William Henry "Billy the Kid" Bonney (McCarty) (c.1859 - 1881)

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Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Death: Died in Fort Sumner, NM, USA
Cause of death: Killed by Sheriff Garrett
Managed by: mi² Anderson, (c) ♥
Last Updated:

About William Henry "Billy the Kid" Bonney (McCarty)

WHO ARE BILLY'S PARENTS?

To this day, genealogists are still stumped. There have been various books published with different information. Billy used to lie about his identity often, including his age and birth to Census intakers. He was an outlaw, of course he lied! All we know is that his mother's name was Catherine Devine or McCarty, Katherine Beaujean or Katherine Bonney. His father can't be proven, but theory says that his name could be William Harrison Bonney, Patrick Henry McCarty, Patrick McCarthy, and a few more. All we know is that FOR SURE, according to Census, his mother married a man named Antrim.

  • Joseph McCarty, later changed his name to Joseph McCarty-Antrim. He is thought to be Billy the Kid's younger half-brother as they had different features and build (Joseph was taller, stockier, nose was different, and he did not have crooked protruding teeth like his older brother), possibly the son of a McCarty or McCarthy. His lineage is also a mystery.

BILLY'S NAMES

  • Henry McCarty
  • William Henry McCarty
  • Henry Antrim
  • Billy Antrim
  • William Antrim
  • Kid Antrim
  • Austin Antrim
  • The Kid
  • William H. Bonney
  • Billy Bonney
  • Billy Kid
  • Kid Bonney
  • Billy the Kid
  • Captain Kidd
  • Billy Coyle (questionable)
  • Billy Donovan (questionable)
  • Billy Conley (questionable)
  • El Chivato
  • El Bandito
  • Little Casino
  • William Wright
  • The Young Kid
  • Bilitos
  • Martin Garcia, alias he used when he allegedly married Abrana S. Garcia

"The Real Billy the Kid" by Miguel Antonio Otero is one of the best authentic sources for his life from a non-biased perspective. Otero befriended Billy and accompanied him from Las Vegas NM to Santa Fe in chains. Otero later became Governor of New Mexico and wrote extensively of his "Life in the Frontier". Miguel Otero is one of my cousins, another Otero cousin helped make the coffin and buried Billy. Our family looks favorably on Billy, we have some stories of him from our Jaramillo cousins. (by Dr. Denis Ismael HaLevi-Otero) ISBN-10: 1558852344 ISBN-13: 978-1558852341

Introduction

Source: About Billy the Kid William H. Bonney alias Billy the Kid is probably the most misunderstood historical figure of the Old West. He was not a cold-blooded killer, nor was he a robber of trains or banks. Instead he was a gunfighter in a feud between two factions in which both sides stole from each other and killed. The Lincoln County War would have turned out exactly the way it did if Billy the Kid never took part in it. His role in the LCW was minor -he wasn’t the leader but a follower. Although Billy the Kid was one of many who fought and killed during the LCW, he was the only one that faced conviction and was sentence to death. So Billy the Kid used his wit and courage to escape his date with the hangman which boost his notoriety even more. If his spectacular escape wasn't enough, his controversial death was the final dramatic ending to his story. But it wasn't the end, Billy the Kid lives on in history and legend.

Please take notice of the footnote numbers in parenthesis within the summary, you will find the footnotes at the end of the paragraph in italics

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Billy the Kid’s real name was William Henry McCarty (1), 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 first traces the Kid as a youngster in Indiana in the late 1860s and then in Wichita, Kansas in 1870. His mother Catherine McCarty was a widow and single mother and he had a younger brother named Joseph (born 1863). By 1871, Catherine was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was told to move to a climate that was warmer and drier.

Footnote 1: There's a mystery with the last name of McCarty; it's speculated that it may be his father's name, mother's maiden name, or the last name of his half brother's father.

On March 1, 1873 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Catherine McCarty married a man named William Antrim. Since there were now two Billies in the household, the Kid’s mother referred to him by his middle name, he was now Henry McCarty-Antrim (2).

Footnote 2: It’s my guess that Billy the Kid’s stepfather never legally adopted his stepsons, since the Kid would also be referred to by his last name “McCarty” in Silver City.

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. Then on September 16, 1874, the Kid’s mother died.

Antrim didn’t want to be burden with two small boys, so he separated them and placed them in foster homes and left Silver City for Arizona. The Kid now had to earn his own keep, so he was put to work washing dishes and waiting on tables at a restaurant. After a year of no parental guidance and looking out for himself, the Kid quickly fell in with the wrong crowd. One of his troublemaking buddies, Sombrero Jack, stole some laundry from a Chinese laundry cleaner 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 (3).

Footnote 3: 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, celestials, sans cue, sans Joss sticks, 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 one of his foster families and they put him on a stagecoach to Clifton, Arizona where his stepfather was living, but when he found his stepfather he didn’t want him and told the Kid to leave. All alone in a strange desert, the Kid wandered from one ranch to another to find work. For the next 2 years the Kid tramped around as a ranch hand and gambler. He then 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, arrest, and escaping from custody, the Kid decided it was wiser to give up his new occupation. He returned some stolen horses to the army to clear himself and got work as a ranch hand.

One day while at a saloon in Camp Grant, Arizona, the Kid who was about sixteen at the time, got into serious trouble. He got into an argument with a bully named Frank “Windy” Cahill, who had picked on him numerous times before. After some name-calling, Cahill rushed the Kid and slammed him down on the ground, then jumped on top of him and proceeded to slap him in the face. The Kid worked his hand free to his revolver and fired it into Cahill’s gut. When Cahill fell over the Kid squirmed free, ran off, and mounted the nearest horse and fled Camp Grant.

The Kid didn’t stick around to face murder charges and left Arizona and returned to New Mexico. Now an outlaw and unable to find honest work, the Kid met up with another outlaw named Jesse Evans, who was the leader of a gang of rustlers called “The Boys.” The Kid didn't have anywhere else to go and since it was suicide to be alone in the hostile and lawless territory, the Kid reluctantly joined the gang.

The gang made their way to Lincoln County where the Boys joined forces with James Dolan, who was currently in a feud against an Englishman entrepreneur named John Tunstall and his attorney and partner Alex McSween. The feud would be famously known as the Lincoln County War (4).

