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Massacre on the Lordsburg Road: A Tragedy of the Apache Wars, by Marc Simmons, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 1997, $27.95.

One of the last tragic episodes of the terrible Apache wars happened in southwestern New Mexico Territory on the afternoon of March 28, 1883, when Judge Hamilton C. McComas and his wife Juniatta were brutally slain by a war party of Chircahua Apaches led by the noted war chief Chato. After killing Mr. and Mrs. McComas, the Apaches then kidnapped 6-year-old Charley McComas (also see story, P. 16). The brutal attack between Silver City and Lordsburg was one of those random acts of mischance that often play such a pivotal role in life–and in ending life. Had the judge and his family happened along a bit earlier or a bit later, they would likely have missed Chato’s war party, and the record of the Apache wars would be without one tragedy.

Like many of his colleagues, historian Marc Simmons, one of the foremost chroniclers of Southwestern Americana, had always been intrigued by the McComas story, but the dearth of relevant information precluded his undertaking an in-depth study of the incident until a local bookseller put Simmons in touch with a previously unknown McComas descendant. This new source of information and later findings enabled the author to present a more complete picture of the McComas massacre.

Simmons’ objective was to present more than a simple chronology of the incident, to also tell a tragic story of death and loss for the surviving family members and the white community of which they were a part. He also wanted to say something about the effect of the incident on the Apaches, both then and in succeeding generations. Massacre on the Lordsburg Road is an absorbing and fascinating study in historical detection.

Jerry Keenan