The following information was taken from the "Walters/Baca Family History Events" as written by Bess Walters (who died in May of 1969), and edited by Barbara M. Santos for readability.
handwritten by Bess Walters
My mother's grandparents, whose names I do not know, emigrated from Barcelona Spain to Sonora, Mexico. The family then moved to La Junta, Colorado where my mother, Frances Baca, was born in 1855. Her mother's name was Virginia Baca. I don't know her father's first name. They moved soon after her birth to Lincoln County, New Mexico.
My grandfather Baca owned sheep and had a herder watching his flock of sheep in the mountains. One morning, when my mother was about three months old, he loaded a buckboard with supplies for the herder. When he arrived at the herder's camp, he found that he had gone out with the herd. Coming back that evening, the herder found grandfather Baca's body partly burned - he had been shot with an arrow through the back and had fallen over the smouldering campfire.
My grandmother, Virginia, now a widow, found work as a hired girl some place near Lincoln, leaving my mother, Frances, with her own mother and father. They lived about 35 or 40 miles from where she was working. Travel at that time was only by wagon.
Virginia eventually married a man named Woods, and they had two children Virginia called Jenny and Joe C. She did not return for my mother, Frances, until she was seven. Virginia came in a caravan of seven wagons on their way to Tularosa to do some trading. The Mescalaro Apache Indians were wild and on the warpath. They had not yet been put onto reservations.
My grandmother tried to coax my mother to go on to Tularosa with them, but she declined, because she did not remember her mother at all. She was a stranger to her, so they went along without her. That night, my mother, Frances, was asked to go to the kitchen for a glass of water; she came screaming back saying she saw her mother in there. Her grandmother could not understand what was the matter with her. She had never been afraid to go into a dark room before. Her grandmother took the lamp in to show her that no one was there, and she kept saying, "But I saw her."
About four the next morning, a man from the caravan came to tell them that the Indians had surrounded and massacred them all, took what they wanted of the food and blankets and took all the horses. The children who were old enough to ride were taken captive. He had been wounded but fell near some bushes and pretended he was dead until it was dark. He then made his way back to the settlement.
All of the men living in the settlement mounted their horses and hurried to the scene of the disaster, but after riding for hours, they found no trace of the Indians. This man told them Virginia had not been killed at first, and she got up to take care of her children.*
My Aunt Jenny had been taken by the Indians as she was four, but he saw them pick up Uncle Joe, less than a year old, by the heels and hit his head against a wagon wheel. He did not die, but was later raised by Aunt Sara Brown, and grew to manhood. I had the opportunity to feel the depression he still had on the right side of his skull. He lived with my sister Nancy in his declining years in Oklahoma City. He was nearly 90 when he died in the early 1940s. (Note: See newspaper article dated May 22, 1946, from the "Seminole Producer", Seminole, Oklahoma.)
When I taught school on the Ruidoso, my mother asked me to go to see her half-sister Jenny, which I did, and there I got her story. I spent one weekend with her. She declined to tell me of her capture and life with the Indians saying it was all too terrible, but she took me to visit the 85 year old man, Mr. Cline, who had bought her from the Indians. She wanted him to have the pleasure of telling me the story in detail.
He was a very tall, thin man with piercing blue eyes and a shock of white curly hair, a native of Maryland. He belonged to the same regiment as my father. Here is the story as he told it to me. He knew my grandmother and her husband Mr. Woods very well. They were neighbors in Penasco village.
He said Aunt Jenny was the image of her mother, fair with brown hair and eyes, and he felt he would know her if he saw her, even though she had grown older.
After the Indians were confined to reservations, they came into the little town to trade, and he would go among the children trying to find Jenny. Ten years went by without success. Finally he saw a young girl he felt sure was the right one.
He asked the old Chief about her, but he replied, "Him Indian." He kept asking questions and finally the Chief told him they had taken her at a massacre at the foot of a tall pointed hill between Ruidoso and the Mescalero Indian Reservation. He said they had killed them all except for the children who they took as captives and reared as Indians.