Footnote 4: James Dolan was the protégé of LG Murphy and when Murphy became ill of cancer and hospitalized in Santa Fe, Dolan stepped up to take his place. Supporting Dolan was the powerful Santa Fe Ring (similar to a mafia) in which members consisted of the governor, politicians and attorneys. Tunstall came to Lincoln to start his own business and ranch, but Dolan didn’t like the competition and set out to drive him away. Tunstall refused to be intimidated and instead tried to fight back with legal action. When Tunstall realized he couldn't fight his enemies the legal way due to the bias Judge Bristol and Governor Sam Axtell, Tunstall decided to fight fire with fire and hired his own gunmen. The feud then turned into an all out war.

The Boys started to steal Tunstall’s livestock, so arrests were made and the Kid eventually was caught and placed in jail. Tunstall noticed something different about this rustler, he wasn’t rough like the other men, but just a boy who got a bad start in life and was looking for place to belong. So Tunstall gave him an ultimatum: if he 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 in the hopes of a better future, the Kid changed his name to William H. Bonney, but his friends called him “Kid.” Tensions were high and the feud between Dolan and Tunstall escalated in to bloody violence. John Tunstall was brutally murder by members of Sheriff Brady’s posse and the Boys. Tunstall’s ranch hands then formed a vigilante group called “the Regulators.” Now the war was on.

At first the deputized Regulators tried to do things legally by serving warrants, but with the prejudice Sheriff Brady and the bias court system, they couldn’t count on justice being served. So they took the law in their own hands. They retaliated by killing Bill Morton, Frank Baker and William McCloskey. Then they ambushed Sheriff Brady and his deputy George Hindman in Lincoln (5). Lastly, they had a dramatic gunfight with Dolan gunman Buckshot Roberts, but during that shootout their leader Dick Brewer was killed.

Footnote 5: The Regulators were particular bitter towards Bill Morton, because he led the posse that murdered Tunstall and was one of those that shot him. As for William McCloskey, he was a Regulator suspected for playing both ends of the table and tried to intervene in Morton and Baker’s execution after the Regulator’s arrested them. As for the Brady shooting, six members of the Regulators (the Kid included) ambushed the sheriff and four of his deputies as they walked down the street in Lincoln to arrest Alex McSween.

The Regulators revenge only made things worse. They were now viewed as the bad guys and warrants were put out for their arrest.

Now the Dolan side struck back. Dolan's gunmen and newly appointed sheriff, George Peppin and his men, had the McSween house surrounded with Alex McSween and many of the Regulators trapped in side. 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 were overwhelming. The Regulators began to panic, so the cool-headed Billy the Kid, only about seventeen years old, took over leadership of the men. The Kid divided the men into two groups, he lead his party out the door first and ran in one direction so as to draw the line of fire towards them so McSween’s party could make a run in another direction and get away. When the men began to run out of the burning house the Dolan side opened fire and all hell broke loose. McSween and three men were killed, but Billy the Kid and the others escaped into the darkness.

The war was over; the Regulators disbanded and the Kid was now a fugitive.

Billy the Kid was unable to settle down, so he made his living by gambling and rustling cattle. The Kid heard about Governor Axtell being replaced by Lew Wallace, who was now trying to bring law and order to Lincoln. The Kid wrote to the governor 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 had influence over the court system, so members of the Dolan side, including James Dolan, were acquitted. The Kid was in unfriendly territory and one of his threats was prosecutor attorney William Rynerson, who was part of the “Ring” and 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, nor was the governor pressuring the attorney to collaborate. Wallace simply lost interest and left the Kid to his fate. Billy the Kid knew he didn’t stand a chance in court and he had lost faith in the governor, so he escaped.

On the run again and an outlaw, the Kid went back to making a living the only way he knew how –rustling. There were other outlaws and rustlers in New Mexico, much worse than Billy the Kid, but the Kid had gain fame and was singled out by the newspapers who had built him up into something he wasn’t. It was the newspapers who had given him a name that he would forever be known as “Billy the Kid.”

Since the end of the Lincoln County War, the Kid spent the next two years eluding the law and living in and around Fort Sumner (a former military fort transformed into a tiny Mexican village). While in Fort Sumner, he would kill a drunk at a saloon (6), but the killing was shrugged off and got almost no attention, but unfortunately, the Kid got into more 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, during the standoff the posse accidentally killed their own deputy, James Carlyle. Of course the death was credited to the Kid and destroyed any ounce of sympathy the public had for him, not to mention, any chance for him to get things squared up with the governor to get his pardon.

Footnote 6: Before the shooting, Billy the Kid sensed trouble from a man named Joe Grant and he casually went up to him and asked to see his gun. As he pretended to admire it, he spun the cylinder so the hammer would fall on an empty chamber. This wise precautionary move saved the Kid's life, because Grant then pulled his gun on him and fired. The gun clicked and then the Kid had his turn but his gun went BANG.

As the Kid dodged the law, 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 show that Garrett may have been a rustler himself or at one time may have ridden with the Kid. During the pursuit for Billy the Kid, 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 the Kid came out and surrendered.

Billy the Kid was quickly put on trial in Mesilla and was sentence 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 over 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 jerked Bell's pistol and told him to throw up his hands, but instead the deputy ran and the Kid had no choice but to shoot him. 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 (7). The Kid rode out of Lincoln a free man and headed to the only place he could call home: Fort Sumner.

Footnote 7: Bob Olinger was a bully and an old enemy of Billy the Kid. He took pleasure in tormenting the helpless prisoner and used his shotgun to intimidate him. So when Olinger ran to the courthouse, the Kid didn’t hesitate to shoot him with his 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 laid low long enough until the law would give up hunting him and he could “rustle” up some money and leave the territory. By July of 1881, Garrett heard rumors that Billy the Kid was in the Fort Sumner area, so with two deputies he rode into Fort Sumner.

On July 14, 1881 just before midnight, Pat Garrett waited till the town was quiet before he slipped into Pete Maxwell’s room to ask him about Billy the Kid. Garrett was a former employee of Pete Maxwell's and it's possible that Maxwell tipped Garrett off that the Kid was in the area. At that exact moment, the Kid with a knife in hand went to Maxwell’s house to get some fresh beef for a late steak dinner. As he approached, he saw Garrett’s two deputies on the porch and since he didn't recognizing the strangers, he backed cautiously into Maxwell’s room and asked “Pete, who are those fellows outside?” He got no answer and as he walked towards the bed, he saw Garrett’s silhouette and started to back away and asked in Spanish, “Whose there?” Garrett recognized the Kid’s voice and fired his gun. The bullet pierced the Kid's heart and he fell to the floor. Garrett and Maxwell ran out of the room and huddled outside with the two deputies and waited. They could hear as the Kid gasped for breath and then all was quiet -Billy the Kid was dead (8).

