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The mystery of Red McDonald at Hillcrest Cemetery

When visiting old cemeteries, there is usually a tombstone, or two that stand out and make you want to do a little research on the epitaph on the stone. On a recent visit to Hillcrest Cemetery in Gallup, New Mexico, this writer spied the gravestone of “Red” McDonald who died June 25, 1915. Written on the stone was the word ‘murdered’ so research had to be conducted on the mysterious tombstone upon returning home to Arizona.

Tombstone of Red McDonald
Tombstone of Red McDonald Photo by Debe Branning
Hillcrest Cemetery is located in Gallup, NM
Hillcrest Cemetery is located in Gallup, NMPhoto by Debe Branning

Curt Cronemeyer, a veteran Indian trader, and C. A. “Red” McDonald, an employee clerk, were shot to death in the Cronemeyer store near Allentown, Arizona—just over the New Mexico line as they were getting ready to retire for the night.
Cronemeyer was one of the oldest of the nearby Indian traders. He was sixty years old and had been in business at Allentown and other nearby points for more than twenty years. He was a respected citizen and was preparing to sell out and retire from the business in the near future.

Earlier that day, four Mexican men had secured five dollars in money from Cronemeyer and had spent the whole amount on food. They took to a camp in the hills where they cooked and ate what they had purchased.

Later about 6:00 P.M. they went back to the store and engage in an argument with “Red” McDonald about an old watch that they were trying to pawn for more money . Lozano whipped out his 44 calibre six-shooter and shot McDonald dead putting two bullets into his body. After McDonald had been shot by Lozano, Wezer pulled his revolver, 38 calibre, and opened fire on Cronemeyer. He stated he had to kill Cronemeyer so he could not tell the story of the killing of McDonald. Six shots in all were fired. A third shot was fired but went wild and struck the wall in the store. Lozano stated it was not their intention to kill either of the men.

Cronemeyer was not instantly killed and was able to get to the telephone and call for help, calling the nearby Santa Fe station agent. “We are shot! Send help quick! Quick! Quick!” He died, however before aid could reach him.

The Sante Fe railroad pumper and section foreman went at once on horseback and on arrival at the trading store found McDonald dead behind the counter of the store and Cronemeyer dead on the bed. McDonald had been shot through the eye and breast. Cronemeyer was shot in the hand and abdomen. A Winchester rifle with one empty shell and covered with blood lay beside him.

The slain bodies of Curt Cronemeyer and “Red” McDonald were brought to Gallup to be buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery. The crime seemed to be fixed on four Mexicans from Old Mexico, who were seen at the store by some of the local Native Americans before the crime was committed.

Upon the capture of the bandits, the men stated it was the fear of being caught by Pancho Villa and hanged for treason that prevented them from escaping and crossing into Mexico after the killing. Blas Lozano was convicted of second degree murder in the death of McDonald in the Arizona court system and sentenced to 25 years at the Arizona State Penitentiary. Victor Wezer was convicted of the murder of Cronemeyer and received the same punishment. The other two men with them did not take part in the shooting.

Hillcrest Cemetery was established in Gallup in July 1914. At that time, the Hillside Cemetery on the north side of town was closed and families were allowed to move bodies from the Hillside Cemetery over to Hillcrest Cemetery. It is located on Aztec Avenue and 11th Street.

The next time you are in traveling through Gallup, New Mexico stop at the historic section of Hillcrest Cemetery and pay your respects to Cronemeyer and McDonald. The tradesmen will thank you for taking the time to visit and listening to their tale.

Hillcrest Cemetery
Aztec Avenue and 11th Street
Gallup, New Mexico 87301