Frenchy's house is a historic landmark here at the Oliver Lee state Park. As is the restored ranch house of Oliver Lee. I haven't seen the Oliver Lee house yet but I walked up to the ruins of Frenchy's little cabin this morning.
Frenchy has an interesting story so I thought I would tell a small portion of it here. Frenchy came to America from oddly enough....France, and made his first historical splash in Santa Fe New Mexico where a Catholic Church there sort of considers him a saint, check it out It makes an interesting read.
Later on Frenchy homesteaded at the mouth of Dog Canyon. He was not only a skilled, talented and incredibly hard-working man but a man of the soil because he planted orchards, grapevines, raised sheep, and some say, cattle. But the most striking thing that he accomplished here was the rock walls that he put around his property.
Instead of doing what most folks did which was put a barbed wire fence around everything, Frenchy being from Europe did what they do over there, he built rock walls. There was an endless supply of rocks and boulders on his property so he built 3 1/2 foot tall rock walls that weren't held together with cement they were simply stacked in a way that they wouldn't fall over, around his different fields and stock pens, including some that go up some very steep slopes that look like they would be hard to walk up, but he built walls up there.
The fact that he owned the water rights coming from Dog Canyon sounds like a good thing in the arid environment of southern New Mexico. But in the West there's an old saying, "whiskeys for drinking, waters for fighting". Water is precious in most areas of the West and without it you have nothing.
Frenchy's nearest neighbor was one of the biggest ranchers in the area, and that would be the financially well-off, well respected pillar of the community, and sometimes Deputy Sheriff.....Oliver Lee. So simplifying the situation, what you have here is a small solitary man from a foreign country that controls the water to one of the largest ranches in the County. Which means that there are plenty of reasons why things might not turn out all that well for Frenchy.
Right after Christmas in 1884 Frenchy was found dead at his little adobe cabin, he had been shot through the chest with his own rifle, and it was promptly ruled a suicide. The people of the county were very suspicious of this ruling right from the start and there were letters found in Frenchy's cabin which seemed to indicate that he had no reason to commit suicide and in fact had all kinds plans for the future.
Somehow some evidence was found that pointed to the possibility that Oliver Lee might have had something to do with Frenchy's death, so he was put on trial and found innocent. But Oliver Lee was no angel and there was a lot of skulduggery going on in his life and at one time even the famous New Mexico lawman Pat Garrett, he's the one who shot and killed Billy the Kid, had a posse after Oliver.
So nobody knows exactly who killed the hard-working little Frenchman in his hand built adobe cabin, but they know it wasn't a suicide. But I just find it rather ironic that Oliver Lee went on to become a rich politician that has a state park named after him and Frenchy became a tiny footnote in New Mexico history.