"The town that started a war" Lincoln by toonsarah

Lincoln Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 31 photos

Lincoln is a very small place to have started a war, but that is just what it did. In the late 19th century the Lincoln County War led to the deaths of at least 19 people and terrorised settlers throughout the county, which at that time included all of south-eastern New Mexico. Not for nothing did President Rutherford B. Hayes once call Lincoln’s main street “the most dangerous street in America.”

The war started when Henry Tunstall and Alexander McSween opened a store in Lincoln, setting themselves up in competition with existing store owners Lawrence Murphy and J. J. Dolan. The latter had had a monopoly on selling goods not just in the town but also supplying beef to nearby Ft. Stanton and the Mescalero Indian Reservation.

And the war ended (more or less – skirmishes went on for years) with a three day battle on the streets of Lincoln; something hard to imagine now in this quiet backwater.

Today Lincoln is a pretty sleepy place, although I imagine it gets busy with visitors at the height of the season. The whole town is operated, unusually, as a state monument. Its one street is lined with historic homes and buildings – some museums, others still private homes. There are no gas stations or convenience stores here, and only one public telephone.

Among other sights, you can visit the Lincoln County Courthouse, from which Billy the Kid famously escaped while awaiting execution, and the Tunstall Store, set up much as it must have looked when it first opened and triggered the war.

There are also a number of interesting shops to poke around in, and a small hotel has rooms if you want to stay over, and a restaurant serving lunch (and dinner to overnight guests). You can easily spend several hours exploring here, and the combination of museum-piece and lived-in town is an appealing one.

Please start your visit to Lincoln with my first tip, on the Visitor Centre.

And to continue with us on our road trip through New Mexico, please visit Alamogordo with me.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:Great for history buffs and fans of the Wild West
  • Last visit to Lincoln: Oct 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (8)

Comments (4)

  • yumyum's Profile Photo
    May 14, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    How cool to see a place where the real story happened that one knows from "Western" films. The courthouse and Tunstall store look the most interesting to me.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Mar 21, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    This page was interesting reading about "Billy the Kid!"
    I also enjoy looking in those old stores.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    That’s a reassuring motto: "No Guests Gunned Down in Over 100 Years".

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    (Am I really the first one?) What an interesting town! And more about Billy the Kid! Ah, you inspire me to watch if one of these old western movies will be transmitted in TV so that I can see it all in "moving pictures". Love the hand spun wool idea and might have bought some, especially when they come naturally dyed. And the Tunstall Store is just my place! And I like the little Zia Native's sun markers on the signs. That sun icon always fascinated me in Native artwork.


“I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust (Joni Mitchell, "Amelia")”

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