On this day in 1869, (Wednesday, September 29), three month old Samuel Kennedy was christened in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Don Fernando de Taos. He hadn’t been baptized sooner because he’d been born 25 miles east of town, at the foot of Taos Pass (today’s Palo Flechado Pass). It wasn’t a simple matter to get to Taos from what is now the Angel Fire area in those days.
Within a year, Samuel would be dead and his father about to die as a result. His father, Charles Kennedy (sometimes spelled Canady), had spent the last three years murdering and robbing men who visited the Palo Flechado cabin and Samuel’s teenage mother, Maria Gregoria, had kept silent. But in a fit of rage in late September 1870, Charles Kennedy killed his fifteen-month-old son and Samuel’s grieving mother finally took action. She fled twelve miles north to Elizabethtown to report her husband’s nefarious activities.
Justice was a little confused, but in the end it was served—at the hands of a lynch mob. Legend says Kennedy’s severed head ended up on a pike outside a local restaurant and saloon as a grisly reminder that even on the New Mexico Territory frontier, the death of a child would not go unrevenged.
For a fictional account of the Kennedy story, see my recently-published novel The Pain and The Sorrow (Sunstone Press).
On June 24, 1869 a baby boy was born to Charles and Gregoria Kennedy, presumably at their cabin at the foot of Palo Flechado Pass on the road between Taos and Elizabethtown. Baptized in September that year at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Taos, he was the only living child of Charles (age 31) and Gregoria (age 17) when the U.S. census taker arrived at the cabin the following summer. Charles Kennedy would become known in New Mexico Territory as the serial killer whose wife turned him in after he killed their child. Following a hung jury in Elizabethtown in Fall 1870, a mob led by Colfax County rancher and gunslinger Clay Allison would spring Kennedy from jail and see that justice was done anyway—at the end of a rope.
Legend has it that Allison then took a butcher knife to Kennedy’s neck, severing his neck and presenting it to hotelkeeper Henri Lambert for display outside his establishment as a warning for all evildoers in Colfax County. It is also said that before he died Kennedy confessed to killing twenty-one men. Without the birth and subsequent death of that little boy, many more men might have died at his father’s hands.
If you’re interested in a fictional account of these events, please consider ordering my novel The Pain and the Sorrow, which will be released by Sunstone Press in early August.
Sources: New Mexico, Births and Christenings, 1726-1918; Howard Bryan, Wildest of the Wild West, Clear Light Publishers, 1988; Southwest Sentinel, Silver City, NM, November 24, 1885.
On Thursday, February 28, 1867, Charles Kennedy married Gregoria Cortes at the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Church in Taos. Gregoria was the fourteen year old daughter of widower José Cortez of La Cordillera del Rancho, about two miles west of Mora. Charles was the 28 year old son of William and Fanny Canady (aka Kennedy) of Tennessee. Gregoria and Charles settled in the Moreno Valley at the foot of Palo Flechado Pass, on the road from Elizabethtown to Taos. There they kept a way station for travelers, and Charles Kennedy became embroiled in a series of lawsuits: one for selling liquor without a license, another for assaulting an Elizabethtown merchant with a deadly weapon, and still another for embezzling an Elizabethtown laborer’s money and goods. Kennedy was suspected of other nefarious activities, but nothing could be proven. Then, one day in the fall of 1870, his then seventeen year old wife appeared in Etown and denounced Kennedy as a serial killer. The subsequent Elizabethtown trial and lynching would make the Santa Fe, Silver City, and Indianapolis newspapers. The Silver City report said Kennedy claimed just prior to his lynching that he’d killed twenty-one men.