¡ CLASS of 1956 !




55th Reunion PHOTOS

ÜReturn to Table of Contents

Billy the Kid

In legend, Billy the Kid has been described as a vicious and ruthless killer, an outlaw who raised havoc in the New Mexico Territory and who took the lives of twenty-one men, one for each year of his life, the first one when he was just twelve years old. It was said that he was a rebel without a cause who killed without reason, other than to see his victims kick. These and many more accusations of callous acts are part of the myth of Billy the Kid.  In reality, the Kid was not the cold-blooded killer he has been portrayed as, but a young man who lived in a violent dog-eat-dog world during a very corrupt time, where knowing how to use a gun was the difference between life and death.

Billy the Kid’s real name was William Henry McCarty.  When and where he was born, or who or what happened to his father is not known. It’s estimated that he was born around 1860-61, possibly in New York. History traces the Kid as a youngster in Indiana in the late 1860s and in Wichita, Kansas in 1870. His mother, Catherine McCarty, was a widow and single mother to Billy and his younger brother Joseph, born in 1863. In 1871, Catherine was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and advised to move to a climate that was warmer and drier.

On March 1, 1873 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Catherine McCarty married a man named William Antrim. Since there were now two Billys in the household, the Kid’s mother referred to him by his middle name, Henry.

The family moved to Silver City in Grant County, located in southern New Mexico. Catherine was suffering from consumption and her health began to deteriorate rapidly, and on September 16, 1874, the Kid’s mother died.
Antrim didn’t want to be burdened with two small boys, so he separated them and placed them in foster homes and left Silver City for Arizona.  The Kid had to earn his own keep while staying at the foster home, so he was put to work washing dishes and waiting on tables at a restaurant. When Kid was 15, he fell in with a rough crowd. One of his troublemaking buddies, Sombrero Jack, stole some clothes from a Chinese laundry and told the Kid to hide the bundle. The Kid got caught with it and was arrested. The county sheriff decided to keep him locked up for a couple of days just to scare him, but the Kid escaped and ran away.

The Silver City newspaper reported: “Henry McCarty, who was arrested Thursday and committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury, upon the charge of stealing clothes from Charley Sun and Sam Chung, escaped from prison yesterday through the chimney. It’s believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack, who done the stealing whilst Henry done the hiding. Jack has skinned out.”

The Kid fled to his foster family and they put him on a stagecoach to Clifton, Arizona where his stepfather was living, but the stepfather didn’t want him and told the Kid to leave. Alone in a strange desert, the Kid wandered from one ranch to another doing odd jobs, and for the next 2 years he tramped around as a ranch hand. He met up with a horse thief name John Mackie who taught him the tricks of the trade and the two became partners. But after some close calls, an arrest and another escape from custody, the Kid decided it would be wise to give up his horse thieving career, so he returned the stolen horses in his possession to the army to clear himself and again got work as a ranch hand.

One day while at a saloon in Camp Grant, Arizona, the Kid, about sixteen at the time, got into a serious argument with a well-known tormenter named Frank “Windy” Cahill, who had picked on the Kid numerous times before.  Cahill bull-rushed the Kid, slammed him down on the ground, jumped on top of him and was hitting him in the face when Billy worked his hand free to his revolver and fired it into Cahill’s gut.  Cahill fell over and the Kid squirmed free, ran off, mounted the nearest horse and fled Camp Grant, not sticking around to face murder charges.  He returned to New Mexico. Now a known outlaw and murderer and unable to find honest work, the Kid was invited by another outlaw named Jesse Evans to link up with him and his gang of rustlers called “The Boys.” The Kid had nowhere else to go and he had to do something for work, so he joined the gang.

The gang made their way to Lincoln County where The Boys were hired by James Dolan and LG Murphy, local powerful merchant-bankers who were involved in a feud with a wealthy 24-year-old English cattleman, banker and entrepreneur named John Tunstall and his attorney-partner Alex McSween. The dispute
escalated into a serious conflict between Dolan and Murphy and other local businessmen against Tunstall and other wealthy ranchers, and was soon to become known as the Lincoln County War.