Footnote 8: It’s of great speculation whether or not the Kid was armed with a gun. There's also something fishy about this whole incident and there may have been more foul play then we're led to believe. Garrett may have deliberately been waiting in the dark to shoot the Kid.

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 losing game and he was made a scapegoat for other outlaws’ crimes. Although he did participate in killings, the men he fought against were much worse than he ever was. This nineteen or twenty year old lived a short life but made a lasting impression. If it weren’t for our attraction to Billy the Kid, the history of the Lincoln County War and its participants would've been long forgotten. Thanks to Billy the Kid, New Mexico has a thriving business in tourism as a steady flow of tourists each year come to visit the Billy the Kid sites. Even in death Billy the Kid is likeable and he has a large following with people all over the word. A matter of fact, Billy the Kid is known as the Old West's most favorite outlaw.

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Henry McCarty; aka Billy the Kid; aka Willian H Bonney (he used his grandfather's name).

a 19th century American frontier outlaw and gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War. According to legend, he killed over 20 white men and a number of Mexicans and Indians,[2]but he is generally accepted to have killed four men.[2]

McCarty (or Bonney, the name he used at the height of his notoriety) was 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) to 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall with blue eyes, a smooth complexion and prominent front teeth. He was said to be friendly and personable at times, and many recalled that he was as "lithe as a cat".] Contemporaries described him as a "neat" dresser who favored an "unadorned Mexican sombrero".

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Wikipedia William Bonney (English)

Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid, but also known by the aliases Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney (reportedly November 23, 1859 – July 14, 1881), was a 19th century American frontier outlaw and gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War. According to legend, he killed 21 men, but he is generally accepted to have killed between four and nine.

McCarty (or Bonney, the name he used at the height of his notoriety) was 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm) to 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) tall with blue eyes, a smooth complexion and prominent front teeth. He was said to be friendly and personable at times, and many recalled that he was as "lithe as a cat".[4] Contemporaries described him as a "neat" dresser who favored an "unadorned Mexican sombrero". These qualities, along with his cunning and celebrated skill with firearms, contributed to his paradoxical image, as both a notorious outlaw and beloved folk hero.[7]

A relative unknown during his own lifetime, he was catapulted into legend the year after his death when his killer, Sheriff Pat Garrett, along with co-author M.A. "Ash" Upson, published a sensationalistic biography titled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. Beginning with Garrett's account, Billy the Kid grew into a symbolic figure of the American Old West.[8]

Early life

Little is known about McCarty's origins, but many reputable scholars of western history "contend that he was born on the eve of the Civil War in the bowels of an Irish neighborhood in New York City (70 Allen Street). If indeed, his birthplace was New York, no records that can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he ever lived there have ever been uncovered".[9][10] While his biological father remains an obscure figure, some researchers have theorized that his name was Patrick McCarty, Michael McCarty, William McCarty, or Edward McCarty.[9] There is clear evidence that his Mother's name was Catherine McCarty, although "there have been continuing debates about whether McCarty was her maiden or married name".[9][10] According to some accounts, McCarty was born as William Henry McCarty, Jr., but his mother preferred to call him "Henry" because she did not wish him to be known as "Junior".[11] It is generally believed that McCarty's Mother was a survivor of the Great Irish Famine of the mid-19th century.[9][10] Some genealogists argue, however, that the future outlaw was born William Henry Bonney, the son of William Harrison Bonney and wife Katherine Boujean, paternal grandson of Levi Bonney and wife Rhoda Pratt and great-grandson of Obadiah Pratt, who in turn were the Grandparents of Mormon leader Parley P. Pratt, making him and McCarty first cousins once removed.[12] By 1868, Catherine McCarty had moved with her two young sons, Henry and Joseph, to Indianapolis, Indiana.[13] There, she met William Antrim, who was 12 years her junior.[14] In 1873, after several years of moving around the country, the two were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico,[15] and settled further south in Silver City.[16] Antrim found sporadic work as a bartender and carpenter but soon became more interested in prospecting and gambling for fortune than in his wife and stepsons.[17] Nevertheless, young McCarty often used the surname "Antrim" when referring to himself.[18]

Faced with a husband who was frequently absent, McCarty's mother reportedly washed clothes, baked pies, and took in boarders in order to provide for her sons.[19] Although she was fondly remembered by onetime boarders and neighbors as "a jolly Irish lady, full of life and mischief",[20] she was already in the final stages of tuberculosis when the family reached Silver City.[21] The following year, on September 16, 1874, Catherine McCarty died; she was buried in the Memory Lane Cemetery in Silver City.[17] At age 14, McCarty was taken in by a neighboring family who operated a hotel where he worked to pay for his keep. The manager was impressed by the youth, contending that he was the only young man who ever worked for him that did not steal anything.[22] One of McCarty's school teachers later recalled that the young orphan was "no more of a problem than any other boy, always quite willing to help with chores around the schoolhouse".[23] Early biographers sought to explain McCarty's subsequent descent into lawlessness by focusing on his habit of reading dime novels that romanticized crime. A more likely explanation, however, was his slender physique, "which placed him in precarious situations with bigger and stronger boys".[24]

Forced to seek new lodgings when his foster family began to experience "domestic problems", McCarty moved into a boarding house and pursued odd jobs.[24] In April, 1875, McCarty was arrested by Grant County Sheriff Harvey Whitehill, after McCarty stole some cheese. On September 24, 1875, McCarty was again arrested when he was found in possession of clothing and firearms that a fellow boarder had stolen from a Chinese laundry owner.[25] Two days after McCarty was placed in jail, the teenager escaped by worming his way up the jailhouse chimney. From that point on, McCarty was more or less a fugitive.[26] According to some accounts, he eventually found work as an itinerant ranch hand and shepherd in southeastern Arizona.[27] In 1876, he settled in the vicinity of Fort Grant Army Post in Arizona, where he worked local ranches and tested his skills at local gaming houses.[28] Sheriff Whitehill would later say that he liked the boy, and his acts of theft were more due to necessity than wantonness.

