Thursday, July 19, 2007

Heads Will Roll!

I mentioned that I had a special experience while #4 and I were in Ft. Garland and I did. It had to do with my love of Western history in general and the history of mountain men in particular.

One of the lesser known but certainly not lesser in deeds was Thomas Tate Tobin. Tobin was born in Missouri in 1823 and went west with his half brother Charles Autobees in 1837. Tobin “ran” with all the famous names of mountain man lore, Jim Bridger, “Uncle” Dick Wooten, Jerimiah Johnson, Charlie Bent and others. He was one of only two men to survive the Indian attack on Turley’s Mill in the Taos area during the Indian revolt of 1847.

One of his most well know exploits was to track down the infamous Espinoza brothers in 1863, kill them, behead them and then dump their heads in the middle of the commandants office at Ft. Garland as proof that he had exterminated the outlaws.

Tobin’s daughter, Pascuala married Kit Carson’s son, William (pictured on left). One day in 1888 after a bout of drinking "Billy" beat up his wife Pascuala. Tobin set out to kill Billy and got shot himself in the altercation. At 61 years of age odds were poor that Tom Tobin would survive his wounds but it would take more that that to put an end to a tough old mountain man. Not only did he survive but he and Billy patched up their relationship. Billy died the next year when a horse kicked him in the leg, set off his pistol and shot him.

As an old man Tobin was pretty close to destitute and when he died he was buried without a headstone not far from Ft. Garland. An anonymous admirer placed a headstone on the grave some years later.

James E. Perkins, in his book Tom Tobin: Frontiersman described the grave site as just off Hwy 160 west of Ft. Garland. He said it was visible from the road.I have been fascinated by the story of Tom Tobin and have looked for the grave site for a number of years without success.

While #4 and I were at Ft. Garland, the museum director happened to be there and I asked him if he knew the location of the grave. He was very familiar with Tom and his grave site. Unfortunately it was on private land…Fortunately he had the number of the corporate ranch and a contact name. He also said that the owners were very accommodating to people that wanted to visit the cemetery.

I quickly got on the phone and made arrangements with the ranch administrator to get to the cemetery. The cemetery is only visible from the public highway if you’ve been there and know exactly where to look and even then you can’t see headstones from the road only the high wire fence that surrounds the cemetery.

I followed a ranch hand about a mile and a half off the road on sandy tracks…it might be able to be called a trail but certainly not a road. At any rate I finally got to the ancient cemetery that held the bodily remains of one of America’s least known but in my mind one of the most fascinating figures, Thomas Tate Tobin.

It was a special event for me. You will note in the picture that Tobin’s name is spelled Toben. It is an error. His anonymous benefactor apparently couldn’t spell very well but this only makes the story more interesting to me.

Check out the links in this post and if you want to read the story of a REAL American frontiersman…a story that sounds too fantastic to be true but is, read Perkins’ book.

Thanks for visiting.

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