IF YOU GO

What: Ice cream social with music, hay rides and book release

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: E3 Children's Museum & Science Center, 302 N. Orchard Ave., Farmington

Cost: Book is $7

More info: Call the center at 505-599-1425 or go to sjcnmhistorical.org.

AZTEC — Marilu Waybourn is eager to research and share as many stories of the Four Corners as she can.

Over the last 25 years, she's published more than a dozen books on the area's cemeteries and settlements, its waterways and epic floods, its churches and bridges and its schools and courthouses.

This time, she's rounded up the bad guys.

Her latest book, "Crimes of the County: Northwest New Mexico, 1876-1928," resurrects some of the area's infamous gunslingers, bootleggers, rapists, cattle rustlers, lynch mobs, sheriffs and outlaws. The book, which will be released Saturday, draws from more than 10 years of research.

During the Freedom Days celebration on Saturday, Waybourn will sign copies of her book at the E3 Children's Museum. Proceeds from book sales benefit the San Juan County Historical Society.

"I tried to offer a variety of the crimes and characters from those really Wild West days," Waybourn said. "I began with the 1876, the year Ulysses S. Grant opened up unwanted Jicarilla Apache land -- what is today the eastern part of San Juan County -- to public land for homesteading. That's when all the trouble began."

Intriguing crime stories that surfaced during Waybourn's research for other projects compelled her to write the book, she said.

"I don't want any of the stories to be lost. Time is going by," she said.

Waybourn's book relies on interviews, as well as newspaper and historical archives, to stitch together a patchwork quilt portrait of the state of law and order around the turn of the century.

She relates the story of John Christopher "Kit" Carson, the elected county sheriff in 1889, who built his adobe house along what is now Southside River Road. Carson ultimately built a jail -- the first jail cell in the county -- inside his home, apparently for the convenience of the cook. Although the house was demolished in 2000, a "hanging tree" behind where the home once stood survives today. A chain embedded in one of its limbs suggests a legacy of capital punishment.

Other tales of the county's bloody past darken the pages of Waybourn's 48-page book. Among them are sheepherding rapists lynched by a posse, a deputy sheriff shot by a bootlegger, murder in cold blood outside a pool hall, robberies of drug and hardware stores and gunfights in Gallegos Canyon, which is near present-day McGee Park.

Marilu Waybourn’s new book, "Crimes of the County: NW New Mexico 1876-1928," will be released Saturday. The book chronicles the state of
Marilu Waybourn's new book, "Crimes of the County: NW New Mexico 1876-1928," will be released Saturday. The book chronicles the state of law and order at the turn of the century in the Four Corners area. (Jon Austria The Daily Times)

Waybourn said the Four Corners area is "rich in stories waiting to be told."

"Not all of them are clear or easy to track from beginning to end, but discovering them can be rewarding work," she said.

Born and raised in Farmington, Waybourn left the area to earn a degree in radio communications from Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. She returned to take a job as program director and the first female newscaster for Farmington's first radio station, KUBC.

But she started storytelling much earlier. At age of 10, she wrote her memoir, six pages of handwritten personal history, boldly titled, "From the Cradle to the Grave."

From 1968 and 1982, Waybourn worked as a publications liaison for The Daily Times, seeing the transition from film files to computers. She later worked for 12 years as a writer, editor and computer specialist for the Bureau of Land Management.

"I am a great admirer of (Waybourn)," said Vicki Ramakka, Aztec Museum board president. "My husband worked with her at BLM in the 1980s. He called her the 'little ol' lady hacker.' She was a computer expert way back then."

Waybourn has volunteered hundreds of hours for the museum, carefully labeling, scanning and archiving many materials.

"What I think is most important is that she does meticulous research and fact-checking," Ramakka said. "If she can't track it down, she won't use it."

Waybourn, 81, is currently working on a family history project with her daughter and beginning a book on Largo Canyon.

"She's also always helping others who are trying to track down historical information," Ramakka said. "She truly is the informal historian of the area. It never occurs to her that she's getting older. She's always onto something new."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.