This is a sort of follow up on last week’s article about Uncle Rufe and the good deeds he said Billy the Kid performed in helping him and others cross the flooded Pecos River with their supplies. There are probably hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of articles written about Billy. To this day, many historians disagree on whether he was a good guy, a bad guy, whether he was actually killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett or lived well into his golden years in the form of Brushy Bill.
No matter where you fall in your interest of Billy or how you feel about him, I thought I would share the following two articles, written some 40 years apart, with references to Billy and his life.
The Daily Optic, Las Vegas, New Mexico, July 19, 1891:
Gritty Garrett’s Gift
The people of Las Vegas are perhaps as appreciative as any in the world, notwithstanding that they are all meaner than dirt and as barbarous as cannibals. When the news of the killing of the “Kid” was brought to the city it was decided that Garrett should be handsomely remunerated for his trouble, and when “The Optic” urged the same thing last night and the matter was as good as settled. A fund was started and has reached nearly $1,000 already. Here is the way the Hat was headed:
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First National Bank — $100
A.A. LaRue — $100
Scott Moore — $100
Houghton, B.& M., G., B. & Co. — $200
After this followed a number of smaller subscriptions and the good work is still going on. Garrett will get the $300 reward made by the territory, and it is said that John Chisum, a heavy cattle grower of Lincoln County, will hand over a cool $1,000 as a substantial evidence of his interest in the matter. Other citizens of Lincoln County and Ft. Sumner are expected to “chip in” another thousand, so taken all in all, Garrett will have a snug little bank account when his friends get through with him. Then, he got away with his life, which is quite an object.
Roswell Daily Record, front page, July 22, 1932:
ROSWELL SHORT TIME THIS
ON WAY TO OLD
Movie Star Arrives from Fort Sumner and Passes on Through to Old Lincoln.
Douglas Fairbanks and Johnny Mack Brown, of the movie fame, passed through Roswell at 3 o’clock this afternoon in route from Fort Sumner to Lincoln. In an interview with The Record, Mr. Fairbanks positively denied the rumor that he and Mr. Brown we’re looking for a site on which to make a new Billy the Kid picture, or even intended to make such a picture. He also laughingly denied the rumor which has been spread that he is looking for saloons.
What he really is looking for, he said, is a historic landmark which he wishes to restore and use for a museum in which to hang a collection of fine western paintings which he has. It is a very beautiful country, Doug said. This is his first visit to this part of New Mexico. That Johnny Mack Brown’s long, southern drawl comes absolutely natural to him and does not have to be manufactured for the talkies was very apparent in the few words which he said. Both of them were very much interested in this country and asked many questions concerning old landmarks. They were here for only a short time; they will stop in Lincoln tonight and tomorrow and will go from there into Arizona and Old Mexico.
Johnny Mack Brown played the part of Billy the Kid in the movie by that name, which caused so much controversy in this section. This picture was made in western New Mexico, far from the scene of the exploits of Billy the Kid and in that respect was not true to life. It also depicted Billy as the hero, rather than in his true light as an outlaw and failed to do justice to Pat Garrett.
In the small village of Fort Sumner, where the town was long divided over whether the mis-deeds and murders of young William Bonney should be glorified to posterity by a fitting monument, the Fairbanks party spent last night. The historians of Fort Sumner finally won and today the grave of Billy the Kid is prominently identified for the inspection of visitors to Fort Sumner.
It was near Fort Sumner that Billy the Kid was finally killed by Garrett in a bedroom of the Maxwell ranch house. It was likewise in this ranch house that Gov. Lew Wallace failed to make a truce between the Kid and the state, and the governor sent Garrett as a Special Marshal to get the Kid dead or alive.
Janice Dunnahoo is an archive volunteer at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.