|heroic riders. Other
times, the passengers were fair game as well.
would ride down to Cimarron until things cooled off
after a robbery. The townspeople there thought
that the gang members were respectable business men --
very generous business men at that. After one
robbery, the gang was chased by a posse and ended that
run with a shoot out. Both the posse and the gang
suffered killed and wounded. Afterwards the Black
Jack gang more or less dissolved.
Black Jack came back to Folsom to rob the train by
himself; it turned out to be an ill-fated trip. He
boarded the train as usual, but had difficulty pulling
the pin to disconnect the passenger cars. The
conductor, who had been on the train for the previous
two robberies, saw Black Jack and fired at him with a
shot gun. Black Jack fired back with a pistol, but
missed. Unfortunately for Black Jack, the shot gun
blast did not miss. He was left with his arm
dangling by a thread and fell off the train.
The next day, two men on horseback found Black Jack,
whereupon he drew his weapon on them. They
threatened to leave him alone to die, but his pain gave
him cause to think better of his actions. They
took him to the old rock Folsom Hotel, which still
stands to this day, to patch up his arm. It is
said that the room in the front of the hotel still bears
the stains of his blood. Black Jack was shipped on
to Trinidad where his arm was amputated and then to
Santa Fe for safekeeping until a trial could be held.
He was not kept in the Folsom area for fear he would be
Black Jack was tried and convicted in Clayton.
Recently, train robbery had been made punishable by
death due to the increasing number of incidents.
Due to Black Jacks nefarious past, and the fact that
hangings were considered good, clean fun, he was given
the ultimate sentence.
Black Jack sat in the Clayton jail and listened as
the men hammered each nail into the gallows.
Tiring of his sedentary life, he commented, "Hurry up
boys, I'm tired of waiting!" The condemned man ate
rather well during his wait and put on weight.
When the gallows were finished, the workers tested
the rope and trap door with a bag of sand. Without
thinking, they left the bag hanging overnight,
stretching out the rope and removing any give
-- by morning it was like a steel cable. The
hanging was much anticipated by the under stimulated
citizens. Tickets were even sold for the privilege
of viewing the spectacle.
When they pulled the lever, the overweight,
small-necked, lopsided, one-armed, Black Jack hit the
end of the rope and the end of his road. The rope
didn't allow for any bounce to soften the halt and
yanked the condemned man's head from his body. It
is said that the headless body landed on its feet and
took two steps before it fell over.
Black Jack had requested to be buried face down so
that the conductor who had shot him could kiss his ass
for eternity. His request was honored, but when
they dug him up and moved his grave they turned him
right side up. He is buried in Clayton, NM.
The grave is said to be haunted, probably due to
Black Jack's burial request being denied. If you
walk around his grave three times and ask, "Black Jack,
what are you doing?", he says nothing.
(if you don't get that, email me and I
will explain it to you)
Mike Schoonover, November 2010
The following is another account of
the Black Jack story by an unknown author. It has
a few more facts and a bit less embellishment.
Black Jack Ketchum
Thomas Edward Ketchum was a son of Green Berry
Ketchum, Sr. and Temperance Katherine Wydick. Green
Berry Ketchum was born on November 10, 1820 in Alabama,
and died October 28, 1868 in San Saba County, Texas.
On January 27, 1842 in Macon County, Illinois, he
married Temperance Katherine Wydick, born March 26, 1824
in Kentucky, and died in 1873 in San Saba County, Texas.
They are believed to have been buried at China Creek
Cemetery of San Saba County, Texas.