Mr. Cline asked how many wagons were in that caravan and he said, "Seven." Mr. Cline then asked if he would give her to him, telling him he knew her parents. The Chief replied, "Might sell." They agreed on five hundred pounds of shelled corn. They went to his home and got the corn, then the Chief suggested that since she thought she was Indian, Mr. Cline had better tie her up. He said he had a small link chain around a tree trunk where he tied his little dog, so he fastened it around one of her ankles, and as the Indians left, he sat just out of her reach.
When she saw them leaving, she screamed and cried and tried to get loose. He just sat and watched her until she wore herself out, then he began to talk to her, telling her that he was a friend of her parents, and he gave her details of the massacre. He told her that she was not an Indian at all, but that the Indians had taken her from her family.
It was then that, from far back in her memory, she began to recall things of her own childhood. He told her that if she would stay with him he would take care of her, teach her to cook and keep house, that he would buy her some pretty dresses and send her to school.
Going to school won her over. He heated water on the stove to bathe her and while it was heating he shingled her hair and burned it because it was full of lice. He got new clothes for her, taught her to cook and keep house, and she was thrilled at the idea of going to school. She had spent ten years with the Indians and was then fourteen.
When school opened she was enrolled, and he gave her an education equal to high school. She grew up to be a lovely young lady, and she married a Mexican man, tall and still handsome when I met him. His name was Romero. They had four boys and one girl whom she named Virginia. I met her four nice sons. I was unable to meet Virginia who had married a young man in Lincoln, who was County Clerk.
Mr. Cline lived in a small two-room house beside Aunt Jenny's home. He was very independent and would not live with them after she was married. He lived on a small pension and did his own cooking. She would cook something for him, telling him her husband and the boys liked it so much she wanted him to try it too. That was the only way he would accept it.
Before I left, he asked if I'd like to hear him sing, "Maryland, My Maryland." I told him I'd love to hear it. He sang it beautifully. That was the last I ever saw them for when school was out, I returned home. I've always been sorry I did not keep in touch with them.
My mother and her half-sister, Aunt Jenny, met only once in their lives. That was when Mr. Cline and Jenny had stopped at my great-grandmother's home, when Aunt Jenny was four and my mother was seven.
My father's people must have lived on the British Isles. My father, James Volney Walters, claimed he was Scottish-Irish and Dutch. He would be ready to fight if anyone called him German. His grandfather was David Walters and he lived in Virginia. That is all I know about him. His oldest son, William, married an English girl named Penelope, before they came to America. William and Penelope Walters lived in Bowling Green, KY. Their son, James V., my father, was a farmer there - later they moved to Missouri. After his mother's death, my father went to California during the gold rush days. He was about 18 or 19. He didn't find much gold so when the Civil War broke out he joined the Union Army. He saw no battles but was stationed at Fort Yuma, Arizona. He used to tell us how hot it was there. He said that the soldiers would say, if they died while they were there, to be sure and wrap them in their blankets, for they were sure Hell couldn't be as hot as Yuma.
His company was mustered out in New Mexico. That is where he met and married my mother.
The country was very thinly populated in those early days. They were truly pioneers. My mother said she was between 13 and 14 when she married my father who was 27 years her senior. Her grandparents were well up in years, and knowing they were too old to live long enough to take care of her, and because they liked my father, they gave consent to their marriage. He promised them he would take good care of her, and aid them to the best of his ability. He was a logger at that time supplying Dowlin's Mill.
He was 6 ft. 2 in. tall, straight, even at the time of his death in 1904. He was fair complexioned with beautiful blue eyes and reddish brown hair. He was born in 1827 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
My father used to tell us about his father and mother and the children. He said his father once owned 900 slaves and was a wealthy man. He sold his slaves shortly before slavery was abolished but no one has ever been able to find the money. They surmised that he buried it on his farm in Missouri. Many of his grandchildren have gone over it tooth and toenail, digging here, there and everywhere, but as far as I know it has never been found. What he did with it will probably remain a secret forever, or until someone stumbles upon it accidentally.
