OLD WEST LEGENDS
Billy The Kid - Teenage Outlaw of the
Henry McCarty, aka, William Henry
Billy the Kid, was born on November 23, 1859,
most likely in New York City. His parents’ names are not known for
certain but his mother was thought to be Katherine and his father perhaps
Patrick. History then traces Billy to Indiana in the late 1860s and
in 1870. His father died around the end of the
Civil War and at
about the same time, Billy's mother contracted Tuberculosis and was told
to move to a drier climate. On March 1, 1873, Catherine McCarty
married a man named William Antrim, who moved the family to Silver City,
stepfather worked as a bartender and carpenter but soon got the
prospecting bug and virtually ignored his wife and stepsons. Faced
with an indigent husband, McCarty's
mother took in boarders in order to provide for her sons. Despite
the better climate, Billy's
mother continued to worsen and on September 16, 1874, she died of her
After her death,
Antrim placed Billy
and his younger brother Joseph in separate foster homes and left
Silver City for
At the age of 14, the
smooth-cheeked, blue-eyed McCarty
was forced to find work in a hotel, washing dishes and waiting tables
at the restaurant. The boy was reported to be very friendly.
The manager was
impressed by the young boy, boasting that he was the only kid who ever
worked for him that didn't steal anything. His school teachers thought
that the young orphan was "no more of a problem than any other boy,
always quite willing to help with chores around the schoolhouse".
However, on September
McCarty was arrested for hiding a bundle of stolen clothes for a
man playing a prank on a Chinese laundryman. Two days after Billy was thrown in jail, the scrawny teen escaped by worming his
way up the jailhouse chimney. From that point onward McCarty
would be a fugitive.
He eventually found
work as an itinerant ranch hand and sheepherder in southeastern
In 1877 he became a civilian teamster at Camp Grant Army Post with the
duty of hauling logs from a timber camp to a sawmill. The civilian
blacksmith at the camp, Frank "Windy" Cahill, took pleasure in
bullying young Billy. On August 17 Cahill attacked McCarty
after a verbal exchange and threw him to the ground.
Billy retaliated by drawing his gun and shooting Cahill, who died
the next day. Once again McCarty
was in custody, this time in the Camp's guardhouse awaiting the
arrival of the local marshal. Before the marshal could arrive,
Again on the run, Billy next turned up in the house of Heiskell Jones in Pecos
Valley, New Mexico.
McCarty's horse which forced him to walk many miles to the nearest
settlement, which was Mrs. Jones' house. She nursed the young man, who
was near death, back to health. The Jones' family developed a strong
Billy and gave him one of their horses.
outlaw and unable to find honest work, the Kid met
up with another bandit named
Jesse Evans, who was the leader of a gang
of rustlers called "The Boys.” The Kid
didn't have anywhere else to go and since it was suicide to be alone
in the hostile and lawless territory, the
reluctantly joined the gang.
He later became embroiled
in the infamous
County War in which his newest friend and employer,
John Tunstall, was
killed on February 18, 1878. Billy the Kid was deeply affected by the murder, claiming that
one of the only men that treated him like he was "free-born and white."
At Tunstall's funeral
Billy swore: "I'll get every son-of-a-bitch who helped kill John if
it's the last thing I do."
Billy would enact revenge by
gunning-down the deputy who killed his friend, as well as another deputy
and the County Sheriff, William Brady. Now an even more wanted man than
went into hiding but soon started to steal livestock from white ranchers
on the Mescalero reservation.
In the fall of 1878, retired Union General Lew
Wallace became the new territorial governor of New Mexico.
In order to restore peace to Lincoln County, Wallace proclaimed an amnesty
for any man involved in the Lincoln County War that was not already under indictment.
Billy was, of course, under several indictments (some of which
unrelated to the Lincoln County War) but Wallace was intrigued by rumors that McCarty was
willing to surrender himself and testify against other combatants if
amnesty could be extended to him. In March of 1879 Wallace and Billy met to discuss the possibility of a deal. True to form, McCarty
greeted the governor with a revolver in one hand and a Winchester rifle in
the other. After several days to think the issue over, Billy agreed to testify in return for an amnesty.
Part of the agreement was for McCarty to
submit to a show arrest and a short stay in jail until the conclusion of
his courtroom testimony. Even though his testimony helped to indict one of
the powerful House faction leaders, John Dolan, the district attorney
defied Wallace's order to set Billy free after testifying. However, Billy was a skilled escape artist and slipped out of his handcuffs and
For the next year he hung around
on the Pecos River and developed a fateful friendship with a local
who was later elected sheriff of Lincoln County. As sheriff,
was charged with arresting his friend
who by now was almost exclusively known as "Billy the Kid".
At about the same
had formed a gang, referred to as the "Rustlers"
Billy the Kid's Gang who he survived by stealing and rustling as
he did before.
The core members
of the gang were
Tom Pickett, Billy the Kid,
December 15, 1880, Governor Wallace put a $500 reward on Billy's head and
Pat Garrett began the relentless pursuit of the
set-up many traps and ambushes in an attempt to apprehend Billy but the
seemed to have an animal instinct that warned him of danger, but that
was not to last.
