Pat Garrett - An Unlucky Lawman
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
at the age of 19. There, he worked on the large LS Ranch in west Texas
cowboy and cattle gunman when
rustling was rampant in the area.
From there he joined up with W. Skelton Glenn, as a
However, he soon got into a disagreement with a fellow hunter over some
hides. The altercation led to gun play and when the other man drew on Garrett,
Pat shot him dead.
By 1878, he had moved on to
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
for the next two decades.
Garrett first went to work on
ranch. A year later he quit and worked as a
bartender at a
called Beaver Smith’s. Soon after, he married a woman named
Juanita Martinez, but she died before the end of the year. A
little more than a year later, on January 14, 1880, he married Apolinaria
Gutierrez. The two would have nine children
over the years.
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, but 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,
Tom Pickett and
Billy Wilson on December 23,
Billy the Kid was tried and
sentenced to hang in
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 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.
Garrett then turned to ranching
and began to write a book about Billy the Kid. Published in 1882, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, the Noted Desperado of the Southwest,
didn’t sell well as eight books had already beat him to the press.
ran for New Mexico
state senator where he again lost the election. Fed up, Garrett
moved his family to Tascosa, Texas
where he became captain of the LS
Texas Rangers. However, this role would not last long, as
Garrett quit within just a few weeks and
returned to southeastern New Mexico,
this time to
In 1890 he ran for sheriff of the newly
created Chaves County. However, when he lost, he bitterly left New Mexico
once again, living in Uvalde, Texas,
where he raised and raced horses for several years.
Garrett purchased a ranch in the
San Andres Mountains of New Mexico
and in October, he was appointed sheriff of Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
His family stayed on the ranch while Pat worked in Las Cruces, Mesilla
and Dona Ana.
On December 16, 1901, President Theodore
Roosevelt, infatuated by gunfighters in the West, appointed Pat Garrett as a United States Customs
Collector at El Paso,
However, it was a controversial appointment and when his term was over in
1905, Roosevelt refused to reappoint him. Garrett and
his family returned to the ranch only to find Garrett in
the midst of financial difficulties due to back taxes and liability for a
loan he had co-signed for a friend.
Becoming increasingly morose over the
situation, he began to drink and gamble too much. However, still trying to
make a living, he started a new horse breeding operation.
To help with his financial problems,
leased part of his land to a man named
Wayne Brazel who was to
graze cattle upon the land. However, he soon found that
Brazel had brought in
several thousand goats, which were considered to be even worse than sheep,
as far as cattlemen were concerned.
Owing money to many people in the
desperately approached another rancher named Carl Adamsson in January,
1908 to see if he might be interested in buying his ranch. However, when
he neared Adam's home, Carl's wife, Amanda, ordered him from the
property at gunpoint.
later and agreed on the sale. But, Wayne Brazel refused to break his
five year lease unless Garrett
bought his goats. Brazel
and Garrett made
the deal, but soon Brazel
wanted even more money. Though angry, Garrett
finally agreed to Brazel's
On February 29, 1908,
Adamson were in a buckboard bound for Las Cruces, where they would meet
Brazel to close the deal.
On the way, Brazel caught
up with them and as words grew heated, Adamson threatened to back out of
the purchase. Afterwards, Brazel rode on while Garrett and
Adamson continued in the buckboard.
Just miles outside of Las Cruces, they
stopped the wagon and while Adamson was relieving himself off the back of
the buckboard, three shots rang out. Pat Garrett lay dead. Adamson left his body in the desert and continued on
to Las Cruces. Once there, Adamson swore he never saw who shot Garrett and
Brazel confessed to the
shooting, claiming it was self-defense.
When the body was retrieved, numerous
cigarette butts were found off the trail, indicating that someone had been
waiting for them. This led to the belief that the shooting was an obvious
conspiracy, involving two more people. Allegedly, Brazel took the "fall" for
the murder because he was single. Also implicated in the killing was hired
assassin, Killin' Jim Miller
because Carl Adamson was married to a cousin of Jim Miller's wife,
Sallie. However, most historians deem this unlikely.
remains lay in the undertaker’s parlor, dozens of gawkers came to see the
man who had killed Billy the Kid. On March 5, 1908,
he was buried in Las Cruces,
Pat Garrett in 1906.
Brazel was later tried; however, he was acquitted of the crime.
Controversy still exists over whether Garrett's
murder was a conspiracy in order to gain his land or if it was just simply
the dispute with an irate Brazel.
In May of 2017, Doña Ana County
officials announced in a press release that a County Clerk's office
employee had found a document in a box of un-archived materials dated July
9, 1908. It is the handwritten Coroner's Jury Report, signed by
seven jurors, that references Wayne Brazel's involvement. According
to the press release, the document says:
“We the undersigned Justices of
the Peace and Coroners Jury have attended the investigation of the body of
Pat Garrett who was reported dead within the limits of Precinct No. 20,
County of Doña Ana, territory of New Mexico on about five miles northeast
of the town of Las Cruces and find that the deceased came to his death by
gunshot wounds inflicted by one Wayne Brazel.”
of America, updated May, 2017.
Kid - Teenage Outlaw of New Mexico
Billy the Kid - Fatal Shot in the Dark (by Pat Garrett, 1882)
Fort Sumner - Pride of the Pecos
Lincoln, NM - Wild Wild West Frozen in Time
Pat Garrett and the Man Hunt
(by Emerson Hough, 1906)
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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
Old West Lawmen is a collection of stories featuring 57