Peter Maxwell – Son of a Land Baron


Peter Maxwell's house at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Peter Maxwell’s house at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Peter Maxwell (1848-1898) – It was in Peter Maxwell’s home in Fort Sumner, New Mexico that Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid.

The only son of New Mexico land baron, Lucien B. Maxwell and his wife, Ana de la Luz Maxwell, Pete was born in Taos, New Mexico on April 27, 1848. In 1870, the elder Maxwell purchased the old Fort Sumner buildings and surrounding land for some $5,000 and the following year, he relocated his family from northeast New Mexico and refurbished the buildings into proper housing. The family lived in a large house, which was once the officers’ quarters.

Peter Maxwell

Peter Maxwell

Lucien Maxwell soon turned over his affairs to his son Peter and passed away a few years later. Following the Lincoln County War, Peter became friends with Billy the Kid and other members of the Regulators, who had fled to Fort Sumner, even hiring Charlie Bowdre and Doc Scurlock to work on his ranch as cowboys. However, their friendship began to deteriorate when Peter found out that Billy was having a relationship with his little sister, Paulita, and was allegedly the father of her unborn child.

It was in Pete’s home that Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881, and has been theorized that Pete himself betrayed the Kid in order to put a stop to the relationship between Billy and Paulita. Pete died at Fort Sumner on June 21, 1898.


Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated April 2020.


Also see:

Lucien Maxwell by a Santa Fe Trail Driver

Lincoln County War by Emerson Hough

Maxwell Land Grant –  Largest Land Grant in US History