Old Times and Old Timers

The Unlamented Dedrick Brothers. 

There were three Dedrick brothers: Dan (1847-1938), Sam (c. 1852-1909) and Mose (1860-1909). They were descendants of the Pennsylvania German community and the name may have been originally spelled Dietrich. 

None of the Dedrick boys amounted to much during the few years they called New Mexico home; but they did a couple of things that made them important in Lincoln County War history.

Dan, it appears, showed up in eastern New Mexico about 1877 after he escaped from jail in Arkansas. Sam and Mose arrived later. Soon after his arrival, Dan was caught up in the Lincoln County War, on the side of Alexander McSween, and he sustained a serious wound in Lincoln’s Five Day Battle of July 1878. He suffered a crippled arm for the remainder of his life. Not long after the Big Fight, he took up residence at a ranch on the Rio Pecos, at Bosque Grande, where noted cattleman John Chisum had earlier maintained his headquarters. Under Dan’s management, the place became a way station for rustled cattle herds being driven from the Canadian River area of West Texas to stolen beef brokers in and around White Oaks and Tularosa, in southern New Mexico. Among those who traveled that particular rustler’s route was Billy the Kid.

Dan Dedrick was important to the history of the Lincoln County War because he became the owner of the only photograph — a ferrotype — of Billy the Kid with proven provenance, taken at Fort Sumner in 1879 or 1880. This is the famed picture that shows Billy wearing what was probably all the clothing he owned, posed with his 1873 Winchester .44 caliber lever-action rifle. Nolan suggests that the photo may have been a parting gift since Dan left Lincoln County soon after it was taken rather than deal with the criminal charges that had been filed against him. Dan gave the tintype to his nephew in the early 1930s, and it came into the possession of the Lincoln County Heritage Trust in the 1980s. It was subsequently returned to the family, but went on sale in 2011. It sold for $2.3 million in June at a Denver auction. There were probably four of the original photos, but the other three have been lost to history.

While Dan was busy operating the ranch at Bosque Grande, Sam, with help from Mose, operated a livery barn in White Oaks. Mose was also engaged in cattle rustling with no less an expert at that trade than Billy the Kid. A frequent buyer of stolen cattle was one Tom Cooper, about which very little is known. Cooper was an associate of Pat Coghlan of Tularosa who held beef contracts with the Mescalero Apaches; contracts previously enjoyed by the Murphy-Dolan-Riley faction in the town of Lincoln. Cooper also had access to a considerable amount of counterfeit money, and he had no trouble in finding criminals to put the fake cash into circulation (called “shoving the queer” at the time), some of whom were Dan and Sam Dedrick, and probably Mose, too. One of the bills was passed to merchant J. J. Dolan and it wasn’t long before the United States Federal Government took a serious interest in what was going on in Lincoln County.

U. S. Treasury agent Azariah F. Wild appeared on the scene and soon identified several suspects in the counterfeiting operation. Wild’s problem was that he had no one to assist him in making arrests. When he asked the United States Marshal for New Mexico to help him, Marshal John Sherman said, “I prefer not to do so.” In the alternative, Wild asked Sherman to deputize some officers to help him, and the marshal agreed to do that much. One who received such a commission was Pat Garrett.

This was an important turning point in the Lincoln County War. While Garrett had been elected Lincoln County Sheriff in November 1880, he would not be officially installed in that office until January 1, 1881. Some of his influential supporters convinced Sheriff George Kimbrell to deputize Garrett for the intervening two months, but a commission as a deputy United States Marshal offered a wider jurisdiction, and he used that authority when he arrested Billy the Kid on December 23, 1880 at Stinking Springs. Had it not been for the Dedricks’ participation in “shoving the queer”, and attracting the federal government, subsequent events might well have taken a different turn.

Dan Dedrick made his way to far-northern California by 1882; to Trinity County near Junction City where he filed copper and silver mining claims in April. He became a prospector and miner, with considerable success. Several mines opened in the area, and a town grew up there, called Dedrick (the town had a Post Office from 1891 to 1941, but by 1933, according to a newspaper report, only four men lived there, and by the 1950s, all that remained was a saloon and one house. By the early 1990s, nothing remained but foundations and basements). Dedrick married Antonia Silva, a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they adopted several children during their long married life in California. Dan Dedrick died in Trinity County at Big Bar (which should not be confused with Big Bear), California, in 1938, a respected member of the community.

His younger brothers did not fare so well in life. Sam is known to have been in Socorro County, New Mexico as late as 1889 when three “Mexican outlaws” stole several of his horses. An Apache County, Arizona, deputy sheriff chased them down and in a gunfight, killed one of them while the other two surrendered. They were taken to the mining town of Kelly, Socorro County, New Mexico, where on July 21, they were removed from custody and lynched before their bodies were riddled with bullets. No word as to whether or not Sam participated. By 1893, Sam was mining and ranching in northern Mexico, near Temosachic, Chihuahua. In 1909, he was shot and killed on the near-by Rio Verde by a Mexican employee in a dispute about wages.

In the same year, Mose was shot and killed near Phoenix, Arizona. Motive for his murder has not been determined.

Sources: Decatur (Illinois) Daily Despatch [sic], July 23, 1889; Belleville (Kansas) Telescope, July 25, 1889; Keleher, William A. Violence in Lincoln County; Fawl, Marion L. Trinity 1992, A pamphlet published by the Trinity County (California) Historical Society in 1992; Frederick Nolan, “So, Who was Dan Dedrick?” True West, June 2011; Metz, Pat Garrett, The Story of a Western Lawman; Laredo (Texas) Times, March 14, 1909; Oakland (California) Tribune, July 29, 1933