My grandparents, William and Penelope Walters, had four sons and three daughters. Uncle Dick, who served in the Rebel Army, the other three were in the Union Army. The sons' names were Dick, Dock, James V. and William; the girls were Mary, Nancy, and Louisa. I never met any but Uncle Billy, the youngest, and Aunt Louisa Culbertson. Uncle Billy's son Charles was station agent for Santa Fe Railways at Oak Valley for years. When I saw Uncle Billy Walters, I could hardly believe my eyes. He looked so much like my father. He wore his beard exactly as my father had and he was tall and slender just like my father.
Later, when I lived in Burlington, Kansas, I met Jim Walters, a son of Uncle Dock, and I met Bill Pennington and Jim Baily, sons of Aunt Nancy. She had been married twice. When I met Aunt Louisa I could hardly recognize the fact that she was my father's sister for she was not tall, and she had dark hair and brown eyes.
As I said previously, my mother and father were married when she was between 13 and 14, and my father was 42. My mother was very small and could stand under his outstretched arm. She had nearly black hair and dark brown eyes. I surely thought I was grown when I grew tall enough to "spit over her head," but I knew better than to try it.
At first, my mother lived in a sort of a cabin, a shack people would call it today. There was one square window and a door with a knothole in it. She did all her cooking in the fireplace using a Dutch oven. At that time, they had two children, Lizzy and Mary.
It was at that time my father drove a team of oxen almost across the state to Santa Fe to buy a kitchen stove. I don't remember how long it took him to make the trip, but it must have been several weeks. Mother was still in her teens and scared to death.
One moonlit night, she heard voices about midnight and went to the peep hole in the door. She saw a group of Indian bucks, perhaps as many as a dozen, sitting in a circle, smoking their pipes. The cabin had been vacant, so evidently they thought it still was vacant. My mother sat with her eyes glued to the peephole and a rifle across her knees until they left at dawn, scared to death that Mary, who was a baby and cried a lot, would wake up and cry. When they left, she went to bed and slept until a friend came by and said, "Wake up Frances, the Indians have been all around here." She replied that she could have told him that at midnight. She remained alone until my father returned with the stove. When I read the poem, "Whistling in Heaven," I was reminded of my mother's frightening experience.
Later my parents moved into a log house which was about the time of the opening of the Lincoln County War. Billy the Kid and his gang against the cattlemen and the Sheriff. Surely there was no law west of the Pecos in those days. My parents remained neutral throughout, feeding and meeting the demands of each side and keeping their mouths shut.
Billy the Kid was no outlaw or gangster. When he saw the man who had befriended him shot down in cold blood, his horse also killed, and the victim's overcoat rolled up to form a pillow placed under the head of both the murdered man and his horse, then to see the murderers gallop away laughing and yelling, he swore he would kill every one of them. He got them all but two. When he was killed at twenty-one, he had 21 notches on his gun.
Billy could shoot as well with his left hand as with his right, and he always carried two revolvers. Once, he and his gang came to the home of my parents, and he asked my father if he could give him corn for their horses. My father told him he did not have nose bags for all the horses, so Billy asked for an old broom and he told his men to sweep a clean place and pour the corn on the ground for the horses to eat. He warned his men to be careful and not waste the corn as my father had worked hard to produce it and they had no money to pay for it.
He also told my father he wanted enough bread to last a day or two. My father told him that my mother would cook it, but she needed help to keep up the fire and to lift the Dutch oven on and off the fire because she was pregnant. So he sent a man to help her. They left with several flour sacks of biscuits tied behind the saddles.
As they left, Billy came to the door and he thanked her and said he would see her later about it. Several days later, a wagon drove up with something covered by a wagon sheet. The driver talked with my father who came in and told her there was a present from Billy. She was frightened thinking it was another dead man sent for them to bury. Billy had butchered someone's beef and sent my parents half of it.
Of course he was wrong in killing so many, yet he thought he was doing the right thing, to avenge the death of his benefactor. He probably had never read or heard, "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. I shall repay."
My mother told me that Billy was a small man with hands like a woman's. He and Pat Garrett at one time were friends. When Pat became Sheriff, he told Billy he would have to stop killing those men who he had seen murder his friend, for he was going to enforce the law. Billy replied that he had not finished yet.
END OF THE STORY BESS WALTERS WROTE FOR BARB SANTOS' MOTHER WHO SENT HER A COPY IN 1980.