About John I Eiland:
Burial: South Park Cemeter
Roswell, Chaves Co, NM
1910 District 103, Cleveland, Cimarron
John I (G) Eiland, 43, M 19, al, al, al, Stock Farmer
Mary E, wife, 34, m 19, 3, 3, Tx,
Bennie B, daughter, 17, Tx, Al, Tx
Nellie B, daughter, 15, Tx, al, Tx
2/12, Ok, Al, Tx
1920 District 4, Roswell Ward 2, Chaves Co, New Mexico
John Eiland, 54, Al,
Al, Al, Policeman, City
Ellen, wife, 45, Tx, Pa, Tx
Mary M, daughter, 9, Oklahoma, Al, Tx
W, daughter, 7, New Mexico, Al, Tx
Gordon B, son, 3 9/12 New Mexico, Al, Tx
Martha A Harris, mother-in-law,
66, wd, Tx, Unk, Ky
Washington Post, Dec 4, 1904
Tortured By Bandits
Banker Caught by
Brigands in New Mexico
Held Him for Big Ransom
John Eiland Founder of Bank of Portales, N. M.,
Starved, Whipped, and Stoned by His Captors--Finally Effects His Escape While They Are Drunk--Extraordinary
No stranger story has ever come out of the West than that of John Eiland, founder
and president of the Bank of Portales, New Mexico.
That Banker Eiland is alive to-day is owing to
the strategy he employed in extricating himself recently from a bank of desperate brigands, who, under
most exciting circumstances, captured and held him for ransom in the mountains of New Mexico for a period
o nearly four weeks, during which time he was tortured and nearly starved to death.
While on a business
trip in the State of Sonora, Eiland had traveled about three-fourths of the distance, when on the evening
of October 6, he was surrounded by a band of bandits and robbed of him money, watch, and other valuables.
Thieves tied their victim securely with one end of a long rope, attaching the other end to the saddle
of the leader, a pompous descendant of the Aztecs, who could speak broken English. This wretch rode
Eiland?s horse and gave his almost worthless animal to another member of his band. When his unfortunate
follower showed signs of displeasure and suffering the bravo would twit him in many ways and call him
a ?good American? in Spanish
Starved and Tortured.
They traveled a short distance in an easterly
direction the first evening and then camped. It was evidently their intention at first to take the
victim to their rendezvous in the mountains southeast of Oputa, but they changed their plans. This
Eiland learned from their conversation, as he understands some Spanish. Eiland was given little water
to drink and practically nothing fit to eat during the twenty-four days of his captivity.
murmured and begged for food or water they would whip him, throw stones at him, and even spit on him.
They had an object in this, and that was to torture their captive to the last degree of endurance and
thereby compel him to write a letter asking for a large ransom.
It was probably about the time they
first camped near Oputa that they compelled Eiland to write a letter to his wife, at Portales, demanding
ransom for his release. Several letters were outlined by Eiland, with the muzzles of rifles pointing
at him, but it was some time before one was written to please the fastidious leader of the band of thugs.
to Write for Ransom.
Under the threat that he would be instantly killed, Eiland, starved, worn, and
almost crazed by their insults, labored away at the message, which he had little hope would bring about
his release, but finally succeeded in producing the following, which was accepted:
?My Dear Mrs.
Eiland: Your husband has been captured and is now held for a ransom of $10,000 in gold, which you must
draw from the bank and send by a trusty messenger. There must be some friend upon whom you can depend.
Tell him to leave that money in sacks at the ruins of an old house on the main trail about two miles
west of Oputa. Instruct him to cover it up in the southeast corner of the house with stones. You had
better not interfere with these plans or try to rescue him in any way, as those who have him in charge
are dangerous and desperate men, and unless both of you strictly obey instructions you may never see
To this letter he was compelled to sign the name of his friend, George
Reese, and misspell it. The letter was posted at Oputa and was duly received by Mrs. Eiland.
outlaws changed positions each day after the letter was mailed, but evidently stayed near enough to
the house for one of their number to visit it each day.
Usually the leader would leave and be gone
several hours, but he would always return to camp during the night. At times he would come back well
under the influence of mescal whisky and was cruel to every one. Despite his evil habits, he was a
dandy, wearing a gorgeous sombrero and dressing the gaudy colors common among Mexicans. He ruled his
men in military fashion, and had absolute authority and control. They obeyed every order from him,
no matter how severe the task, without a murmur or complaint.
Effects His Escape
It was in the
night of October 30 that the leader returned more intoxicated than usual and in a rage. The money had
not arrived and he was furious. Eiland believed that his time had come, and that they would kill him
before morning. They kicked, cuffed, and beat him more severely than usual. He was tied, as they perhaps
thought, more securely than ever this night, being bound with a rope, which was fastened to a tree,
permitting him to lie on the ground.
The men were all under the influence of liquor, and were abusive
and insulting in their language even among themselves. They gambled and drank until about midnight,
and left as usual one of the number on watch while the rest slept.
Liquor was a boon to Eiland.
The sentinel fell asleep at his post and the prisoner obtained a sharp edged stone, with which he sawed
the rope that held him. It was perhaps, after two hours of tedious labor that he succeeded in freeing
himself. He wandered away, almost dazed, into the night.
He started West, using as his guide the
polar star, and traveled until dawn; then he hid in the underbrush. He slept soundly most of the day
and traveled a part of the next night. He was four days wandering westward, hoping to reach the railroad
and make his escape. He lived on berries, seeds, young birds, and anything he could find to sustain
life, finally reaching the railroad after traveling sixty miles.
This he followed to a small station,
where he boarded a freight train and beat his way to Douglas, Ariz, and from there to El Paso, where
he borrowed money from a friend, finally reaching home.
About Mary Ellen Harris:
1930 census District 1, Boise City, Cimarron Co, Ok
Mary E Eiland, head, 49, wd, 17, Tx, pa, Tx
B, son, 14, NM, Al, Tx