Riding with Pat Garrett – an interview with John W. Poe

This interview was taken by Georgia Redfield as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. The Project was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under the New Deal. Interviews with ‘old timers’ and prominent citizens were recorded for posterity. Topics varied but were meant to encompass the history of the state and the nation; often recording migration and settlement, hardships and accomplishments.

FEB 27 1937

John W. Poe, the son of Nathan and Louisa [Harber?] Poe was born in Kentucky October 17, 1850. He attended the public schools of his home state, but the greater part of his education, he acquired as a pupil in life’s school of experience and responsibilities.

A fondness for descriptive literature lead to extensive traveling which broadened his views and visions and gave to him a very accurate knowledge of foreign and national affairs.

From the time, when as a youth he stole away in the night from his Kentucky home with a resolve to go west seeking a home and fortune in new environments, Mr. Poe’s plans were well defined and always executed. “Whatever he would undertake he carried through to successful Completion.”

During the years 1869-70, Mr. Poe engaged in farming in Jackson County Missouri. In 1871, he was employed by a bridge contractor in construction work on the Santa Fe Railroad near Emporia Kansas. From 1872 until 1874, was in the stock business in western Texas and spent four years hunting buffalo on the west Texas plains. In 1881, he came to Lincoln County, New Mexico as a detective for the Canadian River Cattle Association.

Mr. Poe was one of the deputies under Pat Garrett-Sheriff of Lincoln County-and aided in locating Billy the Kid-outlaw of that district, when he was found and shot by Pat Garrett at Fort Sumner July 14, 1881.

Billy the Kid photo
Photo by Boston Public Library

After the killing of Billy the Kid, Mr. Poe continued in the ranching and cattle business in Lincoln County until 1885. He was married in Roswell during that time – in May 1883-to Miss Sophie Alberding who was a guest of Captain and Mrs. Joseph C. Lea, who were living at the time in the first residence built in Roswell which was built by Van C. Smith in 1869 as a hotel.

Mr. Poe spent the year 1886 traveling and prospecting in South America. He decided to remain in New Mexico, returned and established what is now known as the L.F.D. stock farm, four miles east of Roswell. Here he engaged successfully in ranching and livestock, from 1886 until 1893, then turning his interests into the banking business, organizing-and was President of the Bank of Roswell from 1893 until 1899.

The following year – 1900 – he organized and was President, of the Citizen’s Bank of Roswell which was nationalized in 1903. Mr. Poe was the director, during those years, of numerous business enterprises and developments of Roswell and Pecos Valley.


As a peace officer, Mr. Poe experienced, perhaps, the most thrilling experiences of his life. He served as City Marshall at Fort Griffin Texas in 1878-79 and deputy United States Marshall for the Panhandle of Texas from 1878 until 1881, and in 1882, he was elected sheriff for Lincoln County remaining in office three years.

He was a member of New Mexico Territorial Board of Equalization 1888 and 1889 was chairman of Roswell Council in 1901-02.  In 1908 became chairman of the commission that built the Roswell water works and sewer system.

Mr. Poe was a thirty-third degree Mason of New Mexico and one of the most prominent representatives of that order in the southwest. He was a member of the independent order of Odd Fellows, and of the Royal Order of Scotland.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Poe were leaders in all social and cultural circles during the many years of their residence in Roswell, were Protestants in faith, staunch Democrats and members of the Country Club and traveled. In 1907, they toured Europe and in 1913, they visited many historic points of interest and the art and trade centers in a trip around the world.

Mr. Poe died in 1923.

[amazon_link asins=’0826305733′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’mtvoice07-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b98aa637-67f1-11e7-9fca-0bd1cfc82e07′]Mrs. Poe is the author of “Buckboard Days,” published in 1936. This is a story of the life of her illustrious husband, John William Poe, and the interesting account of the early settlement of Roswell, and the exciting days during the period of lawlessness and many daring episodes of Billy the Kid. The account of those stories were given by Mr. Poe himself who as deputy sheriff under Pat Garrett was active in bringing peace and order out of those terrorizing days of lawlessness.

Sources of Information:

Twitchell’s History Vol V page 273.

Buckboards Days – By Sophie Poe – 1936.

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