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 was the only son of New Mexico land baron Lucien B. Maxwell and his wife, Ana de la Luz Maxwell. Peter 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. 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, once the officers’ quarters.

Peter Maxwell, courtesy Find-a-Grave.

Lucien Maxwell soon turned over his affairs to his son Peter who 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 it has been theorized that Pete betrayed the Kid to stop the relationship between Billy and Paulita.

Peter died at Fort Sumner on June 21, 1898.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated March 2023.


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

New Mexico – Land of Enchantment