During this time, McCarty became acquainted with John R. Mackie, a Scottish-born ex-cavalry private with a criminal bent.[29] The two men supposedly became involved in the risky, but profitable, enterprise of horse thievery; and McCarty, who targeted local soldiers, became known by the sobriquet of "Kid Antrim".[30] Biographer Robert M. Utley writes that the nickname arose because of McCarty's "slight build and beardless countenance, his young years, and his appealing personality".[31] In 1877, McCarty was involved in an altercation with the civilian blacksmith at Fort Grant, a loquacious Irish immigrant named Frank "Windy" Cahill, who took pleasure in bullying young McCarty.[32] On August 17, Cahill reportedly attacked McCarty after a verbal exchange and threw him to the ground. Reliable accounts suggest McCarty retaliated by drawing his gun and shooting Cahill, who died the next day.[33] The coroner's inquest concluded that McCarty's shooting of Cahill was "criminal and unjustifiable." Some of those who witnessed the incident later claimed that McCarty acted in self-defense.[34] Years later, Louis Abraham, who had known McCarty in Silver City but was not a witness, denied that anyone was killed in this altercation.[35]

In fear of Cahill's friends and associates, McCarty fled Arizona Territory and entered New Mexico Territory.[36] He eventually arrived at the former army post of Apache Tejo, where he joined a band of cattle rustlers who targeted the sprawling herds of cattle magnate John Chisum.[37] During this period, McCarty was spotted by a resident of Silver City, and the teenager's involvement with the notorious gang was mentioned in a local newspaper.[38] It is unclear how long McCarty rode with the gang of rustlers known as "the Boys", but reliable sources indicate that he soon turned up at the house of Heiskell Jones in the Pecos Valley,[39] New Mexico.[40] According to this account, Apaches stole McCarty's horse, forcing him to walk many miles to the nearest settlement, which happened to be Jones' home. When he arrived, the young man was supposedly near death, but Mrs. Jones nursed him back to health.[40] The Jones family developed a strong attachment to McCarty and gave him one of their horses.[40] At some point in 1877, McCarty began to refer to himself as "Willam H. Bonney."[41]

Lincoln County War

In the Autumn of 1877, McCarty (now widely known as Bonney) moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico, and was first hired by Doc Scurlock and Charlie Bowdre to work in their cheese factory.[42] Through them he met Frank Coe, George Coe and Ab Saunders, three cousins who owned their own ranch near to the ranch of Dick Brewer. After a short stint working on the ranch of Henry Hooker, McCarty began working on the Coe-Saunders ranch.[43]

Late in 1877, McCarty, along with Brewer, Bowdre, Scurlock, the Coes and the Saunders, was hired as a cattle guard by John Tunstall, an English cattle rancher, banker and merchant, and his partner, Alexander McSween, a prominent lawyer.[44] A conflict known today as the Lincoln County War had erupted between the established town merchants, Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan, and competing business interests headed by Tunstall and McSween.[45] Events turned bloody on February 18, 1878, when Tunstall was spotted while driving a herd of nine horses towards Lincoln and murdered by William Morton, Jessie Evans, Tom Hill, and Frank Baker — all members of the Murphy-Dolan faction, and members of a posse sent to attack McSween's holdings.[46] After murdering Tunstall, the gunmen shot down his prized bay horse.[47] "As a wry and macabre joke on Tunstall's great affection for horses, the dead bay's head was then pillowed on his hat", writes Frederick Nolan, Tunstall's biographer.[48] Although members of the Murphy-Dolan faction sought to frame Tunstall's death as a "justifiable homicide", evidence at the scene suggested that Tunstall attempted to avoid a confrontation before he was shot down.[49] Tunstall's murder enraged McCarty and the other ranch hands.[50]

McSween, who abhorred violence, took steps to punish Tunstall's murderers through legal means; he obtained warrants for their arrests from the local justice of the peace John B. Wilson.[51] Tunstall's men formed their own group called the Regulators.[52] After being deputized by rancher Richard "Dick" Brewer, Tunstall's foreman, who had been appointed a special constable and given the warrant to arrest Tunstall's killers, they proceeded to the Murphy-Dolan store.[53] The wanted men, Bill Morton and Frank Baker, attempted to flee, but they were captured on March 6. Upon returning to Lincoln, the Regulators reported that Morton and Baker had been shot on March 9 near Agua Negra during an alleged escape attempt.[54][55][56] During their journey to Lincoln, the Regulators also killed one of their own members, a man named McCloskey, whom they suspected of being a traitor.[54][57][58] On the very day that McCloskey, Morton, and Baker were slain, Governor Samuel Beach Axtell arrived in Lincoln County to investigate the ongoing violence. The governor, accompanied by James Dolan and associate John Riley, proved hostile to the faction now headed by McSween. Thus, the Regulators "went from lawmen to outlaws".[59] Notably, Axtell refused to acknowledge the existence of the so-called "Santa Fe Ring", a group of corrupt Republican politicians and business leaders led by U.S. Attorney Thomas Benton Catron.[60] Catron cooperated closely with the Murphy-Dolan faction, which was perceived as part of the notorious "ring".[61]

Unfazed, the Regulators planned to settle a score with Sheriff William J. Brady, who had arrested McCarty and fellow deputy Fred Waite in the aftermath of Tunstall's murder. At the time Brady arrested them, the two men were attempting to serve a warrant on Brady for his suspected role in looting Tunstall's store after the Englishman's death, as well as his posse members for the murder of Tunstall.[51] On April 1, Regulators Jim French, Frank McNab, John Middleton, Fred Waite, Henry Brown and McCarty ambushed Sheriff Brady[62] and his deputy, George W. Hindman,[63] killing them both in Lincoln's main street. McCarty was shot in the thigh while attempting to retrieve a rifle that Brady had seized from him during an earlier arrest.[57] With this move, the McSween faction disillusioned many former supporters, who came to view both sides as "equally nefarious and bloodthirsty".[64]

The connection between McSween and the Regulators was ambiguous, however. McCarty was loyal to the memory of Tunstall, though not necessarily to McSween.[65] There is some doubt as to whether McCarty and McSween were even acquainted at the time of Brady's death.[65] According to a contemporary newspaper account, the Regulators disclaimed "all connection or sympathy with McSween and his affairs" and expressed their sole desire to track down Tunstall's murderers.[65]

