Saturday, July 05, 2008

Susanna Hummer

Susanna Elizabeth Hummer McSween Barber was born on December 30, 1845. As an adult in New Mexico the Hispanics said she "always looked like a big doll" with her makeup and fancy hair-do's, but she was born Brethren in Adams County, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg.

Nobody knows why the young Brethren teenager Susanna Hummer jumped out of her window a few days after the famous Battle of Gettysburg - whether because she was only one of sixteen children in the house, whether she was tired of wearing the plain garb, or because of the death of her good friend Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the conflict at Gettysburg.

Or maybe it was the sight of all those men in blue and grey uniforms marching past her home gave her the wanderlust. Indeed there is a family tradition that the seventeen year old Susanna fell in love with one of the soldiers, jumped our her window, and never looked back.

What is known is that after disappearing for a decade she turned up in Eureka, Kansas in 1873, married to a mysterious stranger, a red-haired Scot named Alexander McSween, and five years later she was living in New Mexico in what amounted to a palace, before she was caught up in the infamous Lincoln County War. Though her husband died in the gun battles between two finance companies, she was remembered for trying to save her precious piano when her nine room hacienda was burned to the ground by rustlers, and for the fact that her husband had hired an eighteen-year-old named William Antrim - better known as Billy the Kid - to help protect them. Because of Billy the battle became the subject of over two hundred books and Susanna became famous.

The widow McSween later married and divorced, and went to to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the old west, earning her the title of "The Cattle Queen of Lincoln County." Susanna Elizabeth Hummer McSeen Barber injured herself as an old woman jumping out of another window when her home burned down around her, but to her dying day she wore bright colors and high fashions, a stark contrast to the muted plain clothers she had grown up with.

Source: Frank Ramirez, Tercentennial Minute for December 30, 2007