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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 79


This is the grave of Lucien Maxwell.


Maxwell was born in 1818 in Kaskaskia, Illinois to a fur trading family on what was then the far frontier of white American settlement. In 1834, he went into the family business, traveling west and became friends with Kit Carson and John C. Fremont. Under Fremont’s 1841 western expedition, Maxwell became chief hunter. In 1844, he married into the tiny but growing white New Mexican elite when he wed the daughter of Carlos Beaubien, the Canadian born fur trader operating out of Taos. The year before, he and his Mexican partner Guadalupe Miranda, received a million acre land grant in northern New Mexico. The land grant system was used by the Spanish and then Mexican governments to convince people to settle the northern frontier. At first these were small, but after Mexican independence, they became quite large, such as this grant. He of course supported the U.S. conquest of the northern half of Mexico to expand slavery in the imperialist action known as the Mexican War. He moved to consolidate his holdings shortly after. Through Miranda’s eventual selling out and then his father in law’s death, his land holdings eventually rose to 1.7 million acres in 1868, making him one of the three largest landholders in American history, along with New Mexico land grand thief Thomas Catron and the modern day western land baron Ted Turner, who owns some of Maxwell’s land today in the Vermejo Park Ranch, which basically is the land to the west of I-25 for several dozen miles south of Raton, New Mexico. Maxwell sold most of the land in 1870, for $1.35 million to British investors who hoped to establish gold claims. In 1868, after the Navajos left the area to return to their home in Arizona on the failure of the genocidal project at the Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico, Maxwell bought the area and established the town of Fort Sumner. He died there in 1875. Several years later, Billy the Kid was shot and killed at the site of Maxwell’s home, which was then occupied by Maxwell’s son.

Lucien Maxwell is buried at Old Fort Sumner Cemetery, Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

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