James Dolan was the protégé of LG Murphy, and when Murphy became ill with cancer and hospitalized in Santa Fe, Dolan stepped up to take his place. Supporting Dolan was the powerful Santa Fe Ring, a 'mafia' of the governor, various politicians and attorneys. Tunstall had come to Lincoln to start his own business and ranch, but Dolan didn’t like the competition and was determined to drive him away by whatever means necessary.  Tunstall refused to be intimidated and fought back with legal action, but soon Tunstall realized he couldn't fight his enemies the legal way due to the bias of Judge Bristol and Governor Sam Axtell, so he decided to fight fire with fire and hired his own gunmen. 

Along with other offenses against Tunstall, The Boys stole Tunstall’s livestock, arrests were made including the Kid, and they were jailed. Tunstall saw that this young rustler wasn’t a thug like the other men, he was an intelligent kid looking to earn a living and find a place to belong. So Tunstall gave him an ultimatum and a chance: if Kid testified against the other rustlers, Tunstall would hire him as an employee. The Kid took Tunstall’s offer.

Now fighting for the Tunstall side and with hope of a better future, the Kid changed his name to William Henry Bonney. Tensions in the feud between Dolan and Tunstall escalated to bloody violence, and John Tunstall was brutally murdered by members of Sheriff Brady’s posse and The Boys.  In response, Tunstall’s ranch hands formed a vigilante group called the “Regulators,” and now the war was really on.

The deputized Regulators tried to do things legally by serving warrants on Dolan and the other wealthy criminals, but against the paid-off Sheriff Brady and the biased court system, they soon realized they couldn’t count on justice being served, so they took the law into their own hands and killed Bill Morton, Frank Baker and William McCloskey.  Then they ambushed Sheriff Brady and his deputy George Hindman.  Lastly, they had a dramatic gunfight with Dolan gunman Buckshot Roberts, but during that shootout the Regulators' leader Dick Brewer was killed.

The Regulators had been particularly bitter towards Bill Morton, because he'd led the posse that murdered their well-liked boss Tunstall.  William McCloskey was a Regulator suspected of playing both ends of the table because he'd tried to intervene in Morton and Baker’s execution after the Regulators arrested them.  The Sheriff Brady shooting, carried out by six members of the Regulators, the Kid included, was in retaliation for the murder of Tunstall.  The Regulators ambushed the sheriff and four of his deputies as they walked down the street in Lincoln to arrest Alex McSween, the new Regulator leader.

The Regulators' revenge only made things worse, they were now viewed as the bad guys and warrants were issued for their arrest.

Dolan's gunmen, with newly-appointed sheriff George Peppin and his men, surrounded the McSween house, with Alex McSween, Billy and several other Regulators trapped inside. Dolan sent for Colonel Dudley at Fort Stanton for assistance. The colonel came with troops, along with a Howitzer and Gatling gun. On the fifth day of the siege, the Dolan side was getting impatient, so they set the house on fire. By nightfall, the house was completely ablaze and heat from the flames was overwhelming. The trapped Regulators were now in a panic, no way to escape, but the cool-headed Billy, about seventeen years old, took over leadership of the men and divided them into two groups, one group to go out the door first, running fast in one direction to draw the line of fire so the 2nd group led by McSween could make a run in the other direction, this way making sure at least some would get away. When the first men ran out of the burning house, the Dolan side opened fire as expected and then all hell broke loose, and in the melee McSween and three other men were killed.  Billy the Kid and the others escaped into the darkness.

The Regulators disbanded and the Kid became a fugitive.

Since Billy the Kid was unable to settle down, he made his living on the move by gambling and rustling cattle. When he heard about Governor Axtell being replaced by Lew Wallace, whose aim was to bring law and order to Lincoln, Billy wrote to Governor Wallace that he was tired of running and would surrender to authorities and testify against the Dolan side to have his murder charges dropped. The governor agreed and promised the Kid a full pardon.

The Kid surrendered and testified in court, but the 'Santa Fe Ring' still had influence over the court system, and all members of the Dolan side, including James Dolan, were acquitted. The Kid was in very unfriendly territory and one of his main threats was prosecutor attorney William Rynerson, a member of the 'Ring' who wanted to put the Kid on trial for the murder of Sheriff Brady.  The Kid felt betrayed when he learned that Governor Wallace didn’t have the power to pardon him without Rynerson’s cooperation, and he saw that the governor would not pressure the attorney to collaborate.  With Wallace leaving the Kid to his fate, and Billy knowing that he didn’t stand a chance in court, he escaped.

