LINDSEY, DENNIS EDWARD

Steven W. Hooper
Dennis Edward Lindsey (1862–1935).
Dennis Edward Lindsey served as a mounted inspector in the Big Bend region for the U.S. Customs Service. During his time as inspector, he also brought attention to an important cinnabar discovery in the area. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

LINDSEY, DENNIS EDWARD (1862–1935). Dennis Edward “Ed” Lindsey was a Texas farmer, businessman, postmaster, miner, and law enforcement officer. Lindsey is credited with making an important cinnabar discovery in the Big Bend area of Texas while he was on patrol duty as a mounted inspector for the United States Customs Service in 1903. D. E. Lindsey was the son of Dennis James Lindsey of Alabama and Sarah Jane (Barnes) Lindsey of Mississippi. He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on June 4, 1862. Lindsey’s father was a first sergeant with the Forty-first Regiment, Mississippi Infantry, Company E, and was killed at the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

As a young man, Lindsey traveled alone on horseback to Texas to live with his relatives. In February 1887 he joined the Texas Rangers First Frontier Battalion, Company D, and served throughout south and southwest Texas. Lindsey’s cousin, Benjamin Dennis Lindsey was a member of this same ranger company.

Lindsey left the ranger service sometime after 1888 and settled in an isolated area on the Texas-Mexican border in what is now Big Bend National Park. There he developed a small irrigated farm near the Rio Grande at what became known as Lindsey City, which is located in present-day Brewster County, Texas. Lindsey soon established a store to supply miners who were working in Mexican mines across the Rio Grande. Lindsey City later became known as Boquillas after the city of the same name on the other side of the Rio Grande. In 1894 Ed Lindsey was appointed to the position of inspector with the United States Customs Service at Boquillas, Texas. His assignment was to inspect ore shipments from the Del Carmen mines in Mexico which were brought into the United States for processing.

By 1896 the economy of the area was booming with a population of 300 people on the United States side of the Rio Grande and another 1,000 people on the Mexican side of the river. Inspector Lindsey established a post office in his store and became the town’s first postmaster. When the mines in Mexico began to close in 1899 and triggered a decline in the local economy, Lindsey had to look for other opportunities. 

Lindsey became a United States Customs mounted inspector in May 1899 and began roaming the rugged area now known as Big Bend National Park on horseback in search of smugglers of Mexican cattle, mescal, and other contraband. The job of mounted inspector or “line rider” was considered the most dangerous position in U.S. Customs. Mounted inspectors were required to patrol large portions of the remote Mexican-United States border for days at a time in all kinds of weather with no way of communicating with the outside world.

Dennis Edward Lindsey.
Dennis Edward Lindsey. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

On November 24, 1903, the Dallas Morning News reported that, while on scout duty, customs inspector D. E. Lindsey had made “One of the most important cinnabar discoveries in the big bend since the opening of the mines in this camp three years ago.” The newspaper reported that the discovery set off a rush of prospectors into the area. Mining experts predicted that the area near the discovery south of the Chisos Mountains would soon be one of the “largest and most prosperous cinnabar camps” in active operation. The National Park Service reported that the first discovery of cinnabar on Mariscal Mountain was made in 1900 by local rancher Martin Solis but that Lindsey was the first to file mining claims and commence prospecting.

Cinnabar is a red rock ore from which quicksilver, also known as mercury, is found. Mercury is unique in that it is the only metal in liquid form at ordinary temperatures. It has been used since about 400 B.C. as an amalgam for processing gold and silver. At the time inspector Lindsey made his discovery, mercury was used primarily in industrial, medical and military applications including use in detonators for munitions (see MERCURY MINING).

To capitalize on his mining claims, Lindsey dug a mine and began extracting cinnabar ore.  He built a crude thirty-mile road from the mine to Terlingua so that burros could carry the ore to a refinery. In November 1905 Lindsey lost his claim to the mine and therefore transferred all mineral rights to the Texas Almaden Mining Company. He later sold off his remaining mining claims in 1906 to the Texas Almaden Mining Company. The ruins of the Lindsey Mine, also known as the Mariscal Mine, can still be viewed in Big Bend National Park.

Inspector Lindsey moved to Lajitas, Texas, where he resumed his employment as an inspector with U.S. Customs. By 1910 he had moved to Marathon, Texas, where he worked as a bartender and farmer to support his large family. Lindsey resumed his career in law enforcement in 1925 when he was appointed to the position of captain in the Texas Rangers by Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson. He led the First Frontier Battalion, Company B, and was stationed at Del Rio. He resigned his position with the ranger force on March 31, 1927.

Lindsey married Juanita Concepcion Jimenez of Mexico around 1898. About 1911, she died sometime after the birth of their sixth child. The Lindsey children were Jane, Lillian, Ida, Daisy, Dennis Edward, and Ivey. On the 1930 census Lindsey was listed as a post office clerk in Presidio, Texas. Dennis Edward Lindsey died on April 9, 1935, at the age of seventy-two in Wickett, Texas, and was buried at Pecos, Reeves County, Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Louis F. Aulbach, Great Unknown of the Rio Grande:  Terlingua Creek to La Linda including Boquillas Canyon and Mariscal Canyon (Houston: Self-published, 2007). Clifford B. Casey, Soldiers, Ranchers and Miners in the Big Bend (Washington, D.C.:  Division of History, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service, 1969). Mike Cox, “Lindsey City, Texas: A ghost town in Big Bend National Park,” TexasEscapes.com (http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasGhostTowns/Lindsey-City-Texas.ht), accessed September 10, 2018. Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1903; October 17, 1925. El Paso Herald, July 10, 1899; August 2, 1899. Art Gomez, “If the Walls Could Speak: Mariscal Mine and the West Texas Quicksilver Industry, 1896–1946,” Mining History Journal 25 (1998). Robert W. Stephens, Texas Ranger Sketches (Dallas, 1972).

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Handbook of Texas Online, Steven W. Hooper, "LINDSEY, DENNIS EDWARD ," accessed September 25, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/flind.

Uploaded on September 11, 2018. Modified on September 12, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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