THE ENGLISH WESTERNERS' SOCIETY
OCTOBER 2011 BOOK REVIEW
This review first appeared in the Tally Sheet (Spring 2009, Volume 55, Number 2)
MURDER ON THE WHITE SANDS: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALBERT AND HENRY FOUNTAIN
By Corey Recko. University of North Texas Press. P.O. Box 311336, Denton, Texas 76203-1336. viii + 244 pages, map, 32 photographs. ISBN 978-1-57441-224-6. $24.95.
All western buffs are somewhat familiar with one of the Old West’s greatest mysteries: the fate of Albert Jennings Fountain and his young son Henry, both murdered and their bodies done away with somewhere in what is now the White Sands area of New Mexico. The pair disappeared in February 1896; evidence discovered on the road indicated they had been murdered, but no bodies were ever found.
Fountain was passionate in prosecuting cattle rustlers and, almost certainly, he was slain to prevent the arrest and conviction of any number of outlaws. That his young son was with him when the killers caught up with him only added to the tragedy. One individual who was there at the time and had come from Texas stated that back in the Lone Star State men killed each other, but didn't kill children. Many attempted to locate the remains of the disappeared pair, including Pinkerton detective John C. Fraser and lawman Patrick Floyd Garrett. Many clues were unearthed but no one was ever convicted of the crime.
Author Corey Recko has dug the deepest in attempting to unravel the mystery. Although it is impossible at this late date to convict anyone in the strictest legal sense, Recko’s sleuthing has pointed to the most likely killers. Research began with his becoming intensely interested in the history of New Mexico, and during the last six years, he has focused primarily on the Fountain disappearance. He studied the numerous secondary works which deal with the subject of course, but also primary documents, which previous researchers either have been unaware of or chose to ignore. A significant portion of the book deals with the trial matters of various individuals and their testimony, but it is presented in a very interesting manner. The numerous illustrations are important for the work. Although many are familiar to students of New Mexico history, some photographs of the scenes where the action transpired were made by Recko himself.
After his six years of studying the case, Recko does present his conclusions, which are clearly stated as such. The reader may come to a different conclusion, but that is what makes a mystery so fascinating. It is doubtful if any later writer can add to what is presented in Murder on the White Sands.
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