On the outlaw run again, the Kid went back to making a living the only way he knew how – rustling. There were other outlaws and rustlers in New Mexico, way more despicable than Billy, but the Kid had a certain charisma that gained him fame and he was singled out by the newspapers who built him up into the legend of "Billy the Kid." 

Since the ending of the Lincoln County War, the Kid spent the following two years eluding the law, living in and around Fort Sumner, a former military fort transformed into a tiny Mexican village.  While in Fort Sumner, Billy killed a drunk named Joe Grant at a saloon, but the killing was shrugged off and got no attention because Grant had drawn his gun on Billy first. 
Before the shooting, Billy had sensed trouble from Grant, so he casually asked to see his gun.  Pretending to admire it, Billy spun the cylinder so the hammer would fall on an empty chamber before handing the gun back to Grant. This wise precautionary move saved the Kid's life, because when Grant got back the gun, he immediately turned on Billy and fired. The gun just clicked and then the Kid got his turn, but his gun went BANG.

Unfortunately the Kid soon got into serious trouble that did get plenty of attention, it happened when a posse from White Oaks surrounded the Kid and his gang at a station house, and during the standoff the posse accidentally killed their own deputy, James Carlyle.  Of course the death was blamed on the Kid, and this news destroyed any remaining sympathy the public had for him.

Pat Garrett was elected sheriff and made US Marshal to hunt for Billy the Kid.  He was familiar with the Kid’s habits and hideouts, which may've shown that Garrett perhaps had been a rustler himself, or at one time may have ridden with the Kid.  During the pursuit for Billy, Garrett ended up killing two of the Kid’s closest comrades, Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre. Finally on December 23, 1880, Garrett trapped the Kid and three other gang members at a cabin in Stinking Springs.  After a short standoff, Billy came out and surrendered.

Billy the Kid was quickly put on trial in Mesilla and was sentenced to hang for the murder of Sheriff Brady. After his sentence was passed, the Kid was taken to Lincoln to await his hanging. The Kid was shackled and imprisoned in a room in the Lincoln courthouse as two deputies took turns guarding him.  On April 28, 1881, the Kid made his most daring escape-- which would also be his last.  The Kid was successful in getting a drop on the lone guard, Deputy James Bell, by slipping his hand out of the handcuffs and using the heavy restraints to hit the deputy over the head. The Kid then grabbed Bell's pistol and told him to throw up his hands, but instead the deputy ran and the Kid shot him, intending to temporarily disable Bell so he could escape, but the shot proved fatal.  The other guard Bob Olinger was across the street having dinner when he heard the gunshots. He ran toward the building and as the Kid saw him approaching, he shot Olinger down with a shotgun.  The Kid then jumped on a handy horse and rode out of Lincoln a free man, headed to the only place he could call home: Fort Sumner.

Bob Olinger was a sadistic bully and an old enemy of Billy the Kid.  While Billy was incarcerated, he took pleasure in tormenting the Kid and used his shotgun as intimidation. That's why when Olinger ran toward the courthouse, the Kid didn’t hesitate to shoot him with Olinger's own shotgun. The Kid’s original plan of escape was to take Bell prisoner, lock him up, and slip out unseen before Olinger came back.

The Kid decided to lie low long enough for the law to give up hunting him, then he could 'rustle' up some money and leave the territory, so he bunked with friend Pete Maxwell in Fort Sumner.  By July 1881, Garrett was hearing rumors that Billy the Kid was in the Fort Sumner area, so with two deputies he rode into Fort Sumner.