Mr. and Mrs. Ketchum had a family of 8 children:
James Ketchum, born December 5, 1842; Joseph Ketchum,
born November 10, 1845; Elizabeth Ketchum, born March
20, 1848, died June 26, 1933; Green Berry Ketchum, Jr,
born October 24, 1850 and died March 31, 1914; Samuel
Wesley Ketchum, born January 4, 1854 and died July 24
1899; Abner Ketchum, born February 2, 1856 and died
before 1860; Nancy B. Ketchum, born January 6, 1860 and
died January 9, 1937; Thomas Edward 'Black Jack'
Ketchum, born October 31, 1863 in Sa Saba County, Texas
and died April 26, 1901 in Clayton, Union County, New
Black Jack Ketchum and his gang were originally from
Texas, and the train robberies they committed were near
the same location, between Folsom and Des Moines, New
Mexico. This was at the point where the old wagon road
crossed the Colorado and Southern Rail Road tracks near
Twin Mountain. The area is flat and an ideal place for a
train robbery. The Black Jack Gang stopped the train and
uncoupled the mail and express cars. These cars were
then taken about mile and a half down the track and
looted. Of the three robberies, the third was poorly
executed and aborted by Black Jack himself. He did not
participate in the second robbery.
September 3, 1897 Train Robbery #1
The robbers escaped.
Mrs. Thomas Owen was a passenger, and she had a
large, leather valise which the robbers cut open with a
sharp knife. They used a dress from her valise to wrap
the loot in.
Black Jack clubbed the Express Messenger, Charles P.
Drew, and blew up the safe.
Ike Mansker, of Clayton, told the passengers that he
thought this was a hold-up and advised everyone to sit
down in the aisle of the car in case a stray bullet
entered the passenger coach. The passengers all sat on
the floor until the hold-up was concluded.
Currency and $20,000.00 in gold and $10,000.00 in
silver were taken.
The outlaws returned to the cave south of Folsom and
remained there until morning.
July 11, 1899 Train Robbery #2
The robbers camped at Daughtery Springs in the head
of Dry Canyon, about 4 miles from the XZY Ranch. (Dry
Canyon is now a part of the TO Ranch).
After the robbery, George McJunkin told law officers
of these men having been camped in Dry Canyon.
George W. Titsworth, an officer from Trinidad,
Colorado recovered a letter that had been torn into
small pieces. Returning to Folsom, the officer entered
the store owned by T. W. McSchooler and asked to use a
desk, some mucilage and paper. Mr. Titsworth pasted the
pieces of the torn letter together. Afterwards, the
officers loaded their horses on the train they had
brought in from Trinidad, i.e., an engine, passenger car
and freight car. They went to Cimarron, unloaded there
and picked up the trail of the outlaws. The outlaws had
arrived in the Cimarron area by horseback.
The posse and outlaws met in Cimarron Canyon. The
outlaws were armed with the latest high-powered rifles
and smokeless powder, while the posse had only
conventional black powder guns whose smoke showed the
outlaws their positions. One of the outlaws wounded was
Sam Ketchum, the older brother of Black Jack. Sam died
of gangrene July 24, 1899. Outlaw McGinnis was wounded,
but recovered. He was later captured and served time in
the penitentiary of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Two posse
members died of wounds sustained during this
confrontation in Cimarron Canyon. Ed Farr, of
Walsenburg, Colorado, was killed while hiding behind a
pine tree when the outlaws shot through the tree with a
steel bullet. H. M. Love was struck in the hip with a
soft nose bullet, and his badly shattered hip cost him
his life a few days later. One wounded posse member, F.
H. Smith, recovered.
Black Jack did not participate in this robbery.
August 16, 1899 Train Robbery #3
Black Jack and two other gang members participated.
Ben F. Owen, a son of Thomas E. Owen, was riding down
the Dry Cimarron, about 2 miles below Folsom, when he
met Black Jack. Ben's attention was drawn to the man by
the nice horse he was riding and the one he was leading,
which had a small pack. (The pack contained dynamite,
caps and fuses).
Black Jack went around the town of Folsom to a cave a
short distance south where he could conceal himself and
his horses. At the cave he was met by two other men who
had arrived from another direction. Waiting in the cave
until after dark, Black Jack and his two companions rode
to the location where they intended to rob the train.
After a late arrival at 10:20 p.m., the train had
stopped at Folsom for coal and water. Black Jack boarded
the train from the blind side of the baggage car, just
behind the coal car.
