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Ealy Family Papers

Identifier: MSS-443-BC

Scope and Content

The Ealy Family Papers at the University of New Mexico consist of a small number of diverse documents collected by Taylor F. Ealy's grandson, Lawrence O. Ealy. Supplementing the letters and memoirs in the Lawrence Ealy Collection of the University of Arizona, UNM's miscellany is most notable for the various items relating to the Lincoln County War, especially the first edition of Pat Garrett's The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid, published in 1882. Ealy, who treated Billy for a gunshot wound acquired during the ambush and murder of Sheriff William Brady, made the handwritten comments which appear throughout the text. Mary Ealy's recollection of her 1927 visit with Susan McSween, as recorded by her grandson Lawrence, is another interesting item. Other T.F. Ealy documents in the collection include his pastor's register which notes the funeral of John Henry Tunstall, the glossary which he compiled of the Zuni language, and the record of the clients of his baby powder company.

Ruth Ealy, who lived in Lincoln and Zuni as a young child, used her parents' letters and memoirs in her book, Water in a Thirsty Land, published in 1955. An incomplete manuscript of it, containing handwritten corrections, is included here, as is some correspondence showing Robert N. Mullin's effort to publish it in a new edition. There are also some religious writings and her notes on her trip to Japan before World War II.

Miscellaneous biographical and genealogical material constitutes the last group of items. Some deal with Taylor's family, some with Mary's, and some with the Honorable Rush Clark of Iowa, who was Taylor's uncle.

Although not a unified collection about a specific subject, the Ealy Papers provide a contemporary glimpse of the civilization; of the frontier and of the American Indian, both of which are important parts of the American experience.


  • 1873-1984

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.


Taylor Filmore Ealy was a medical doctor and Presbyterian minister who began his career with seven years of service as a missionary. In 1874, at the age of 26, he and his wife, Mary Ramsey Ealy, were assigned to the government school for black children in Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory. They worked there for about two years, until the school was transferred to the administration of the Baptists.

As a result of a request from Alexander McSween, a Scottish lawyer who hoped to see Presbyterianism spread in his adopted state, the Ealys moved to the turbulent village of Lincoln, N.M., in 1878. The family now consisted not only of Taylor and Mary, but two small daughters, Pearl and Ruth. Their arrival on February 19 coincided with the violent outbreak of the Lincoln County War, precipitated by the recent murder of McSween's friend and business partner, John Henry Tunstall. One of Ealy's first acts, on February 21, was to conduct the young Englishman's funeral. Mary Ealy played the organ and William Bonney (Billy the Kid), an employee of Tunstall's, sang hymns.

Although the Ealys tried to remain neutral, their five months' stay in Lincoln was dominated by the violence resulting from the conflict between the McSween-Tunstall faction, which was challenging entrenched political and economic interests, and the Murphy-Dolan faction, which was defending its monopoly. This atmosphere frequently prevented Ealy from performing his ministerial and medical duties, and put his and his family's lives in danger. Finally, after the infamous seige of July 19, 1878, the Ealys sought the protection of the army in near-by Fort Stanton. By early August, they were safely in Las Vegas, N.M.

The Ealys' next assignment was less exciting, but no less difficult. They were given the task of establishing a school and mission among the Indians of remote Zuni Pueblo, in western New Mexico. From the fall of 1878 until mid-1881, they contended with the frustrations of unsuitable housing, isolation, and the passive resistance of the Indians.

Resigning from both his Zuni post and from missionary work, Ealy took his family back to his home town of Schellsburg, Pa., where he entered his father's medical practice. He remained a country doctor for the rest of his life, with a sideline in the manufacture of baby powder. The Ealys had several more children, one of whom was the father of Lawrence Ealy, who assembled this collection and whose notes occasionally appear in it.


2 boxes ( 1 cu. ft. )

Separated Material

Photographs have been transferred to the Taylor Ealy Photograph Collection.

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Cushing, Frank H.My Adventures in Zuni. Palmer Lake, Colo.: Filter Press, 1967.
  • Ealy, Ruth R. Medical Missionary.; New Mexico Magazine, March 1954, p. 16.
  • Ealy, Ruth R. Medical Missionary, II.; New Mexico Magazine, April 1954, p. 22.
  • Ealy, Ruth R. Water in a Thirsty Land. [Pittsburgh?], 1955.
  • Ealy, Mrs. T.F. Recollections of Old Lincoln.; New Mexico Magazine, March 1954, p. 17.
  • Fulton, Maurice Garland. History of the Lincoln County War. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1968.
  • Garrett, Patrick Floyd. The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. Introduction by J.C. Dykes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954.
  • Keleher, William A. Violence in Lincoln County, 1869-1881; A New Mexico Item. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.
  • Missionaries, Outlaws, and Indians; Taylor F. Ealy at Lincoln and Zuni, 1878-1881. Edited by Norman J. Bender. Albuquerque:University of New Mexico Press, 1984.
Finding aid of the Ealy Family Papers, 1873-1984
Edited Full Draft
Processed by CSWR staff
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 443 BC:: Ealy Family Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss443bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131