Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

John D. Bail

Illinois & New Mexico

"Born in Ross County, Ohio, July 4, 1825, he served in the Mexican War of 1846. In 1849 he studied law in the office of Stuard & Edwards of Springfield, Illinois, where he became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln. In 1852 Bail crossed the plains to California. Locating in Placerville, he mined for gold until 1856, when he returned to Springfield by way of the Isthmus of Panama. From Springfield, Bail went to New York City, practicing law until 1861, when he enlisted in the Union Army, serving throughout the war, part of the time with Eleventh Missouri Infantry.

In 1866, Bail came to New Mexico, and engaged in mining in the Pike Altos district. Elected as the first representative to the New Mexico Legislature from Grant County after its establishment, Bail later served a term in the Territorial Council as representative of Grant and Doña Ana counties. Admitted to the Bar of the Territory in 1869, Bail practiced law in Mesilla from that year until 1885, when he moved to Silver City, where he practiced until his death on June 20, 1903." [William Aloysius Keleher, Violence in Lincoln County, 1869-1881 326-327 (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Sunstone Press, 2008)(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1957)]

Evidence of Bail's status as a poet is rather slender although found in a rather good source. In the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (vol. 2, p. 425), "Calls for Sangamon County Convention," Illinois State Journal, October 8, 1857, the signers of the call ("not previously identified") included John D. Bail, "attorney and poet,"

Bail's lasting claim to fame is his role as defense counsel for William Bonney, aka "Billy the Kid." [See: Robert M. Utley, Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991)]