When the train was going around Twin Mountain, he
crawled into the engine. Here he drew his pistol and
covered the engineer and fireman.
Black Jack miscalculated where he intended to stop
the train by stopping it on a curve where there was
about a 4 foot fill. This fill left the train in a
cramped position which made it impossible for the
fireman and engineer to uncouple the cars. Black Jack
meant to disconnect the the express and mail cars and
take them a safe distance up the tracks where his
friends would be waiting. This would have left the
remainder of the train and passengers behind so that
just the fireman, engineer, express manager and Black
Jack remained in the disconnected section of the train.
The engineer was on the platform and the fireman was
between the cars.
Conductor Frank Harrington, whose train was now being
held up for the third time, took his shotgun into the
baggage car. Just as he carefully opened the door at the
other end of the car and poked the gun through the door,
Black Jack spotted him and and shot at the conductor
with a rifle. The bullet went through the door, barely
missing Harrington. Harrington shot at about the same
time, hitting Black Jack in the right elbow, almost
severing the arm. Black Jack fell backwards and down the
bank of the fill, trying all the while to draw his
pistol with his left hand. Harrington's gun muzzle was
so close to the engineer that the blaze from the gun
burned the seat of his pants. The engineer grabbed
himself yelling, "I'm shot! I'm shot!" Harrington
ordered the engineer and fireman back to the engine and
to get the train moving as fast as possible. Harrington
later explained, "I wanted to hit the bandit in the
heart, but in the dim light I misjudged. It had to be
done quickly. I knew that as soon as I opened the door,
my appearance would be noticed by the robber who faced
me, and I aimed the best I could." Black Jack later
stated, "I'd have killed him if he'd waited a fraction
of a second. I had a bead on his heart but he jiggled my
Resuming the run, the train stopped at each station,
reporting what had happened and sending word for law
officers to look out for a badly wounded man near the
scene of the hold up. Ketchum later reported, "I tried a
dozen times to mount my horse but was too weak to do
it." Weary and dizzy from the pain, he sat down to wait
for the posse. About sunrise the next morning, a freight
train heading from Folsom passed by the robbery scene. A
man was seen about 100 yards from the train. He had his
hat on the end of his gun, waving it as a signal. When
the train was stopped and the conductor and brakeman
approached, Black Jack drew a gun on them. The conductor
said, "We just came to help you but if this is the way
you feel, we will go and leave you." Black Jack
responded, "No boys, I am all done, take me in." (In
other accounts, Sheriff Saturinino Pinard is credited
with the arrest). Black Jack was carried to the train,
placed in the caboose and taken into Folsom. Ben and
Thomas Owen were there when he was removed from the
train and taken to a local doctor for treatment of his
At first Black Jack stated that his name was George
Stevens and that this was his first attempt at a hold up
and a mighty poor one. He was taken on the first
passenger train to Trinidad, Colorado and placed in San
Rafael Hospital. After amputation of his arm and again
able to travel, he was taken to Santa Fe for safe
keeping. He was later tried and convicted in Clayton,
New Mexico. Black Jack remained in the Clayton jail
until April 26, 1901. On this date, the hanging was
scheduled for 8:00 a.m. The community of Clayton closed
its stores but the saloons were open and business was
There had been debate concerning the length of rope
to use and several people had changed the length of it.
On Thursday night, the rope had been tested by attaching
a 200 pound sandbag to the noose and dropping it through
the trap. Forgotten, the weight of the sandbag caused
the rope to be as rigid as wire. At 1:13 p.m., Ketchum
was taken to the scaffold, the hood adjusted . Ketchum
stated, "Hurry up boys, get this over with." Sheriff
Garcia sprang the trap. Ketchum fell through and the
drop decapitated him. The black hood pinned to his shirt
kept his head from rolling away. Dr. Slack (formerly of
Folsom), sewed Ketchum's head to his torso prior to the
Clayton Cemetery burial at 2:30 p.m.