Billy the Kid’s Gang, also known as the Rustlers, was comprised of several men who threw in with Billy the Kid in his New Mexico exploits during the late 1870s.
Billy was deeply involved in the Lincoln County War, a territorial dispute in New Mexico, and was already a veteran thief, cattle rustler, and shootist. However, his outlaw reputation grew during the “war” when he took the side of the ” Regulators,” and he soon gathered up a group of other outlaws who helped to perpetuate his criminal pursuits. The core members of the gang, sometimes referred to as the “Rustlers,” were Tom O’Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, Tom Pickett, Billy the Kid, “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, and Billy Wilson.
Of these outlaws, who primarily rustled cattle and horses, passed counterfeit bills, and became experts at escaping from jail, several were killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Still, others continued their lives beyond their criminal careers.
Tom “Big Foot” O’Folliard, Billy’s second-in-command and a former Regulator, was the first to be killed when Sheriff Pat Garrett shot him at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on December 19, 1880. Five days later, Charlie Bowdre, another former Regulator, was killed by Pat Garrett’s posse at Stinking Springs, New Mexico, on December 23, 1880. Ultimately, Garrett tracked down Billy the Kid and killed him on July 14, 1881. History varies on the death of “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, a former Dodge City Gang member, who most say was decapitated by citizens at Parral, Mexico, on February 18, 1886. Other reports say he died of old age in Oregon in 1928. Billy Wilson, who moved on to Texas after the others were killed, was shot by Ed Valentine at Sanderson, Texas, on June 14, 1918. However, others say that he died of natural causes in New Madrid, Missouri, on September 30, 1935. Tom Pickett, another former Dodge City Gang member, died of old age in Winslow, Arizona, on May 14, 1934.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.