- Billy the Kid season 2 explores the self-interest of the corrupt Santa Fe Ring, a powerful group of American politicians and attorneys.
- The Santa Fe Ring controlled law enforcement, business practices, and political affairs in New Mexico, making its members untouchable despite public disdain.
- Lawrence Murphy, James Dolan, and John Riley formed a monopoly of goods in Lincoln County, using their wealth and influence to align local lawmen in their favor.
Much of the conflict in the Billy the Kid season 2 premiere is centered around the self-interest of the mysterious Santa Fe Ring. Billy the Kid season 1 covered several aspects of Billy's early years before he became an infamous gunslinger and outlaw. Only years after the end of the Civil War, Billy traveled with his family from New York City, where he is presumed to have been born, to Indiana and Kansas where he spent most of his childhood. After the death of his mother which left him an orphan, Billy headed West where he spent a great deal of time in Lincoln County, New Mexico.
Billy the Kid season 2, episode 1 reveals several previously unknown details about the Santa Fe Ring's interests regarding the developing Lincoln County territory. While there are certainly some historical inaccuracies throughout Billy the Kid season 1 and 2 thus far, one of the major parts the MGM+ series gets right is the depiction of the Santa Fe Ring as an extremely powerful albeit corrupt group of American politicians and attorneys. While Billy himself plays no direct part in the Santa Fe Ring's political and imperialistic agenda, he is very much a part of their feud wars for territory in Lincoln County as a hired hand and cold-blooded enforcer.
The Santa Fe Ring Was A Corrupt Group Of Elite New Mexican Attorneys & Politicians
The Santa Fe Ring, which is also referred to as Murphy's House in Billy the Kid, was an actual group containing some of the most elite and corrupt American politicians, attorneys, and land speculators in the Old West region of New Mexico. As described in Billy the Kid, there were several factions of the Rings throughout the United States, making them one of the earliest and most prominent organized crime units in American history. The Santa Fe Ring became so powerful for decades after the Civil War that it had a corrupt hand in everything from law enforcement to business practices and everything in between.
The Santa Fe Ring wasn't exactly a secret society, given that the public and the press were well aware of their corrupt methods and abuse of power through their shared fortunes and amassed wealth. The Santa Fe Ring was able to operate for so long without repercussion because, like the Italian mafias and Irish mobs that followed them, were involved in many if not all of the business and political affairs of New Mexico. This essentially made the highest members of the Santa Fe Ring untouchable despite receiving public disdain for controlling the expensive prices of everyday items and having the force of lawmen and judges at their disposal.
Lawrence Murphy Became A High-Ranking Member Of The Santa Fe Ring In 1866
One of the original elite members of the Santa Fe Ring was Irishman Lawrence Murphy who sunk his teeth into Lincoln County as early as 1866. Murphy has actually served in the Union Army during the Civil War and hardly had any experience in combat. He did, however, form a great deal of connections through the Army which allowed him to take advantage of supplying Lincoln County with goods and services such as fresh food. Murphy eventually used fraudulent contracts and land grants to sell land that they didn't own in the surrounding area of Santa Fe, New Mexico to unsuspecting farmers and families.
Murphy, James Dolan, & John Riley Formed A Monopoly Of Goods In Lincoln County
Murphy later moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico, and opened his storefront L. G. Murphy & Co. in 1869. He, along with business associate James Dolan, ran an entire monopoly of goods and services through Lincoln County by the year 1874. Murphy and Dolan's store was incredibly portable for some time given that there was no competition for goods and services. Murphy was widely seen as one of the most important figures in Lincoln County at the time, using his wealth and influence as a member of the Santa Fe Rings to persuade local lawmen such as Sheriff William Brady to align their interests in his favor.
Thomas Catron Was One Of The Most Powerful Members Of The Santa Fe Ring
Thomas Catron existed above Murphy in the ranks of the Santa Fe Ring as one of its original founders. Catron was actually believed to be one of the main reasons why New Mexico took until 1912 to become an official part of the United States as he benefited greatly from its lack of admittance. He represented what the Santa Fe Rings were all about, which was primarily keeping control of New Mexico in their own hands. Catron was the owner of the largest amount of land in New Mexico during the late 1800s, controlling more than two million acres of the territory. He and several of the highest members of the Santa Fe Ring acquired these massive territories from the Spanish during the 1870s following the Civil War.
Catron previously served for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. It wasn't until 1866 that he moved to New Mexico and formed the Santa Fe Rings with his associate Stephen Elkins. He quickly learned how to speak the Spanish language and became an attorney by 1867, developing a specialized interest in Spanish land grants. In 1869, he was appointed as the Attorney General of the Territory of New Mexico. Catron became the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico in 1878, which is when he first appeared in Billy the Kid season 2. He eventually was named one of the first United States Senators of the state of New Mexico, an indication of his formidable status in the Santa Fe Rings.
The Santa Fe Ring Started Several Range Feuds In New Mexico Including The Lincoln County War
The Santa Fe Ring, led by Catron and pushed forward by Murphy, took interest in several range wars across New Mexico such as the Lincoln County War. They are also linked to two other notable territorial feuds including the Pecos War and the Colfax County War. The Santa Fe Ring had its sights set on complete ownership of the territory of New Mexico and was more than willing to hire gunslingers, cowboys, and Civil War veterans to do their bidding for them. Notable outlaws such as Billy the Kid became national icons as a result of their greedy ambitions and immense power that directly shaped New Mexico into the state it is today.