On July 14, 1881, Pat Garrett waited till the town was quiet, then he slipped into Pete Maxwell’s house; Garrett had been an employee of Pete Maxwell and it's possible that it was Maxwell who tipped Garrett off that the Kid was in the area.  A few minutes after Garrett entered Maxwell's house, the Kid came around the corner approaching the house but when he saw Garrett’s two deputies on the porch and didn't recognize the strangers, he sneaked cautiously around the house and entered the back way, and standing at  Maxwell’s bedroom door he quietly asked “Pete, who are those fellows outside?” He got no answer and went into the bedroom, where he saw a silhouette, Garrett in hiding.  Billy started backing away and asked in Spanish, “Who's there?”
Garrett recognized the Kid’s voice and fired his gun, the bullet pierced the Kid's heart and Billy fell to the floor. Garrett and Maxwell ran out of the room and huddled outside with the two deputies and waited, listening to the Kid gasping for breath, and then all was quiet; Billy the Kid was dead.

The next day Billy the Kid was buried at the Fort Sumner cemetery near his two fallen companions, Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre. He was killed not for who he “really” was, but for what people “thought” he was. He was a pawn in a brutal losing game and was made a scapegoat for other outlaws’ crimes.  This young man lived a short life but he made a lasting impression. If it weren’t for the attraction to Billy the Kid, the history of the Lincoln County War and its participants would've been long forgotten.  And thanks to Billy, there is a steady flow of tourists to New Mexico who come mainly to visit the Billy the Kid sites.  Billy the Kid's legend is popular the world over.  He'll forever be known as the Old West's favorite outlaw.

What Did Billy's Friends Think About Him?

Most of Billy the Kid's legend was built on accounts by his enemies, which were accepted as gospel by many because those were the stories published in the newspapers.  The following is a composite of comments by the Kid’s pals and acquaintances from their own writings and interviews with biographers and journalists.

Anthony Conner Jr. (Childhood friend from Silver City): “We were just boys together. I never remember Billy doing anything out of the way, anymore than the rest of us. Billy got to be quite a reader. He would scarcely have his dishes washed, until he would be sprawled out somewhere reading a book. It was the same down at the butcher shop, if he was helping around there. The first thing you know, he would be reading. Anything he could find to read, which was usually the Police Gazette and dime novels.” 

Louis Abraham (Another childhood friend from Silver City): “The story of Billy the Kid killing a blacksmith in Silver City is false. Billy never was in any trouble at all; he was a good boy, a little mischievous at times like the rest of us, and he did have a little more nerve. When the boy was placed in jail for the laundry theft and escaped, he was just scared.  That's what started all of Billy's troubles.  If he had only waited until they let him out, he would've been all right, but he was scared and ran away.  Then he got in with a band of rustlers at Apache Tejo where he was made a hardened character in order to survive.” 

H.F. Smith (Ranch foreman, shortly before the Kid killed Windy Cahill at Camp Grant): “He said he was seventeen, though he didn’t look to be fourteen. I gave him a job helping around camp. He hadn’t worked very long until he wanted his money. I asked him if he was going to quit. He said, ‘No, I want to buy some things.’ I asked him how much he wanted and tried to get him to take $10 for I thought that was enough for him to spend, but he hesitated and asked for $40. I gave it to him. He went down to the post trader and bought himself a whole outfit: six-shooter, belt, scabbard, and cartridges.”

Frank Coe (A Regulator and close friend): “The Kid stayed with me at my home for most of one winter, during which time we became staunch friends. I never enjoyed better company. He was humorous and told me many amusing stories. He always found a touch of humor in everything, being naturally full of fun and jollity. Though he was serious in emergencies, his humor was often apparent even in such situations. Billy stood with us to the end, brave and reliable, one of the best soldiers we had. He never pushed in his advice or opinions, but he had a wonderful presence of mind; the tighter the place the more he showed his cool nerve and quick brain. He was a fine horseman, quick and always in the lead, at the same time he was kind to his horses and never overworked them, so they were always ready and fresh when he needed to make a dash. He never seemed to care for money, except to buy cartridges with; then he would prefer to gamble for them straight. Cartridges were scarce, and he always used about ten times as many as anyone else, he would practice shooting at every thing he saw and from every conceivable angle, on and off his horse. He never drank. He would go to the bar with anyone, but I never saw him drink a drop, and he never used tobacco in any form that I knew of.  Always in a good humor and ready to do a kind act for someone.”

