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Pat Garrett - An Unlucky Lawman

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Born in Chambers County, Alabama on June 5, 1850, Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett was one of seven children born to John and Elizabeth Garrett. Three years later, Pat's father, John Garrett, purchased a Louisiana plantation in Claiborne Parish, where young Garrett grew up.


A tall, thin angular man with prominent cheek bones, Garrett left Louisiana for Dallas County, Texas at the age of 19. There, he worked on the large LS Ranch in west Texas as a cowboy and cattle gunman when rustling was rampant in the area.


From there he joined up with W. Skelton Glenn, as a buffalo hunter. However, he soon got into a disagreement with a fellow hunter over some hides. The altercation soon led to gun play and when the other man drew on Garrett, Pat shot him dead.


By 1878, he had moved on to Fort Sumner, New Mexico just as the Lincoln County War was drawing to an end. The battle between rival gangs spawned a storm of lawlessness and violence which would continue in southeastern New Mexico for the next two decades.


Sheriff Pat Garrett

Sheriff Garrett

This image available for photographic prints HERE!




 Garrett first went to work on Peter Maxwell's ranch. A year later he quit and worked as a bartender at a saloon called Beaver Smith’s. Soon after, he married a woman named Juanita Gutierrez, but she died before the end of the year. A little more than a year later, on January 14, 1880, he married Juanita’s sister Apolinaria. The two would have nine children over the years.


Pat Garrett, with wife ApolonariaIt was at the saloon that Pat Garrett met and often gambled with William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. The two were seen together so often they soon took on the nicknames of "Big Casino” and "Little Casino.”

On November 7, 1880, Garrett was appointed as the Lincoln County Sheriff. Friends or not, his first vow was to bring the current reign of lawlessness to an end with the primary goal of apprehending Billy the Kid.

On December 15, 1880, Governor Wallace put a $500 reward on Billy's head and Pat Garrett began the relentless pursuit of the outlaw. Garrett set-up many traps and ambushes in an attempt to apprehend Billy, but the Kid seemed to have an animal instinct that warned him of danger. However, that was not to last.

On December 19, 1880 Garrett confronted Billy and his gang when they rode into Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Killing Tom O'Folliard, the rest of the gang escaped. Soon, the determined Garrett and his posse tracked the outlaws down to Stinking Springs and surrounded the hideout. After a several day siege, the posse killed Charlie Bowdre and captured Billy the Kid, Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett and Billy Wilson on December 23, 1880.


Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang in Lincoln, New Mexico on May 13, 1881. However, he escaped from jail on April 18, 1881, killing two guards in the process.


Garrett went after the Kid once again and arrived at Peter Maxwell's ranch on July 14, 1881 to question him about Billy's whereabouts. As Maxwell and Garrett sat in Peter's darkened bedroom in Old Fort Sumner, 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 Garrett responded with two shots from his revolver, the first striking Billy's heart.


Billy The Kid

Billy the Kid Enhanced Photo.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!


Billy the Kid was buried in a plot in-between his dead friends Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre the next day at Fort Sumner's cemetery.


Though the New Mexican newspaper said, "Sheriff Garrett is the hero of the hour," most people in the area saw him as a villain for having killed a favorite son. Although he had put his life on the line for his community, he lost the next election for sheriff of Lincoln County.



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Old West Lawmen, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander and Legends of AmericaOld West Lawmen -  By Kathy Weiser, Owner/Editor of Legends of America - Autographed - Marshals and sheriffs were in high demand in some of the most lawless settlements as well as the numerous mining camps that dotted the West. Though the vast majority of these lawmen were honorable and heroic figures, ironically, many of them rode both sides of the fence and were known as outlaws as well. 

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