Thursday, 13 July 2017

On This Day in History ...

July 14, 1881

''¿Quien es? ¿Quien es?''
136 years ago on this day, those were (allegedly) the last words spoken by William H. Bonney aka Billy the Kid.

* Pat Garrett was elected Sheriff of Lincoln County in 1880 on a reform ticket with the expectation that he would reinstate justice in the area. One of his first acts was to capture Billy the Kid, sending him to trial for the murder of the Lincoln sheriff and his deputy. Garrett was away from Lincoln on county business when the Kid made his escape. Rather than chase after the fugitive, Garrett kept to his ranch mending fences and attending to his cattle. In July, the Sheriff received word that the Kid was hiding out at the abandoned Fort Sumner about 140 miles west of Lincoln. Rounding up two of his deputies, John Poe and Thomas McKinney, Garrett set off in pursuit of the Kid.

On the night of July 14, the Sheriff and his two deputies approached the dusty old Fort now converted to living quarters. The residents were sympathetic to the Kid and the lawmen could extract little information. Garrett decided to seek out an old friend, Peter Maxwell, who might tell him the Kid's whereabouts. As chance would have it, the Kid stumbled right into the Sheriff's hands. Garrett published his account of the incident a year after it happened:
Pat Garret
"I then concluded to go and have a talk with Peter Maxwell, Esq., in whom I felt sure I could rely. We had ridden to within a short distance of Maxwell's grounds when we found a man in camp and stopped. To Poe's great surprise, he recognized in the camper an old friend and former partner, in Texas, named Jacobs. We unsaddled here, got some coffee, and, on foot, entered an orchard which runs from this point down to a row of old buildings, some of them occupied by Mexicans, not more than sixty yards from Maxwell's house. We approached these houses cautiously, and when within earshot, heard the sound of voices conversing in Spanish. We concealed ourselves quickly and listened; but the distance was too great to hear words, or even distinguish voices. Soon a man arose from the ground, in full view, but too far away to recognize. He wore a broad-brimmed hat, a dark vest and pants, and was in his shirtsleeves. With a few words, which fell like a murmur on our ears, he went to the fence, jumped it, and walked down towards Maxwell's house.  Little as we then suspected it, this man was the Kid. We learned, subsequently, that, when he left his companions that night, he went to the house of a Mexican friend, pulled off his hat and boots, threw himself on a bed, and commenced reading a newspaper. He soon, however, hailed his friend, who was sleeping in the room, told him to get up and make some coffee, adding: 'Give me a butcher knife and I will go over to Pete's and get some beef; I'm hungry.' The Mexican arose, handed him the knife, and the Kid, hatless and in his stocking-feet, started to Maxwell's, which was but a few steps distant.

When the Kid, by me unrecognized, left the orchard, I motioned to my companions, and we cautiously retreated a short distance, and, to avoid the persons whom we had heard at the houses, took another route, approaching Maxwell's house from the opposite direction. When we reached the porch in front of the building, I left Poe and McKinney at the end of the porch, about twenty feet from the door of Pete's room, and went in. It was near midnight and Pete was in bed. I walked to the head of the bed and sat down on it, beside him, near the pillow. I asked him as to the whereabouts of the Kid. He said that the Kid had certainly been about, but he did not know whether he had left or not. At that moment a man sprang quickly into the door, looking back, and called twice in Spanish, 'Who comes there?' No one replied and he came on in. He was bareheaded. From his step I could perceive he was either barefooted or in his stocking-feet, and held a revolver in his right hand and a butcher knife in his left.

The death of Billy the Kid
From a contemporary illustration

He came directly towards me. Before he reached the bed, I whispered: 'Who is it, Pete?' but received no reply for a moment. It struck me that it might be Pete's brother-in-law, Manuel Abreu, who had seen Poe and McKinney, and wanted to know their business. The intruder came close to me, leaned both hands on the bed, his right hand almost touching my knee, and asked, in a low tone: -'Who are they Pete?' -at the same instant Maxwell whispered to me. 'That's him!' Simultaneously the Kid must have seen, or felt, the presence of a third person at the head of the bed. He raised quickly his pistol, a self-cocker, within a foot of my breast. Retreating rapidly across the room he cried: 'Quien es? Quien es?' 'Who's that? Who's that?') All this occurred in a moment. Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside, and fired again. The second shot was useless; the Kid fell dead. He never spoke. A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and the Kid was with his many victims."

Garrett, Pat, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (1882, republished 1954); Utley, Robert, Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life (1989).
*"The Death Of Billy The Kid, 1881," EyeWitness to History, (2001).

Billy the Kid has featured in several books that we've published including as a ghost!

Gunsmith #8


The local gold rush is over. The threat of bandits is next to nada. And by the time Clint Adams rides through it, the pint-sized town of White Oaks is ready to settle back to normal, except for a bitter dispute between two storekeepers. But then folks begin spotting Billy the Kid around town. Problem is, the Kid's been dead several years! Normally, Adams can smell a hoax from a mile away. But, one he's taken on as a hired gun by a storekeeper, the Gunsmith spots Billy the Kid and would swear on a stack of bibles that the menace has come back to haunt him. Little does he know, though, that this phantom has a message for him - that, without the right friends in this town, the Gunsmith ain't got a ghost of a chance!

Published July 01, 2015 Recommended Price: $2.99 / £2.05



Jedediah Herne only wanted to play checkers but a fool-hardy youth wanted to draw him into a gunfight. The kid didn’t know he was facing Herne the Hunter. For Herne, it brought back memories of another time; another kid … New Mexico Territory 1878: The murder of local rancher John Tunstall lit the fuse for a bloody conflict that will be forever known as The Lincoln County War. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder is a legend and one in the making—Herne the Hunter and Billy the Kid. Luckily they are on the same side. Not so for the opposition. Herne hires out his Colt .45 to the Tunstall/McSween supporters against the Dolan/Murphy faction and thus The Regulators are born. The Kid’s gunning down of Lincoln County Sheriff Brady changed the playing field. Soon Herne and the Kid are pitched against lawmen and desperately fighting for their lives. A fast-paced adventure featuring notable figures of the Old West, including Sheriff Pat Garrett, John Chisum, Alexander McSween, Dick Brewer, Lawrence Murphy and the most famous of them all—Billy the Kid.
Published October 01, 2015- Recommended Price: $1.99/ £1.80
John Harvey's ten book series, HART THE REGULATOR has the main character of Wes Hart an ex-soldier, ex-Texas Ranger, ex-rider with Billy the Kid. He's tough, ruthless, and slick with a .45.

Or if you want to delve more in the "factual" side of the Kid's history, there is no better place to start than our very own Frederick Nolan's - or to you, Frederick H. Christian - terrific book, THE WEST OF BILLY THE KID.

Happy reading!

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