George Coe (Another Regulator and close friend): “Billy was a brave, resourceful and honest boy; he would have been a successful man under other circumstances. I loved the youngster in the old days, and can say now, after the passing of fifty years, that I still love his memory. When Billy was killed in 1881 by Pat Garrett, I was in Rio Arriba County. Though I heard the news with sorrow, it was by no means a surprise. His opponents were constantly on his trail, making his capture and killing merely a question of time. It was impossible for him to work or make an honest livelihood; otherwise many of his friends would gladly have hired him and given him a chance to settle down under Governor Wallace’s terms of pardon. But the Kid was never permitted to have a normal life, his enemies were determined to ruin and kill him and they would not stop until they had done so.  Now understand, the reason they were after Billy wasn't righteousness, it was money, there was a large reward on Billy's head.  Cattlemen were organizing their associations and employing men to rid the county of thieves, and although Billy was a horse thief, he was by no means the most outstanding or successful, but because he was so well-known and had the big price on his head, he became the target of the officers. The only motive behind Pat Garrett’s relentless pursuit of the Kid was that his death meant a chunk of money and the office of Sheriff of Lincoln County. The Kid was a thousand times better and braver than any man hunting him, including Pat Garrett.”

Susan McSween (Alex McSween’s wife): “Billy was not a bad man; that is, he was not a murderer who killed wantonly. Those he did kill was in defense or because they deserved to die.  I defend his stealing of horses and cattle by considering that the Murphy, Dolan and Riley people forced him into such a lawless life through efforts to secure his arrest and conviction, it is hard to blame the boy for what he did because there was no way they let him have an honest job or normal life. One thing is certain; Billy was as brave as they make them and knew how to defend himself. He was charged with practically all the killings in Lincoln County in those days, but that was simply because his name had become synonymous with daring and fearlessness, and he was a perfect scapegoat. When Sheriff William Brady was killed, we all regretted it, not that any of us cared much about the sheriff who was as corrupt as they come, but because of the manner in which it was done. Quite naturally, the killing of the representative of justice turned many or our friends against us and did our side more harm in the public mind.  Brady was killed by a number of bullets, being shot at by the whole bunch of men hidden behind the adobe wall of the corral in the rear of Tunstall/McSween store.  Billy said he tried to shoot Bill Matthews, who was walking with Brady, and did not even aim at Brady.  Billy's subsequent conviction for killing Sheriff Brady was based on insufficient evidence and was most unjust.  I have believed that if Mr. Tunstall had lived, Billy, under his guidance, would have become a valuable citizen, for he was a remarkable boy, far above the average of the young men of those times and he undoubtedly had the making of a fine man in him.”

Hijinio (Yginio) Salazar (Regulator and close friend): “Billy the Kid was the bravest man I ever knew. He did not know what fear meant. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was kind and good to poor people, and he was always a gentleman, no matter where he was. When in danger, he was the coolest man I ever saw, he acted like a flash from a gun. He was quick, when he aimed his pistol and fired, something dropped, he never missed his mark. I lived in Fort Sumner for a while and know many people there who saw Billy’s body after Pat Garrett killed him. I have read some of the accounts claiming he is alive, but I don’t believe them. It is possible that another Billy the Kid might be living and that he might be seeking to connect himself with the famous Billy the Kid. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that William H. Bonney, the Billy the Kid I knew and fought with, was killed by Pat Garrett in Pete Maxwell’s bedroom.”

Carlota Baca Brent (A former resident of Lincoln County in a 1938 interview): “Today the Kid is featured as a mean man and other lies, including that he was dark as a Mexican, but he was a good man.  And he had a light complexion and was such a handsome boy who was always smiling; he was brave and loyal to his friends.  When the Kid was gone, many Spanish girls mourned for him.”

Lily Casey Klasner (She didn’t have much fondness for the Kid since he killed her boyfriend Bob Olinger, but even she admitted he had good qualities): “The Kid had a great personality, and could ingratiate himself in people's good graces very quickly. He had laughing blue eyes and was always smiling or laughing, he was quick-witted and very good hearted, had an innocent timid look, and all of this took with the girls at once.”

