Character Development – Morris Wohlgemuth


I love developing characters.  Morris Wohlgemuth is a historical character in my book although there is little written about him.  In “The Mesilla” I adapted what I could find about him into a minor villain  in the story about Bronco Sue’s life.  The only historic record of he and Sue being associated came from a Rio Grande Republican (RGR) article indicating he was entertaining a land related lawsuit against Sue.

Historic  newspaper articles and accounts in Sonnichsen’s book Tularosa  were the primary sources that brought the man into focus for me.  He left Las Cruces in 1883 to go to work for “The King of Tularosa” Patrick Coghlan.  Morris advertised in the RGR as a Notary Public and Conveyancer often from 1885 through most of 1887.  At the time, a Conveyancer performed a function similar to today’s title companies. Conveyancers oversaw real estate transactions and assured things went properly in closing the deals  In 1887 Morris was indicted and convicted of perjury.

Patrick “Pat” Coghlan was the epitome of the wild west opportunist.  He built an empire and lost it almost as quickly.  Before long he was deep in debt with no one to turn to.  It’s not a stretch to believe that Wohlgemuth, who was characterized as his second-in-command, was instrumental in a lot of Coghlan’s shady deals.  In Tularosa, C.L. Sonnichsen writes:

“His second-in-command, who actually managed this many-sided enterprise, was one Morris Wohlgemuth — an obliging soul who was credited with doing much of Pat’s dirty work.  He was the one who sold a saddle to a cowboy one time, first taking off  the stirrups which, he said would cost extra.  The cowboy was so overcome that he pulled his gun on Morris and was ready to kill him had Wohgemuth not change his mind.”

During that time, it was unlikely that Wohlgemuth had any real legal training and there was no licensing of any professional services to speak of.  In the two years between the time he went to work for Coghlan and began advertising as a “Conveyancer” in the RGR he probably sat in on numerous real estate deals. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities that Coghlan convinced him they didn’t need to pay someone else to oversee their deals when Morris now knew how to do it.  That, and perhaps the trustworthy professionals didn’t match with Coghlan and Wohlgemuth’s shady dealings.

Anyway, Morris came to me as a four-flesher and someone that needed to pump up his authority with a wardrobe and superior manner – thus the bowler topped dandy that I describe with his conspicuous dropping of French phrases.

By the way, Morris and his son Morris are buried in Tularosa.  It appears the younger Morris had three sons killed during World War I. (

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