Few facts survive about this early New Mexico resident. Numerous legends, mostly incredible, use his name. Many believe he didn’t even exist. He is as real as the town itself.

Elmer Bohannon’s arrival was documented because he shot the local schoolteacher, an early tourist named Winsap now obscured in history’s clutter. Bohannon was hired in his place and today all the schools, Elementary, Junior High and High School, bear his name. The school district itself was named for Bohannon in the 1920’s to commemorate his nurturing of Mudgap’s transformative school traditions.

See Bohannon's Guns at the Society

Bohannon furthered his bonafides as a violent man beyond the shooting of his predecessor. Where reality and fiction meet in the retelling of tales about him is now unknowable. Sparse records cannot extract the man from the myth. We know he came from Missouri because one of our local school teachers claims his ancestry and offers proof in the form of letters written during Bohannon’s wanderings through Texas and New Mexico. The letters tell us Bohannon’s feud with the hapless Winsap arose from the Civil War. Bohannon’s first school rooms were in Morgan’s Mercantile and the back of a local saloon. He is credited with several shooting scrapes and may have been a hard drinking man. He didn’t marry so left no children, but did befriend a local orphan boy called Rummy. Rummy was just a child, we know from the dates on his headstone, not the fast-shooting sidekick legend has made him.

Five western-genre books about Bohannon were written in the 1930’s by a mysterious author under the name, Titus Wright-Smith. Today the writing community of Mudgap calls itself Wright-Smith's Scribblers, but the books are long out of print, deservedly so. Two serious, less titillating works, written in the early twentieth century by two sisters, Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. St. Ives, recount Bohannon’s work with the schools. He may have received an honorary doctorate but university records can’t confirm it. He was probably never called Doc Bohannon, the Wright-Smith books notwithstanding.

New School for 1895

There was a school honor called the “Bohannon Scholar” and an early Mudgap artisan carved some of the honorees’ names into a bench now found at the Historical Society. The honor was revived in the 1920’s and continues even today to single out the best students in the Mudgap Schools.

Main Attraction at Mudgap Cemetery

These are the facts. Most everything else is imagined and, judging by the foot traffic into the old cemetery, the imagination is a powerful engine.