Dr. Henry Hoyt (A friend of Billy the Kid): “Billy was an expert at most Western sport, with the exception of drinking. He was a handsome youth with a smooth face, wavy light hair, an athletic and symmetrical figure, and clear blue eyes that could look one through and through. Unless angry, he always had a pleasant expression with a ready smile. His head was well shaped, his features regular, his nose aquiline, his most noticeable irregular characteristic a slight projection of his upper front teeth. He spoke Spanish like a native, and although only a beardless boy, was nevertheless a natural leader of men. With his poise, iron nerve, and all-round efficiency properly applied, the Kid could have made a success anywhere.”

Martin Chavez (In a interview with Miguel Otero Jr. author of “The Real Billy the Kid” in the mid 1930s): “Most of the accounts of the Lincoln County War are far from true. The stories I have read were written by Pat Garrett, Charlie Siringo, Harvey Fergusson and Walter Noble Burns and are filled with inaccuracies and discrepancies, and do no justice to the Kid. All the wrongs have been charged to Billy, yet we who really knew him, know that he was a  good man and had fine qualities. We have not put our impressions of him into print and our silence has been the cause of great injustice to the Kid.” 

John Meadows (A Lincoln County resident and friend):  “He must have had good stuff in him, for he was always an expert at whatever he tried to do. When he was rough, he was rough as men ever get to be… too awful rough at times, but everything in the country was rough back then. He done some things I can’t endorse, but Kid certainly had good feelings.” On the Kid's killing of jail guards Bell and Olinger:  “Kid told me exactly how it was done. He said he was lying on the floor on his stomach, and shot Bell as he ran down the stairs. Kid said of this killing, ‘I did not want to kill Bell, but I had to do so in order to save my own life. It was a case of having to, not wanting to.’” As for Olinger, Meadows recalls the Kid saying: “I stuck the gun through the window and said, ‘Look up, old boy, and see what you're getting,’ Bob looked up and I let him have both barrels right in the face and chest. I never felt so good in all my life as I did when I pulled the trigger and saw Olinger fall to the ground.”  Meadows... “Olinger had been very mean to him. In talking about it with me, Kid said, ‘He used to work me over until I could hardly breathe.’”

Jesus Silva (Fort Sumner resident and friend, commenting on the events that led to the killing of Billy the Kid. An  interview with Jack Hull 1937): “ It was the night of July 14, 1881. It had been a hot day throughout the valley and Mesa Redondo country. I had strolled over to a neighbor’s house and on my return had stopped under a Cottonwood tree for a moment, when the Kid, whom I had known for some time, strolled up. He was hot and tired and we drank a beer together. He told me he was staying at the home of Don Pedro Maxwell and that he was on his way there for a cut of fresh beef for his supper, which was being prepared at a nearby house, I assumed by a lady friend of the Kid. We parted there and in a few minutes I heard shots, I ran over there and Garrett, who had run out of the house, told me to go in and see if the Kid was dead.  I did, along with Deluvina, and there on the floor was Billy stretched out, face down.  We turned him over, and when Deluvina realized fully it was the Kid, she began to cry bitterly, interspersing with her tears the vilest curses she could bestow on the head of Pat Garrett.  We asked permission to remove the body and Pete Maxwell suggested we take Billy to the old carpenter’s shop.  We laid the body on the carpenter’s bench and placed candles around the corpse.”  Shortly before the Kid was killed... “We had heard strange voices coming from the peach orchard but had given no thought to who it might be. If we had, the Kid’s life might have been saved. It was Pat Garrett and his two deputies. Billy would not have walked into the trap laid for him. Someone in Fort Sumner must have given Billy away.”  Later: “I have heard reports which say that Billy the Kid is still alive. I know with certainty that Pat Garrett killed the Kid on July 14, 1881, in Pete Maxwell’s bedroom. I also know with absolute certainty that he was buried in the old graveyard the next day.”

Deluvina Maxwell (Resident of Fort Sumner and friend commenting on the night the Kid was killed): “He (Garrett) was afraid to go back to the room to make sure of whom he had shot! I went in and was the first to discover that they had killed my little boy. I hated those men and am glad that I have lived long enough to see them all dead and buried.”

