Adam Bakers Hermosa New Mexico painting
Adam Baker/Courtesy photo
Adam Baker did this painting based on an old photograph taken sometime between 1886 and 1900 of the town of Hermosa New Mexico. He first saw the photo when his daughter had been assigned a report for her New Mexico history class. As Baker studied the hodgepodge of characters in the photo, he knew he had to paint it, but what he discovered in the photo blew him away!
Baker’s daughter had chosen to do her report on Hermosa because of the main character in the photo. The fifth man from the left is J.C. Plemmons, who is his daughter’s great, great grandfather, and the founder of the town. Because the original photograph belongs to the Palace of Governors in Santa Fe, the artist decided to do a painting of it and make prints of it available for his family members.
The town of Hermosa was actually devastated by a flash flood back in 1889, but John C. Plemmons managed to stay in business there until somewhere around 1900. The town is now known as the Ladder Ranch and belongs to Ted Turner. After obtaining a better copy of the original photograph, Baker was able to enlarge it and made several interesting discoveries. The first was being able to establish the earliest possible date of the photo. If you notice the third man from the left, he is holding up what appears to be some paper money. Why this man is flashing his money around is anyone’s guess, but it leaves a vital clue for dating the photo. After enlarging the photo, the artist believes the object to be a five-dollar silver certificate. There were only two years that this particular design had been printed. The first was in 1886 and the second was in 1891.
Baker’s conclusion is that the earliest date the photo could have been taken was in 1886. If this is true, and the Plemmons mercantile closed around 1900, this leaves a 14-year window in which the photo could have been taken.
Another point of interest is the wooden box and a broken chair on the porch roof. “When I enlarged the photo, I discovered that the wooden box had the word “Arbuckles” on it. The box is actually an Arbuckles coffee crate. Arbuckles was the main coffee brand in those days.” The question is what would an Arbuckles coffee crate and a broken chair be doing on the roof of the front porch? The artist’s best guess is that the coffee crate was being used as a toolbox for holding nails and perhaps a hammer, or maybe some sign paint, and the broken chair was being used as a makeshift stepstool, for repairing the sign or even a seat to move around while the roof was being repaired. Notice that the shake roof at the far right corner is peeled up. Perhaps the building was still under repair from a recent storm like the one that ravaged the town in 1889?
Finally, Baker points out I what he thinks is the most exciting feature regarding this old photo. It has to do with the two men pictured at the far left. After taking a closer look, he realized that these two men seemed very familiar. You see, some of Adam Baker’s favorite subjects to paint are old west gunfighters. In fact, Baker has been an old west re-enactor himself for several years, which has largely influenced his artwork. The artist has based many of his paintings on the outlaws of the old west, and believes these two men are quite possibly two of New Mexico’s most infamous ones.
“To me, they look a lot like Harvey Logan and Thomas Ketchum, otherwise known as Kid Curry and Blackjack Ketchum. I wasn’t sure at first, but after doing some research, I found some pretty compelling photos and placed them next to the pictures of the men in the Hermosa photo. In my opinion, the likenesses are astonishing.”
Not only are the likenesses of these men amazing, Baker was left with a few honest questions. If the men in the Hermosa photo aren’t theses two outlaws what is the likelihood of two random men who resemble them so closely, appearing in a photograph, together? For that matter, if the men in the photo aren’t Harvey Logan and Tom Ketchum isn’t it an amazing coincidence that two men fitting their descriptions just happen to be in the same general area around southern New Mexico, where they both had been known to have been committing crimes during that same time period?
In 1892, Thomas his brother Samuel and several other outlaws, robbed the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad train just outside of Nutt, New Mexico, and got away with $20,000.
The distance between Nutt, New Mexico and Hermosa New Mexico is anywhere between 60 to 70 miles, depending on the direction the crow flies. This is only about a two-day’s ride on horseback. The outlaws could more than likely have been hiding out in Hermosa during the time the JC Plemmons photo was taken. It is also known that Blackjack Ketchum frequented the town of Kingston, New Mexico, which is also in the general vicinity of Hermosa. The distance between these two towns is not a very long ride on horseback either. The important fact is that this local Ketchum gang train robbery fits within the 14-year time window between 1886 and 1900.
Harvey Logan (Kid Curry) fled to New Mexico from Phillips County, Montana after he had shot and killed Powell “Pike” Landusky in 1894. Logan actually rode with the Ketchum gang before he rode with Butch Cassidy and the Hole In The Wall gang. He and his brother Lonnie had become members of the Ketchum gang by late 1895. The facts are that historical records place both outlaws in the general area around Hermosa, again within the 14-year time window between 1886 and 1900. Could the men in the Hermosa photograph actually be these two outlaws? Baker believes it’s very likely.
Adam Baker’s Hermosa painting are the centerpiece of his solo art exhibition through May 8 at the Karen Wray Gallery in Los Alamos. The show features several pieces of his western art. Other samples of his paintings can be seen at the La Posada Resort, and Gallery in Santa Fe. Baker’s website is adambakerfineart.com.
Third man from the left of the original photo, he is holding up what appears to be some paper money.
After enlarging the photo, the artist believes the object to be a five-dollar silver certificate. There were only two years that this particular design had been printed. The first was in 1886 and the second was in 1891.
The Arbuckles coffee crate and the broken chair.
Possibly old west gunfighters Harvey Logan and Thomas Ketchum, otherwise known as Kid Curry and Blackjack Ketchum.
Photo comparisons showing strikingly similar looks.