Trying to save the historic Folsom Hotel - Albuquerque Journal

Trying to save the historic Folsom Hotel

The room in the Folsom Hotel where train robber Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum was kept after he was arrested in 1899. He was later convicted and hanged in Clayton. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

FOLSOM, N.M. – As a young boy growing up here, Matt Doherty said he may have broken into the vacant Folsom Hotel and thrown rocks at it, but now he lives there and is dedicated to taking care of it.

Doherty purchased the 1888-vintage building in 2015. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, save the building basically is my main intention,” said Doherty, who studies engineering in school. He is also on the board of the Folsom Museum just down the street.

He would like to remodel the building, but said building costs have shot up.

Doherty, 38, has an apartment in the downstairs of the two-story rock building, but the five rooms upstairs appear to look as they may have 100 or more years ago.

Mounted on a downstairs, rock fireplace overlooking the lobby are a pronghorn antelope trophy and a stuffed golden eagle. Doherty points out an old bullet hole in one of the hotel’s wooden columns.

Matt Doherty’s family has owned a ranch around the village of Folsom for generations. Doherty bought the historic Folsom Hotel and is trying to preserve the history of the area. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The building was a general merchandise store from 1888 until 1911, when it became the hotel, according to Betty Griffin, in her 1988 booklet, “The Folsom Hotel Story.”

The late Griffin and her partner, the late sculptor Richard Jagoda, restored the hotel in the 1980s and were instrumental in getting it placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

The hotel is the embodiment of Folsom history. The ghosts of Folsom past could well still be there. Doherty said he was spooked one night when a Spanish lady appeared out of nowhere, only to immediately vanish.

Doherty is well-versed on his property’s history and recently related some of the colorful episodes the hotel has seen. Outlaw Thomas “Black Jack” Ketchum unwittingly left his mark on the hotel.

“Ketchum, when they robbed the train, when they shot him, they brought him right to the hotel, so his first night in incarceration was upstairs,” Doherty recounted.

” ‘Black Jack’ was the leader of the most reckless, daring and murderous band of desperados this country has ever known, which operated in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona – the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall Gang,’ ” wrote Griffin in her booklet. On Aug. 16, 1899, Ketchum attempted to rob the southbound Colorado and Southern train as it slowed for a horseshoe curve, as he had done twice previously, but, this time, he was operating solo.

A conductor hit “Black Jack” with a shotgun blast, but he was captured the next day and spent his first night in custody in the Folsom Hotel. His arm was amputated in Trinidad, Colorado, and he was convicted in Santa Fe and hanged in Clayton on April 26, 1901.

Doherty related another story involving the hotel’s Bucket of Blood bar. “A kid was playing poker and he ended up stealing the cigar box full of money that was sitting on the table, so they shot him and killed him, and the sheriff got shot and died outside the bar,” said Doherty.

Griffin gives more detail of the late 1800s incident in her booklet. “The keeper of the saloon behind the rock Folsom Hotel left his gambling money and cards in a cigar box in a separate gambling room adjacent to the bar room,” she wrote. “Seeing the man leaving through the back door with his money box, the gambler took his shotgun from under the bar, ran to the back door and shot the thief just as he was topping the fence … . The gambler walked over, retrieved his money box and returned to his business without checking on the thief.”

Black cowboy and former slave George McJunkin, whose discovery of the Folsom points revolutionized archaeological theory, died in the hotel on Jan. 21, 1922, when it had become a home for aging cowboys.

The executor of artist Jagoda’s estate called Doherty to see if he wanted to purchase the hotel “and I went down and bought it right there,” said Doherty.

The hotel needs work and Doherty is not sure if it could eventually become a hotel again, or perhaps be a base for trail rides.

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