Frank Lobato (Friend and Fort Sumner resident, commenting on the night the Kid was killed): “Billy had been very popular at Fort Sumner and had a great many friends, all of whom were mighty indignant towards Pat Garrett.  If a leader had been present, Garrett and his two officers would have received the same fate they dealt Billy.”

Vicente Otero (Fort Sumner resident, also helped dig the Kid’s grave): “I was at Fort Sumner the night Billy the Kid was killed. I went to the carpenter’s shop and stood at the wake all that night. Jesus Silva made a wooden box, which served as the coffin for the Kid. The next day Silva and I dug the Kid’s grave and buried the body in the old graveyard. I know the exact spot of Billy’s burial though I have not been to the graveyard for many years.”

Miguel Otero Jr. (Author of “The Real Billy the Kid,” supposedly he met the Kid after his arrest while riding on the same train car with him to Santa Fe): “I liked the Kid very much, and long before we reached Santa Fe, nothing would have pleased me more than to have witnessed his escape. He had more than his share of good qualities and was very pleasant. He had a reputation for being considerate of the old, the young, and the poor; he was loyal to his friends and above all, loved his mother devotedly. He was unfortunate in starting life, and became a victim of circumstances. In looking back to my first meeting with Billy the Kid, my impressions were most favorable and I can honestly say that he was a man more sinned against than sinning.”

Quick information and personal tidbits about Billy the Kid

Name: William Henry McCarty. Teenage name: Kid Antrim (his stepfather was named Antrim). Outlaw name: William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid

Nickname: Kid

Birthdate: Unknown (1859-61)

Date of death: July 14, 1881 (shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett)

Place of birth: Unknown (possibly New York or Indiana)

Family: Father, unknown. Mother, Catherine McCarty/Antrim. Half-Brother, Joseph McCarty /Antrim. Step-father, William Henry Harrison Antrim.

Height: 5’8’’

Weight: 140 lbs

Eyes: Clear Blue

Hair: Sandy Blonde to Light Brown

Marital Status: Single. The Kid never married, but he had plenty of girlfriends. It's possible he may have fathered a child or two out of wedlock (with which girlfriend is anyone's guess), but this possibility is only built on rumor and gossip. So far no evidence supports any claim that Billy the Kid fathered a child.

Childhood background: Billy the Kid's father died or left his mother when he was very young. The Kid may not have even known his father. Throughout his childhood he lived in Indiana, Kansas, and Colorado before his family settled in Silver City, New Mexico. When the Kid was 13-14 years old, his mother died in 1874. He and his younger Joseph brother were placed by their step-father into separate foster homes and abandoned.  A year after his mother's death, the Kid got involved in petty theft and was arrested.  He escaped and began his outlaw journey.

Personality traits: Great sense of humor, intelligent, good-natured and generous. Optimistic, determined, cunning and reckless. He was dependable and would risk his life for those he cared about. His faults were stubborness and a “they’ll-never-catch-me” attitude, which resulted Billy pushing his luck to its limits.  He had a tendency to trust the wrong people and rarely heeded the advice of his friends. His greatest mistake was not leaving the territory after his jailbreak; he had more than enough time before Sheriff Garrett caught up with him.  Due to his notable good qualities, most friends and acquaintances believed that if Billy the Kid had gotten a decent start in life, he never would've became an outlaw.

Most noticeable apparel: A sugar-loaf sombrero hat with a wide decorative band.

Favorite Songs: “Silver Threads Among the Gold” and “Turkey in the Straw.”

Favorite type of dancing: Polkas and Square dancing.

Hobbies and interests: Singing and dancing, the Kid loved to party. He enjoyed gambling and his favorite card games were Monte and Poker. He also loved to bet on and participate in horse racing. Target-shooting was another favorite past-time and he enjoyed showing off to his friends his gun-twirling abilities.  He could take two revolvers, one in each hand, twirl one gun in one direction and the other in the opposite direction at the same time. In his more quiet moments, he used leisure time to meticulously clean his firearms, and he was an avid reader.

Firearms he used: Billy the Kid was known to use the Colt single action .44 and Colt double-action .41 caliber called the “Thunderer.” He may have also used the .38 caliber version called the “Lightning.”  His weapon of choice, and the most prized, was his Winchester 73 rifle.

ÜReturn to Table of Contents