On April 4, in what became known as the Gunfight of Blazer's Mills, the Regulators sought the arrest of an old buffalo hunter known as Buckshot Roberts, whom they suspected of involvement in the Tunstall slaying.[66] Roberts, however, refused to be taken alive, even after he suffered a severe bullet wound to the chest.[67] During the gun battle that ensued, Roberts shot and killed the Regulators' leader, Dick Brewer.[66][68] Four other Regulators were wounded in the skirmish.[57] The incident had the effect of further alienating the public, given that many local residents "admired the way Roberts put up a gutsy fight against overwhelming odds".[69]

Killing of Frank McNab and after

After Brewer's death, Frank McNab was elected as captain of the Regulators.[69] For a short period, the Regulators benefited from the appointment of Sheriff John Copeland, who proved sympathetic to the McSween faction.[69] Copeland's authority, however, was undermined by the Murphy-Dolan faction, which promptly rounded up recruits from among Sheriff Brady's former deputies.[70] On April 29, 1878, a posse including the Jessie Evans Gang and the Seven Rivers Warriors, under the direction of former Brady deputy George W. Peppin, engaged Regulators Frank McNab, Ab Saunders and Frank Coe in a shootout at the Fritz Ranch.[70] McNab was killed in a hail of gunfire, while Saunders was severely wounded and Frank Coe was captured.[70] Frank Coe escaped custody a short time later, when his captors were occupied elsewhere.[71]

What is known about the morning following McNab's death is that the Regulator "iron clad" took up defensive positions in the town of Lincoln, trading shots with Dolan men as well as U.S. cavalrymen.[72] The only casualty was Dutch Charley Kruling, a Dolan man wounded by a rifle slug fired by George Coe at a distance of 440 paces.[73] By shooting at government troops, the Regulators earned their animosity and gained a whole new set of enemies. On May 15, the Regulators tracked down Seven Rivers gang member Manuel Segovia, the suspected murderer of Frank McNab, and shot him to death.[74] Around the time of Segovia's death, the Regulator "iron clad" gained a new member, a young Texas "cowpoke" named Tom O'Folliard, who became McCarty's close friend and constant companion.[75]

The Regulators' position worsened when the governor, in a quasi-legal move, removed Copeland and appointed George Peppin (an ally of the Murphy-Dolan faction) as sheriff.[76] Under indictment for the Brady killing, McCarty and the other Regulators spent the next several months in hiding and were trapped, along with McSween, in McSween's home in Lincoln on July 15, by members of "The House" (as the Murphy-Dolan faction was known) and some of Brady's men.[77] On July 19, a column of U.S. cavalry soldiers entered the fray. Ostensibly neutral, the column's actions worked to the clear advantage of the Dolan faction.[78] After a five-day siege, McSween's house was set on fire by the sheriff's posse.[79] McCarty and the other Regulators fled, although McCarty is believed by some to have killed one "House" member named Bob Beckwith.[80] McSween was shot down while fleeing the blaze, and his death essentially marked the end of the Lincoln County Cattle War.[81]

Lew Wallace and amnesty

In the Autumn of 1878, a former Union Army general, Lew Wallace, became Governor of the New Mexico Territory.[82] In an effort to restore peace to Lincoln County, Wallace proclaimed an amnesty for any man involved in the Lincoln County War who was not already under indictment.[82] McCarty, who had fled to Texas after his escape from McSween's house, was under indictment, but sent Wallace a letter requesting immunity in return for testifying in front of the Grand Jury.[83] In March 1879, Wallace and McCarty met in Lincoln County to discuss the possibility of a deal. McCarty greeted the governor with a revolver in one hand and a Winchester rifle in the other. After taking several days to consider Wallace's offer, McCarty agreed to testify in return for amnesty.[83]

The arrangement called for McCarty to submit to a token arrest and a short stay in jail until the conclusion of his courtroom testimony.[83] Although McCarty's testimony helped to indict John Dolan, the district attorney, one of the powerful "House" faction leaders, disregarded Wallace's order to set McCarty free after his testimony.[84] After the trial, McCarty and O'Folliard slipped away on horses that were supplied by friends.

For the next year-and-a-half, McCarty survived by rustling, gambling, and taking defensive action. In January 1880, he reportedly killed a man named Joe Grant in a Fort Sumner saloon.[86] Grant, who did not realize he was playing poker with McCarty, boasted that he would kill "Billy the Kid" if he ever encountered him. In those days people loaded their revolvers with only five rounds, with the hammer down on an empty chamber. This was done to prevent an accidental discharge should the hammer be struck. The Kid asked Grant if he could see his ivory handled revolver and, while looking at the weapon, rotated the cylinder so the hammer would fall on the empty chamber when the trigger was pulled.[86] He then informed Grant of his identity. When Grant fired, nothing happened, and McCarty then shot him. When asked about the incident later, he remarked, "It was a game for two, and I got there first".[87]

Other versions of this story exist. One biographer, Joel Jacobsen, recounts the story as described in Utley, describing Grant as a "drunk" who was "making himself obnoxious in a bar".[88] As in other accounts of the incident, the Kid is described as rotating the cylinder "so an empty chamber was beneath the hammer".[88] In Jacobsen's recounting of the incident, however, Grant attempted to shoot McCarty unawares. "As [McCarty] was leaving the saloon, his back turned to Grant, he heard a distinct click. He spun around before Grant could reach a loaded chamber. Always a good marksman, he shot Grant in the chin".[88]

In November 1880, a posse pursued and trapped McCarty's gang inside a ranch house owned by one of the Kid's friends, James Greathouse, at Anton Chico in the White Oaks area.[89] A posse member named James Carlyle[90] ventured into the house under a white flag, in an effort to negotiate the group's surrender.[89] Meanwhile, Greathouse was sent out to act as a hostage for the posse.[91] At some point in the evening, Carlyle evidently decided the outlaws were stalling. According to one version of events, Carlyle heard a shot that had been fired accidentally outside. Concluding that the posse members had shot down Greathouse, he chose escape, crashed through a window and was fired upon and killed.[89] Recognizing their mistake, the posse members became demoralized and scattered, enabling McCarty and his gang to slip away. McCarty vehemently denied shooting Carlysle,[89] and later wrote to Governor Wallace, claiming to be innocent of this crime and others attributed to him.[92]

