Billy the Kid

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Billy the Kid (Henry McCarty)

Born September 17, 1859 or November 23, 1859
New York City
Died July 14, 1881
Fort Sumner, New Mexico

Billy the Kid, (September/November 1859- July 14, 1881), alias William Bonney, was an infamous outlaw in Lincoln County, New Mexico. According to legend, he killed 21 men, one for each year of his life, though this is unlikely.[1]

Early years

Billy was born Henry McCarty in a New York City slum. After his father died, Billy and his mother moved to Silver City, New Mexico, to look for a steady source of income.[2] Little is known about his four years there, but in 1877 Billy moved to the embattled Lincoln County.

Lincoln County War

In the 1870s, Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan owned "Murphy & Dolan," the only general store in Lincoln County. Murphy & Dolan soon monopolized all Banking and local law enforcement. However, small farmers became angry at the monopoly, named "The House", and helped Alexander McSween, John Tunstall, and Billy the Kid to set up a small rival business, H.H. Tunstall & Company.[3]

Frustrated, "The House" ordered Sheriff William Brady and Deputy William Morton to arrest Tunstall on questionable charges. Tunstall refused to leave his house and was killed. Angered, Billy the Kid formed a posse called the Regulators, and chased down and killed Deputy Morton. Fighting between the Regulators and The House continued throughout 1878, taking 19 lives.
When the fighting was over, Billy the Kid took to a life of crime, stealing cattle from the very ranchers he fought to protect. 0n July 14, 1881, new Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid in a gunfight.

Billy the Kid was portrayed by numerous actors in film and television. In 1955, Jim Davis' anthology western series, Stories of the Century, cast Richard Jaeckel (1926-1997) to portray the Kid.

Various persons have claimed that Billy the Kid was not the person Garrett killed: one person ("Brushy" Bill Roberts of Hico, Texas) actually claimed to be Billy the Kid (the town has capitalized a bit on his claims, though they were never proven).