Follow the Trail of Billy the Kid: Sights and History from New Mexico’s Greatest Outlaw
Undoubtedly the most infamous outlaw in New Mexico, Billy the Kid made his way around the state during the late 19th century, often leaving misfortune, tragedy, and heartache in his wake. Although little is known about his life before he began his run-ins with the law, it is believed he was born William Henry McCarty Jr. in New York City in 1859. Both of his parents died when Billy was young, which may have set his criminal days in motion by falling in with the wrong crowd. What brought him down to New Mexico, we’ll likely never know. There is no denying, however, that he made his mark on New Mexican history, even considering his villainous ways.
Courtesy, About Billy the Kid
Visit Lincoln Historic Site to see where the events of the Lincoln County War took place, including the Old Lincoln County Courthouse and the Tunstall store. You can take in this community, which was essentially been frozen in time, 7 days a week 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
History: Although you could argue that the direction of Billy’s life was confirmed at 16 years old in Arizona after getting into a brawl and shooting Windy Cahill, the Lincoln County War was where the his notorious ways truly began. Billy fought on the John Tunstall side, but after Tunstall’s death, he and other supporters formed the gang “Regulators”. The war ended in a shootout at the home of Tunstall’s partner and lawyer, Alex McSween. After this, the Regulators disbanded settled in semi-normal lives, while others like Billy, remained outlaws.
Courtesy, Tim Keller Photography
Visit Billy the Kid Gift Shop, one of the oldest buildings on the plaza and what was once the county jail and courthouse. Take in the original 18-inch thick original adobe walls and large wooden beams while browsing the unique wares. The shop is open 7 days a week until 5 p.m.
History: The Kid was tried and sentenced to hang at the County Courthouse for the assassination of Sheriff William Brady on April 13, 1881. Billy the Kid was then taken back to Lincoln, where he escaped and was hunted down by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Site: White Oaks
Make your way off the highway near Carrizozo down unpaved roads and you’ll find yourself in a place that appears to now be a ghost town. You can discover the Cedarvale cemetary, the schoolhouse which is now a museum, or the historic No Scum Allowed Saloon recently renamed “Best Cowboy Bars in the West” by American Cowboy Magazine.
History: Famed for its gold, it is believed to have been one of Billy the Kid’s favorite places. The town brought in miners and lawyers pining for a piece of the booming prosperity. However, the town lost its significance when no railroad was built and all the gold was mined. In the cemetary of this town, you can visit the grave of Deputy Sheriff James W. Bell, who was murdered by the Kid during his escape from the Lincoln County Jail.
Courtesy, Tim Keller Photography
Site: Fort Sumner
Visit the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner and learn all about his outlaw days, the Wild West, and get a chance to see the original Wanted poster, along with his real boots, chaps, and spurs. Privately owned, the museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
History: Home of Billy the Kid’s resting place, he was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881 at the Maxwell house not too far from his grave. You’ll find his burial place sealed off, as the tombstone has twice been stolen, first in 1950 and again in 1981. Although there is some speculation or theories as to whether he was shot by Pat Garrett or not and lived on, most believe he truly was shot and killed by the Sheriff in Fort Sumner that fateful day.