Pat Garrett

During this time, McCarty became acquainted with an ambitious local bartender and former buffalo hunter named Pat Garrett.[87] While popular accounts often depict McCarty and Garrett as "bosom buddies", there is no concrete evidence that they were ever friends.[93] Running on a pledge to rid the area of rustlers, Garrett was elected as sheriff of Lincoln County in November 1880, and in early December, he assembled a posse and set out to arrest McCarty, now known almost exclusively as "Billy the Kid" and carrying a $500 bounty on his head.[94]

The posse led by Garrett fared well, and his men closed in quickly. On December 19, McCarty barely escaped a midnight ambush in Fort Sumner, which left one member of the gang, Tom O'Folliard, dead.[95] On December 23, the Kid was tracked to an abandoned stone building located in a remote location known as Stinking Springs (near present-day Taiban, New Mexico). While McCarty and his gang were asleep inside, Garrett's posse surrounded the building and waited for sunrise. The next morning, a cattle rustler named Charlie Bowdre stepped outside to feed his horse.[96] Mistaken for McCarty, he was shot down by the posse.[96] Soon afterward, somebody from within the building reached for the horse's halter rope, but Garrett shot and killed the horse, whose body blocked the building's only exit.[97] As the lawmen began to cook breakfast over an open fire, Garrett and McCarty engaged in a friendly exchange, with Garrett inviting McCarty outside to eat, and McCarty inviting Garrett to "go to hell".[97] Realizing that they had no hope of escape, the besieged and hungry outlaws finally surrendered later that day and were allowed to join in the meal.

Escape from Lincoln

McCarty was transported from Fort Sumner to Las Vegas, where he gave an interview to a reporter from the Las Vegas Gazette.[98] Next, the prisoner was transferred to Santa Fe, where he sent four separate letters over the next three months to Governor Wallace seeking clemency.[99] Wallace, however, refused to intervene,[99] and the Kid's trial was held in April 1881 in Mesilla.[100] On April 9, after two days of testimony, McCarty was found guilty of the murder of Sheriff Brady, the only conviction ever secured against any of the combatants in the Lincoln County Cattle War.[100] On April 13, he was sentenced by Judge Warren Bristol to hang.[100]

With his execution scheduled for May 13, McCarty was removed to Lincoln, where he was held under guard by two of Garrett's deputies, James Bell and Robert Ollinger, on the top floor of the town courthouse. On April 28, while Garrett was out of town, McCarty stunned the territory by killing both of his guards and escaping.[101] The details of the escape are unclear. Some researchers believe that a sympathizer placed a pistol in a nearby privy that McCarty was permitted to use, under escort, each day. McCarty retrieved the gun, and turned it on Bell when the pair had reached the top of a flight of stairs in the courthouse. Another theory holds that McCarty slipped off his manacles at the top of the stairs, struck Bell[102] over the head with them, grabbed Bell's own gun, and shot him with it.

Whatever happened, Bell staggered into the street and collapsed, mortally wounded.[2] Meanwhile, McCarty scooped up Ollinger's[103] 10-gauge double barrel shotgun and waited at the upstairs window for Ollinger, who had been across the street with some other prisoners, to come to Bell's aid. As Ollinger came running into view, McCarty leveled the shotgun at him, called out "Hello Bob!" and killed him.[2][104] The Kid's escape was delayed for an hour while he worked free of his leg irons[105] with a pickax and then the young outlaw mounted a horse and rode out of town, reportedly singing.[2] The horse returned two days later.[106]

Death

Responding to rumors that McCarty was still lurking in the vicinity of Fort Sumner almost three months after his escape, Sheriff Garrett and two deputies set out on July 14, 1881, to question one of the town's residents, a friend of McCarty's named Pete Maxwell (son of land baron Lucien Maxwell).[107] Close to midnight, as Garrett and Maxwell sat talking in Maxwell's darkened bedroom, McCarty unexpectedly entered the room.[108] There are at least two versions of what happened next.

One version suggests that as the Kid entered, he failed to recognize Garrett in the poor light. McCarty drew his pistol and backed away, asking "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?" (Spanish for "Who is it? Who is it?").[108] Recognizing McCarty's voice, Garrett drew his own pistol and fired twice, the first bullet striking McCarty just above his heart, killing him.[108] In a second version, McCarty entered carrying a knife, evidently headed to a kitchen area. He noticed someone in the darkness, and uttered the words, "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?" at which point he was shot and killed in ambush style.

Although the popularity of the first story persists, and portrays Garrett in a better light, many historians contend that the second version is probably the accurate one.[109] A markedly different theory, in which Garrett and his posse set a trap for McCarty, has also been suggested. Most recently explored in the Discovery Channel documentary, Billy the Kid: Unmasked, this theory contends that Garrett went to the bedroom of Pedro Maxwell's sister, Paulita, and bound and gagged her in her bed. When McCarty arrived, Garrett was waiting behind Paulita's bed and shot the Kid.

McCarty was buried the next day in Fort Sumner's old military cemetery, between his fallen companions Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre.[8] A single tombstone was later erected over the graves, giving the three outlaws' names (Billy's as "William H. Bonney") and with a one word epitaph of "Pals" also carved into it. The tombstone has been stolen and recovered three times since it was set in place in the 1940s, and the entire gravesite is now enclosed within a steel cage.[110]

Notoriety

Like many gunfighters of the "Old West", Billy the Kid enjoyed a reputation built partly on exaggerated accounts of his exploits.[111] McCarty was credited with the killing of 20 men.[2] Some historians speculate that his image was created deliberately to distract the public's attention from the nefarious activities of the Dolan faction and their influential supporters in Santa Fe, notably regional political leader Thomas Benton Catron.[111]

The undeserved notoriety that McCarty gained during the Lincoln County War effectively doomed his appeals for amnesty.[112] A number of the Regulators faded away or secured amnesty, but McCarty was in no position to accomplish either. His negotiations with Governor Lew Wallace (famed Civil War general and author of the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ) for amnesty came to nothing. His position was further undermined by a string of negative newspaper editorials that referred to him as "Billy the Kid".[112] When a reporter reminded Wallace that the Kid was depending on Wallace's intervention, the governor supposedly smiled and said, "Yes, but I can't see how a fellow like him can expect any clemency from me".[99]

One widely reported characteristic of McCarty has stood the test of research: his personal charisma and popularity. Various accounts recorded by friends and acquaintances describe him as fun-loving and jolly, articulate in both his writing and his speech, and loyal to those for whom he cared.[113] He was fluent in Spanish, popular with Latina girls, an accomplished dancer, and thus especially well-loved within the territory's Hispanic community. There, he was regarded as a champion of the oppressed.[7] "His many Hispanic friends did not view him as a ruthless killer but rather as a defender of the people who were forced to kill in self-defense," Wallis writes. "In the time that the Kid roamed the land he chided Hispanic villagers who were fearful of standing up to the big ranchers who stole their land, water, and way of life".[106]

Left-handed or right-handed?

