Wild West


James Buckley, Tom Taylor and Frank Jones did not bother to hide their features as they demanded the express box from a stagecoach driver on the morning of Oct. 9, 1871. Not that donning masks would have made much difference, as all three were well known around the communities of Cimarron and Elizabethtown, New Mexico Territory, partners Buckley and Taylor being especially easy to identify.

Buckley was known as “Coal Oil Jimmy,” owing to his swarthy complexion and greasy black hair so dark it looked as if someone had dipped him in coal oil. He was young, short in stature and ferret-faced. Virtually nothing is known of his background. Even his surname is uncertain, as reward notices referred to him alternately as Buckley or Buckner.

A 1907 history of New Mexico states that Taylor stood 6-foot-7 and went by the alias “Long.” He had recently shot and killed a man in Elizabethtown, then promptly escaped from the log jail in Cimarron. It was also rumored he was an Army deserter from Arizona Territory.

Even less is known about Jones, a young petty thief who only participated in this one stagecoach robbery, as a horse holder.

Some details were lost to time. For example, some news accounts referred to Buckley as “Coal Oil Johnnie,” a moniker former Southern Overland Mail and Express Co. manager A.L. Carpenter himself used in an 1887 reminiscence. Those 16 years later Carpenter remembered Taylor as “Big Jim.”

The main route of the Southern Overland, operated by Jared L. Sanderson and Bradley Barlow, extended 700 miles west from Kansas City, Mo., to Santa Fe before bending southwest to Tucson, Arizona Territory. As the route dipped into northern New Mexico Territory, a branch line owned by the British-backed Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Co. (M.L.G. & R.C.) veered due west from Cimarron, ascending the Cimarron River canyon some 30 miles to the mining camp of

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