Billy the Kid’s Grave – A History of the Wild West’s Most Famous Death Marker
By David G. Thomas
The answer to this incautious question – “Who is it?” – was a bullet to the heart.
That bullet – fired by Lincoln County Sheriff Patrick F. Garrett from a .40-44 caliber single action Colt pistol – ended the life of Billy the Kid, real name William Henry McCarty.
But death – ordinarily so final – only fueled the public’s fascination with Billy the Kid.
What events led to Billy’s killing? Was it inevitable? Was a woman involved? If so, who was she?
Why has Billy’s gravestone become the most famous – and most visited – Western death marker? Is Billy really buried in his grave? Is the grave in the right location?
Is it true that Pat Garrett’s first wife is buried in the same cemetery? Is Billy’s girlfriend buried there also?
The Fort Sumner cemetery where Billy’s grave is located was once plowed for cultivation. Why?
What town, seeking a profitable tourist attraction, tried to move Billy’s body, using a phony relative to justify the action?
These questions – and many others – are answered in this book.
The book is divided into three sections.
- The first gives an account of the chain of events that led directly to Billy’s death, beginning with the singular event that started the sequence, Billy’s conviction for murder and his sentencing to hang. As much as possible, these events are related using the actual words of witnesses and contemporaries.
- The second tells the story of Billy’s burial and the many surprising incidents associated with his grave over the years.
- The third lists the 111 men and women known to be buried along with Billy in the Fort Sumner cemetery, with short biographies. Sixteen of these individuals had very direct connections with Billy.
Appendix A supplies Charles W. Dudrow’s correspondence regarding the locating and disinterring of the military burials at Fort Sumner. Appendix B reprints the only newspaper interview ever granted by Sheriff Patrick F. Garrett on the killing of Billy the Kid.
To supplement this history are 65 photos and illustrations. These include photos of the different memorials that have marked Billy’s grave over the years, including a photo of Billy’s previously-unknown second grave marker; pictures of the men – friends of Billy – who re-located the grave in 1931; pictures of Billy’s most likely girlfriend, Paulita Maxwell, and her parents; and a historic 1906 Fort Sumner cemetery map showing the location of Billy’s grave.
154 pages, paperback.