It was widely assumed throughout much of the 20th century that Billy the Kid was left-handed. This perception was encouraged by the only documented photograph of McCarty (an undated ferrotype), in which he appears to be wearing a gun belt with a holster on his left side. (All Winchester Model 1873 rifles were made with the loading gate on the right side of the receiver: the "left-handed" photograph is a mirror image.)[114] Indeed, the notion of a left-handed Billy became so entrenched that, in 1958, a film biography of "the Kid" (starring Paul Newman) was titled The Left Handed Gun.

In 1954, however, western historians James D. Horan and Paul Sann wrote that McCarty was "right-handed and carried his pistol on his right hip".[115] More recently, in response to a story from The Guardian that used an uncorrected McCarty ferrotype, Clyde Jeavons, a former curator of the National Film and Television Archive, cited their work and added:

This particular reproduction error has occurred so often in books and other publications over the years that it has led to the myth that Billy the Kid was left-handed, for which there is no evidence. On the contrary, the evidence (from viewing his photo correctly) is that he was right-handed: he wears his pistol on his right hip with the butt pointing backwards in a conventional right-handed draw position. Wallis wrote in 2007 that McCarty was ambidextrous.[117]

Personality traits according to first-hand accounts

Frank Coe, who rode as a Regulator, recalled years after the Kid's death: "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 never seemed to care for money, except to buy cartridges with. Cartridges were scarce, and he always used about ten times as many as everyone else. He would practice shooting at anything he saw, from every conceivable angle, on and off his horse".[35]

George Coe, a cousin to Frank who also served as a Regulator, stated: "Billy was a brave, resourceful and honest boy. He would have been a successful man under other circumstances. The Kid was a thousand times better and braver than any man hunting him, including Pat Garrett".[35]

Susan McSween, widow of Alexander McSween, stated: "Billy was not a bad man, that is he was not a murderer who killed wantonly. Most of those he killed deserved what they got. Of course I cannot very well defend his stealing horses and cattle, but when you consider 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 poor boy for what he did".[35]

Deluvina Maxwell, a friend of Billy the Kid, stated: "Garrett was afraid to go back in 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 lived long enough to see them all dead and buried".[35]

Louis Abraham, who befriended the Kid in Silver City, New Mexico, stated: "The story of Billy the Kid killing a blacksmith in Silver City is false. Billy was never in any trouble at all. He was a good boy, maybe a little too mischievous at times. When the boy was placed in jail and escaped, he was not bad, just scared. If he had only waited until they let him out he would have been all right, but he was scared and ran away. He got in with a band of rustlers in Apache Tejo in part of the county where he was made a hardened character".[35]

People claiming to be Billy the Kid

Legends grew over time that Billy the Kid had somehow cheated death, despite eyewitness accounts of his slaying.[118] In 2004, researchers sought to exhume the remains of Catherine Antrim, McCarty's mother, "so her DNA could be tested and compared with DNA to be taken from the body buried under the Kid's gravestone".[118] Ultimately, the case was bogged down in the courts, "much to the delight of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who knows all too well the value of Billy as a cultural icon and a draw for tourists".[118] At least two men claimed to be McCarty, and they were successful in persuading a small segment of the public.

Brushy Bill

In 1949, a paralegal named William Morrison located a man in West Texas named Ollie P. Roberts (nicknamed "Brushy Bill"), who claimed to be Billy the Kid and challenged the popular account of Billy's slaying at the hands of Pat Garrett in 1881. Most historians reject Brushy Bill's claim, although his argument was not entirely bereft of supporting evidence. Despite discrepancies in birth dates and physical appearance, the town of Hico, Texas (Brushy Bill's residence), has capitalized on the Kid's infamy by opening the Billy The Kid Museum.[119]

John Miller

Another individual who allegedly claimed to be Billy the Kid was John Miller, whose family supported his claim in 1938, some time after Miller's death. Miller was buried at the state-owned Pioneers' Home Cemetery in Prescott, Arizona. Tom Sullivan, a former sheriff of Lincoln County, and Steve Sederwall, a former mayor of Capitan, disinterred the bones of John Miller in May 2005.[120] DNA samples from the remains were sent to a lab in Dallas, Texas, to be compared with traces of blood obtained from a bench that was believed to be the one upon which McCarty's body was placed after he was shot to death. The pair had been searching for McCarty's physical remains since 2003, starting in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and eventually ending up in Arizona. To date, no results of the DNA tests have been made public.

Selected references in popular culture

Billy the Kid has been the subject and inspiration for many popular works, including:

Literature

Billy The Kid (1958), a serial poem by Jack Spicer.

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-handed Poems, by Michael Ondaatje, 1970 Governor General's Award-winning biography in the form of experimental poetry.

Added as an immortal to Michael Scott's series Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel during the third book The Sorceress.

The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid is a science fiction novel by Rebecca Ore, published in 1991.

Anything for Billy is a 1988 novel by Larry McMurty.

Lucky Billy: a novel about Billy the Kid is a 2008 novel by John Vernon, a professor at Binghamton University.

Film

Billy the Kid, 1930 widescreen film directed by King Vidor and starring Johnny Mack Brown as Billy and Wallace Beery as Pat Garrett.[121]

Billy the Kid Returns, 1938: Roy Rogers plays a dual role, Billy the Kid and his dead-ringer lookalike who shows up after the Kid has been shot by Pat Garrett.

Billy the Kid, 1941 remake of the 1930 film, starring Robert Taylor and Brian Donlevy.

Buster Crabbe played Billy the Kid in a serial series during 1942 and 1943. The thirteen films included Blazing Frontier, The Renegade, Cattle Stampede, and Western Cyclone (1943).[122]

The Outlaw, Howard Hughes' 1943 motion picture featuring Jane Russell in her breakthrough role as the Kid's fictional love interest.

