Dirty Dave Rudabaugh – Feared by Billy the Kid

Trailed by the resolute Pat Garrett; Billy the Kid, Billy Wilson, Dave Rudabaugh, Tom O’Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, and Tom Pickett rode wearily into Fort Sumner, New Mexico on December 19, 1880 and were confronted by Garrett’s posse which had been hiding in an old post hospital building. Lon Chambers, and several others leaped from cover as Garrett ordered the outlaws to halt. However, several of the posse members didn’t wait for the outlaws to respond to Garrett’s demand, instead, opening fire on Pickett and O’Folliard, who were riding in front. Pickett and O’Folliard were shot from their saddles, Rudabaugh’s horse caught a bullet and collapsed. Rudabaugh managed to jump onto Wilson’s horse and he and the other outlaws escaped, holing up in an abandoned cabin near Stinking Springs, New Mexico.

Soon, the determined and his posse tracked the outlaws down to Stinking Springs, New Mexico and surrounded the hideout. Inside of the house were Billy, Charlie Bowdre, Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett and Billy Wilson.

When Bowdre passed before an open window, he was shot in the chest. The siege continued until the next day, when Rudabaugh finally waved a white flag and the bandits surrendered. Billy the Kid and his gang were captured on December 23, 1880 and taken to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rudabaugh was then taken to Las Vegas to stand trial. In February, 1881, he attempted to avoid being charged with a capital offence, by pleading guilty to the Las Vegas train robbery in October, 1879. However, his attempt was unsuccessful and he was sentenced to hang for murder. He was then taken to the Las Vegas Old Town Jail to await his execution, where J.J. Webb was continuing to serve his time.

In the meantime, Billy the Kid was jailed at Lincoln, New Mexico where he escaped on April 28, 1881. However, he was soon tracked down and killed by Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881.

Rudabaugh, Webb, and two other men by the names of Thomas Duffy and H.S. Wilson tried unsuccessfully to shoot their way out of jail on September 19, 1881. Duffy was mortally wounded and their attempt was unsuccessful. However, Webb, facing life in prison, and Rudabaugh the threat of hanging, were determined.

Two months later, Webb and Rudabaugh, along with five other men, chipped a stone out of the jail wall and escaped out of a 7″x19″ hole. Rudabaugh and Webb raced to Texas and then to Mexico where Webb disappeared. Later Webb returned to Kansas, where he took the name “Samuel King,” and worked as a teamster. He died of smallpox in 1882 in Arkansas.

There are two stories as to what became of Rudabaugh, the most common of which is:

On February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was involved in a cantina card game in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico which broke up after accusations of cheating. Rudabaugh and a Mexican man faced off and Rudabaugh shot him through the head. When another player drew and fired Rudabaugh put a bullet into his heart. Unable to find his horse, Rudabaugh returned to the cantina, which was now in total darkness. On entering Rudabaugh was jumped and decapitated. For the next several days, his killers were said to have paraded through town with his head on a pole.

Another story tells that Rudabaugh finally left Mexico with a herd of cattle headed to Montana where he lived a normal life, married and fathered three daughters. Later he died, an alcoholic in Oregon in 1928.


Allegedly, the head of Dirty Dave Rudabaugh

Allegedly, the head of Dirty Dave Rudabaugh

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2018.

Also See:

Billy The Kid – Teenage Outlaw of the Southwest

The Dodge City Gang

Las Vegas New Mexico

Pat Garrett

Fort Sumner

Outlaws & Legends

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