On November 30, 1880,
Billy the Kid's Gang,
David Anderson, aka: Billy Wilson; and
Dave Rudabaugh rode into White Oaks, New Mexico and ran into Deputy Sheriff James Redman. Taking shots
at the deputy, Redman hid behind a saloon as several local citizens
ran into the street, chasing the fugitives out of town.
As a posse gave chase, the
outlaws hid out at the ranch of a man named Jim Greathouse, who
they held hostage. Accosted at dawn by a posse, they traded
their hostage, Jim Greathouse, for Deputy Sheriff James Carlyle who
was volunteered to negotiate with the outlaws in attempt to give themselves up. Continuing to surround
the house, the posse waited for hours.
Around midnight, the
posse called out that they were going to storm the house. Just
then a crash came through a window and a man came tumbling out. Shots
ripped through the air and Carlyle lay dead. The bullet could
have come from either the outlaws or the posse, but many suspect that the posse killed their
own man. With this accident, the posse abandoned the siege and
the outlaws escaped. Later Billy the Kid would be blamed for killing Carlyle.
Trailed by the resolute
Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid,
Billy Wilson, Rudabaugh, Tom O'Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, and Tom
Pickett rode wearily into
New Mexico on December 19, 1880 and were confronted by Garrett's
posse which had been hiding in an old post hospital building. Pat Garrett,
Lon chambers, and several others leaped from cover as Garrett
ordered the outlaws to halt.
However, several of the
posse members didn’t wait for the outlaws to respond to Garrett's
demand, instead, opening fire on Pickett and O'Folliard, who were riding in
front. Though Pickett survived to escape,
O'Folliard lie dead in the dusty
street. Rudabaugh's horse caught a bullet and collapsed. Rudabaugh
managed to jump onto Wilson’s horse and he and the other outlaws escaped, holing up in an abandoned cabin near Stinking
Springs, New Mexico.
Soon, the determined
Garrett's posse tracked the outlaws down to Stinking Springs and surrounded the hideout. Inside of the house were
Billy, Charlie Bowdre, Dave Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett and
Billy Wilson. When Bowdre passed before an open window, he was shot in the chest. The siege continued until the next day, when
finally waved a white flag and the bandits surrendered. Billy the Kid
and his gang of "Rustlers"
were captured on December 23, 1880 and taken to
Billy was jailed in the town of Mesilla, south of Santa Fe, while waiting for his April, 1881 trial.
Deliberation took exactly one day and Billy was convicted of murdering Sheriff William Brady and sentenced to
hang by Judge Warren Bristol. His execution was scheduled for May 13th and
he was sent to Lincoln to await this date. He was under guard by
James Bell and Robert Olinger on the top floor of the building formerly known
as the "House" before and during the
County War. On April 28th Billy somehow escaped and killed both of his guards while
was out of town. It is not known how Billy was able to do this, but, it is widely believed that a friend or
Regulator sympathizer left a pistol in the privy that one of the guards
escorted Billy to daily. After shooting Deputy Bell with the pistol, Billy stole Olinger's 10-gauge double barrel shotgun and waited for
Olinger by the window in the room he was being held in.
Olinger obliged by
running immediately from the hotel upon hearing the shots.
When he was directly under
the window of the courthouse, he heard his prisoner say, "Hello, Bob."
Olinger then looked up and saw the Kid gun in hand. It was the last thing
he ever saw as
Billy blasted him with his own shotgun killing him
This would be, however, Billy's last escape. When
was questioning Billy's friend,
Peter Maxwell on July 14, 1881 in Maxwell's darkened
bedroom in Old
Billy unexpectedly entered the room. The Kid didn't
recognize Garrett in the poor lighting conditions and asked "¿Quien es? ¿Quien
es?" (Spanish for "Who is it? Who is it?), to which
responded with two shots from his revolver, the first striking Billy's heart.
the infamous "Billy the Kid", was buried in a plot in-between his dead friends
Tom O'Folliard and
Charlie Bowdre the next day at
In his short life,
Billy the Kid
was reputed to have killed 21 men, one for each year of his life. However, many historians calculate the figure closer to nine (four on his
own and five with the help of others). Over 100 years later, in 2010
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson considered honoring the 1879 promise
of pardon for the Kid, made by then Governor Lew Wallace. Richardson
backed off of the idea though citing "historical ambiguity" surrounding
of America, updated October, 2016.
Billy the Kid -
Fatal Shot in the Dark by Pat Garrett
The Real Billy
(Author Terri Meeker)
Fort Sumner - Pride of the Pecos
Lincoln, NM - Wild Wild West Frozen in Time
New Mexico's Lincoln County War
Pat Garrett - An Unlucky Lawman
Pat Garrett and the Man Hunt
Billy The Kid
'Twas on the same night when poor Billy died,
He said to his friends, "I am not satisfied;
There are twenty-one men I have put bullets through,
And Sheriff Pat Garrett will make twenty-two."
Now this is how Billy the Kid met his fate:
The bright moon was shining, the hour was late,
Shot down by Pat Garrett, who once was his friend,
The young outlaw's life had come to an end.
There's many a man with a face fine and fair,
Who starts out in life with a chance to be square,
But just like poor Billy, he wanders astray,
And loses his life in the very same way.
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Billy the Kid