Bohannon


    Few facts survive about this early New Mexico resident.  Numerous flamboyant legends use his name and many people believe he didn’t even exist.  He is as real as the town itself.  Elmer Bohannon’s arrival was documented because he shot the local schoolteacher, an early tourist named Winsap now obscured by history’s shroud.  Bohannon was hired in his place and today all the schools, Elementary, Junior High and High School, bear his name.  The school district itself was named for Bohannon in the 1920’s to commemorate his nurturing of Mudgap’s transformative school traditions.
Bohannon's Guns
 
Bohannon?
    Bohannon furthered his bonafides as a violent man beyond the shooting of his predecessor.  Where reality and fiction meet in the retelling of tales about him is often unknown.  Sparse facts fail to extract the man from the myth.  We know he came from Missouri because one of our current schoolteachers is descended from him and possesses letters written during Bohannon’s wanderings through Texas to New Mexico.  From the letters we know Bohannon’s feud with the luckless Winsap arose from the Civil War.  Bohannon’s first schoolrooms were in Morgan’s Mercantile and the back of a local saloon.  He is credited with several shooting scrapes and may have been a hard drinking man.  He didn’t marry so left no children but did befriend a local orphan called Rummy.  Rummy was just a child, we know from the dates on his headstone, not the fast-shooting sidekick legend has made him.
    There was a school honor called the “Bohannon Scholar” and an early Mudgap artisan carved some of the honorees’ names into a bench now found at the Historical Society.  The honor was revived in the 1920’s and continues even today to single out the best students in the Bohannon Schools.
    Five western-genre books about Bohannon were written in the 1930’s by a local author, Titus Wright-Smith, a founder of today’s fecund Mudgap writers’ community. Two serious, less titillating works, written in the early twentieth century by two sisters, Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. St. Ives, recount Bohannon’s work with the schools.  He may have received an honorary doctorate but university records can’t confirm it.  He was probably never called Doc Bohannon, the Wright-Smith books notwithstanding.
    These are the facts.  Most everything else is imagined and, judging by the foot traffic into the old cemetery, the imagination is a powerful author of the American saga.



Main School 1895

Bohannon's Grave