure and evicted him from his ranch, though Fall was permitted to keep his ranch house and 100 acres of land.  Some accounts say that at least some of the transactions pertaining to the foreclosed debt on the ranch were originally characterized as loans, and were the same funds that were considered to be illegal payments in Fall’s conviction.

Fall never regained his health and died in 1944 in El Paso, Texas after a long illness. He and his wife, the former Emma Garland Morgan who had predeceased him a year earlier, had four children.  His family also never abandoned the effort to clear his name.

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