The Kid from Texas (1950, Universal International) film starring Audie Murphy--location of title character's place of origin changed to appeal to Texans and capitalize on Murphy association with that state.

The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954, Columbia Pictures Corporation) starring Scott Brady.

The Left Handed Gun, Arthur Penn's 1958 motion picture based on a Gore Vidal teleplay, starring Paul Newman as Billy and John Dehner as Garrett.

The Boy from Oklahoma (1954), with Tyler MacDuff in the role of Billy the Kid[123]

One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is the only film directed by actor Marlon Brando, who also played its lead character, Rio. Story from an adaptation by Rod Serling of a Charles Neider novelization of Billy the Kid's life, with a later revision among others by Sam Peckinpah.

Chisum, 1970 movie starring John Wayne as John Chisum, dealing with Billy the Kid's involvement in the Lincoln County War. Billy is portrayed by Geoffrey Deuel.

Dirty Little Billy,[124] Stan Dragoti's 1972 film starring Michael J. Pollard.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Sam Peckinpah's 1973 motion picture with Kris Kristofferson as Billy, James Coburn as Pat Garrett, and with a soundtrack by Bob Dylan, who also appears in the movie.

Young Guns, Christopher Cain's 1988 motion picture starring Emilio Estevez as Billy and Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne as Pat Garrett

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, 1989 time travel time travel movie featuring Dan Shor as Billy the Kid.

Gore Vidal's Billy the Kid,[125] Gore Vidal's 1989 film starring Val Kilmer as Billy and Duncan Regehr as Pat Garrett.

Young Guns II, Geoff Murphy's 1990 motion picture starring Emilio Estevez as Billy and William Petersen as Pat Garrett.

Purgatory (film), Uli Edel's 1999 made for TV movie starring Donnie Wahlberg as Deputy Glen/Billy The Kid.

Requiem for Billy the Kid, Anne Feinsilber's 2006 motion picture starring Kris Kristofferson.

The Green Mile, Wild Bill has a tattoo of Billy the Kid in the 1999 film.

Music

"Billy the Kid", a folk song in the public domain, was published in John A. Lomax and Alan Lonax's American Ballads and Folksongs,[126] and also their Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads.[127]

"Billy the Kid" folksong sung by Woody Guthrie, recorded by Alan Lomax in 1940 for the Library of Congress (#3412 B2), with a melody Guthrie later used for his song "So Long, it's Been Good to Know You". He also recorded it in 1944 for Moe Asch's Asch/Folkways label (MA67).[128]

Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid, a ballet that premiered in 1938.

Bob Dylan's album Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, soundtrack of the 1973 film by Sam Peckinpah.

Jon Bon Jovi's album Blaze of Glory, used as part of the soundtrack for Young Guns II, and featured the song "Billy Get Your Gun".

Marty Robbins' song "Billy the Kid" from the album Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs Volume 3.

Marty Robbins' song "Fastest Gun Around" from the 1963 album Return of the Gunfighter.

Dave Stamey's "The Skies of Lincoln County", which features the deceased Bonney as narrator, answering historical distortions by Pat Garrett.

Ry Cooder recorded the folk song "Billy the Kid", on the album Into The Purple Valley,[129] with his own melody and instrumental. It was also on Ry Cooder Classics Volume II.[130]

Billy Joel's song The Ballad of Billy the Kid, a historically inaccurate re-telling of Billy the Kid's life, off of his 1973 album Piano Man

American composer Mark Nichols (American Composer/Playwright) wrote a popular score for Michael Ondaatje play,"The Collected Works of Billy the Kid" in 1990,

The Charlie Daniels Band recorded the song "Billy The Kid" (Daniels, Dean, Wilson) on their 1976 album High Lonesome (Charlie Daniels album).

UK rock band Loungetree recorded a song 'William Child' on their 2009 album 'Seasons' with inspiration drawn from the name and legend of Billy the Kid

Stage

Joseph Santley's 1906 Broadway play co-written by Santley, in which he also starred

Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, 1973 play based on his poetry

Television and radio

The 2003 Discovery Channel Quest, Billy the Kid: Unmasked, investigated the life and death of Billy the Kid through forensic science.

The actor Richard Jaeckel played The Kid in a 1954 episode of Jim Davis's syndicated television series, Stories of the Century.

The NBC series The Tall Man ran from 1960 to 1962, starring Clu Gulager as Billy and Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett.

The ABC series Maverick featured an episode where Bret (James Garner) meets several outlaws, including Billy the Kid.

Additional Sources

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William Henry "Billy the Kid" Bonney's Timeline

1859
1859
New York, NY, USA
1868
June 18, 1868
Age 9
Anderson, IN, USA

The census in Anderson, Indiana, show the names of Catherine McCarty and her sons, William Henry and Joseph. While living in Indiana, Mrs. McCarty meets William Antrim and a relationship is formed.

1870
August 10, 1870
Age 11
Wichita, KS, USA

Catherine McCarty and William Antrim relocate and buy a lot near Wichita, Kansas.

1871
August 1871
Age 12
Wichita, KS, USA

One year later, after being diagnosed with consumption, Catherine McCarty sells the lot and leaves Kansas with Antrim to seek a warmer and drier climate for her health.

1872
October 1872
Age 13
Denver, CO, USA

Catherine McCarty, her sons, and William Antrim are living in Denver, Colorado.

1873
March 1, 1873
Age 14
Santa Fe, NM, USA

After a couple of years of courtship, Catherine McCarty and William Antrim are married at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

March 1873
Age 14
Silver City, NM, USA

The newlywed Antrim family and McCarty sons move to Silver City, New Mexico.

1874
September 16, 1874
Age 15
Silver City, NM, USA

Catherine Antrim dies from consumption. The Kid and his brother Joseph begin their life of moving in and out of foster families. William Antrim moves to Clifton, Arizona, leaving his step-sons behind.

1875
September 23, 1875
Age 16
NM, USA

Billy the Kid was arrested for stealing laundry. His sentence was for 3 days to "scare him." He didn't last 2 days.

September 25, 1875
Age 16
NM, USA

Billy didn't serve his full sentence of 3 days for stealing laundry. The Kid escapes jail and runs away. Shortly after, he turns up in Clifton, Arizona, to find his step-father. Antrim doesn't take the boy in and the Kid is now on his own.