The Infamous Billy The Kid Is Born – 11/23/1859

US History |


The New York City’s East Side records the birth in a poor Irish neighborhood of the infamous Western criminal known as “Billy the Kid.” His reputation acknowledges he gunned downed twenty-seven individuals in the American West before being killed at age 21.

Although he called himself William H. Bonney, Billy the Kid’s legitimate name was most likely Henry McCarty. His mother’s maiden name was Catherine Bonney while William belonged to his mother’s companion of many years, William Antrin who assumed the role of Billy’s father after the disappearance of his biological father. Billy, Antrin, his brother and mother journeyed west to Indiana around 1865 while they arrived in Wichita, Kansas by 1870. Their journey continued farther west as they headed down the cattle trails where William and Catherine were finally married according to the New Mexico records in 1873. Sadly, Catherine died in Silver City of lung cancer one year later.

Billy shortly decided to leave his step father and brother to venture forth into the sagebrush of New Mexico. Billy soon found a job as a ranch hand and supposedly murdered his first victims in the Guadalupe Mountains in 1876; those he killed were a group of reservation Apache Indian men. Legend says that shortly after, he killed another individual in Camp Grant, Arizona who worked as a blacksmith. People started calling him “Billy the Kid” as he moved on and becomes a bodyguard and rancher for John Tunstall; he worked out of Lincoln, New Mexico as an English-born rancher. Billy became a part of the well-known Lincoln County War as a result of Tunstall being murdered by a rival cattle gang in 1878.

Billy was so angry over Tunstall’s killing that he formed a vigilante group known as “regulators” to find the killers and arrest them. Though assuming the role as the leader, no one was ever arrested. Instead, Billy’s posse would shoot and kill two of the killers in which caused a blood feud that expanded into total warfare. Things escalated after the “regulators” shot and killed Sheriff Bill Brady because he had ordered Tunstall to be murdered. Finally, enemies of Billy conspired to get rid of the posse with the help of territorial authorities.

Just outside of town, the rival gang cornered Billy and his posse in the house they were in during July of 1878. While the battle continued on for five days, nearby Fort Stanton was asked and sent in a U.S. Army squadron to assist; regardless, they would not surrender. Surprisingly, Billy and his regulators made a daring escape where miraculously they shot their way to freedom.

Over two years later, Lincoln Sheriff Pat Garrett, who ironically Billy befriended, prior to him becoming a lawman, arrested Billy the Kid. Billy would be sentenced to hang after being found guilty of killing Sheriff Brady in April of 1881. Two weeks before being hanged, he managed to overpower a jailer and take his gun on April 28th; Billy killed him and a deputy as his jail break became known nationally.

Garrett would find Billy on the night of July 14th, 1881 around Fort Sumner, New Mexico at a ranch. He snuck in the house of Billy’s girlfriend, who he was visiting, and in the dark surprised him. Garret shot him in the chest before Billy could defend himself; Billy the Kid died at 21 years of age.

Share On Facebook

Mike Sexton

Chief Editor

I have always had a passion for writing since a young age and can still remember the first time a teacher assigned us to create our own newspaper it was my favorite project. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper and loved learning about new topics. I knew I found my new passion and as soon as I stepped foot on UCLA my mind was made up. Since getting my degree I have done all types of writing and love the freedom it gives me to work from anywhere. I hope you all love my writing as I am excited to produce quality articles each day for you!