About Richard M. "Dick" Brewer
Richard M. "Dick" Brewer (February 19, 1850 — April 4, 1878), was an American cowboy and outlaw. He was the first leader of what historically is referred to as Billy the Kid's band (the Lincoln County Regulators), although Billy never led them.
Brewer was born in St. Albans, Vermont. At the age of four, he and his family moved to Boaz, Wisconsin. Brewer would move on to Missouri before arriving in Lincoln County, New Mexico. Brewer tried farming as a profession, and he bought a farm in Lincoln County with this in mind. In the spring of 1871, Brewer began working for Lawrence Murphy, but soon left that job. By 1876, he was working as a cattle foreman for cattleman John Tunstall, owner of one of the largest farms in the area.
Murphy and James Dolan had established a general store monopoly in Lincoln before Tunstall decided to compete with them, and saw Tunstall as an opponent and rival, rather than as merely a competitor. Alexander McSween began working for Tunstall, and as a consequence the Tunstall-McSween vs. Murphy-Dolan conflict began. According to historians, this violent war was instigated by Dolan, who hired gunmen from the Evans and Kinney gangs to rustle cattle from Tunstall, and harass him.
The Lincoln County War
On February 18, 1878, a turning point in the rivalry happened when Tunstall was murdered. After Tunstall's murder, a posse was deputized to serve arrest warrants on his killers, with Brewer chosen to lead the posse. The Regulators originated from that posse, and included Billy the Kid and Jose Chavez y Chavez. The forty-five gunmen who were chosen were, according to legend, among the best killers in the west. Brewer allegedly formed the group, and was himself a member.
Dick Brewer established a bond of friendship with Billy the Kid, Chavez and the rest of Billy the Kid's gang, and he was often accompanied by gang members. Being one of the founders of the Regulators, Brewer sometimes assumed a leadership role when around Billy, Chavez and the rest of their company, and was the first leader of the Regulators during the early stages of the Lincoln County War. The pair remained friends until Brewer's death, and evidently he followed Brewer's lead. Brewer was the most mature of the group, by all accounts, and the rest of the Regulators accepted him in that role.
The confirmed killings claimed to have been carried out by the Regulators during Brewer's period as leader were those of Sheriff William Brady, William Morton, deputy George W. Hindman, lawman/outlaw Frank Baker, Buckshot Roberts, and fellow Regulator William McCloskey, whom the Regulators believed to have betrayed them. Brewer did not agree with the killing of Sheriff Brady and Deputy Hindman, but supported and participated in the other murders.
Although most of those killed by the Regulators throughout their existence were publicly credited to Billy the Kid, most historians agree that there are doubts as to whether he was the actual killer in most cases, and agree that often their victims were killed during a shootout, with many members of the Regulators firing at the same time, including Brewer. It was, however, Billy the Kid that became best known, and through whose notoriety, the fame of the Regulators spread. Brewer was killed by an old buffalo hunter, Buckshot Roberts, during the Gunfight of Blazer's Mills, on April 4, 1878, during which five other Regulators were wounded. Buckshot Roberts was also killed during the gunfight, either by a shot fired by George Coe, whose finger was shot off by Roberts, or Charlie Bowdre.
In the 1988 movie, Young Guns, Brewer was played by Charlie Sheen. In the Young Guns movie, Brewer is portrayed as often reluctant to engage in arrests, when in fact it is most likely that he was an active participant and leader until his death.
Richard M. Brewer (1850-1878) - Born on February 19, 1850 in Franklin County, Vermont, his family moved to Wisconsin in 1860 and when the lad turned 18, he made his way west. Settling down in Lincoln County, New Mexico, he became a rancher and horse breeder. He soon befriended his neighbor John Tunstall who was in a feud with the Murphy/ Dolan faction, known as the Lincoln County War.
By March 1, 1878, when the rivalry had grown to gunplay, Brewer was appointed constable by the Magistrate. His group, known as "The Regulators,” included Billy the Kid and other deputies. Their purpose was to serve arrest warrants to members of the Dolan Gang for the ambush and murder of John Tunstall.
On April 4, 1878, Brewer led the Regulators to Blazer's Mill where they were confronted by one of the men they held a warrant for - Buckshot Roberts. Soon, the guns blazed and two Regulators were wounded and one killed - namely Constable Brewer. Buckshot Roberts was also killed and the two were buried side by side.