It is estimated that Henry McCarty was born in New York City between September 17 and November 23, 1859. His fame as an outlaw and gunfighter throughout the American Old West led to his becoming a folk hero. In recent years, much speculation has been surrounding the mysterious death of legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. A lot of theories have been put forth about what happened, but no concrete answers have been given as to what really happened that day.
With a combination of luck, ingenuity, and a bit of charm, Henry McCarty managed to remain at large for some time and became forever known as Billy the Kid. For readers interested in this tale, this blog post will explore the circumstances behind the Wild West gunfighter’s final hours and attempt to uncover the truth of what really happened.
1. Early Life of Billy The Kid
Henry McCarty, better known by his alias “Billy the Kid”, was a notorious outlaw who was active in the Arizona Territory during the late 1800s. Known for his wild, outlaw lifestyle, Billy the Kid is a figure ingrained in folklore and has been the inspiration for a large number of books, movies, and TV shows.
Henry McCarty’s family was the beginning of his journey to becoming Billy the Kid. A son of Irish immigrants, Henry grew up in New York and Pennsylvania. Catherine McCarty and Patrick McCarty were thought to be his mother and father, respectively. A younger brother, Joseph McCarty, was also in the family.
He probably grew up in an Irish slum in Manhattan or Brooklyn for the first six years of his life. The kid probably grew up in an Irish slum in Manhattan or Brooklyn for the first six years of his life. Born in an Irish family, he was no stranger to social challenges since new york looked down on Irish immigrants in the 186os and 70s.
It was in the late 1860s that Billy moved to Indiana, and then in 1870, he moved to Wichita, Kansas. Billy’s father died after the Civil War, and his mother was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and told she needed to move to a place with drier weather. The family eventually moved to the Arizona Territory after Catherine McCarty remarried William Antrim in Silver City, New Mexico, before settling in the Arizona Territory.
His mother runs her own successful laundry business and after some time she was able to purchase land outside of town. And, Her younger brother Joseph and Billy may help her build a house. Billy’s mother makes sure that her kids would grow up tiring a happy and secure life surrounded by family.
2. How Henry Mccarty becomes Billy The Kid?
Around 1877 as Billy, the kid’s notoriety began to grow he needed an alias which was a common practice in the old west back then the west was populated by people with nicknames like wild Bill, crazy steve and calamity Jane for Henry it was easy to choose one among the grizzled veterans of the criminal world surrounding him. He stood out like a sore thumb a scrawny weak jawed figure with not even a trace of a beard his youthfulness obvious in every line of his face and body.
It wasn’t long before he was becoming known as kid Antrim or just the kid a nickname that would stay with him for the few years he had left to live. In a matter of two years, the kid had escalated from getting a sheriff’s scolding for stealing some butter to committing a capital crime by stealing horses from an army camp and it wasn’t long before sank even deeper into crime.
3. At the Age of 15, He was Orphaned
His stepfather worked as a bartender and carpenter and everything was going normal but after sometimes his father started ignoring his wife and stepsons. Taking in boarders for her sons, McCarty’s mother helped her husband support an indigent family. While the weather improved, Billy’s mother’s condition continued to deteriorate, and in 1874, she passed away. Billy, the kid was only 14 when his mother died of TB. The 14-year-old William was considered an honest and trustworthy boy before he became an orphan.
The two boys were raised by their stepfather, William Antrim, but he wasn’t interested in raising them. In the end, he abandoned the brothers after finding separate foster homes for them. At this point, billy was still a good low-abiding kid. Billy the kid started working in a hotel as a waiter. But, something soon changed in Billy.
4. First Crime of Billy The Kid
HistoryNet reports that he was caught stealing food. Then, a few months later, he made friends with a small-time crook called Sombrero Jack. Billy the kid’s life was changed dramatically when Jack robbed a Chinese laundry, he asked Billy to hold onto swag and store it in the boarding house. Unfortunately, it was discovered by the homeowner, who reported it to the sheriff.
Jack skipped town but Billy the kid was captured for stealing clothing. He put Billy in a cell for two days with no intention of doing more than warning the boy straight. Billy, however, was determined and he was able to make his way out of the prison through the chimney on the roof. Now, he was a fugitive from the law.
5. How Billy The Kid became famous?
In the papers, Billy’s story of escaping from jail sparked his fame. When the silver city herald published the story of the robbery. The young boy is now running for his life and seeking protection at his stepfather’s house in Arizona. However, William Antrim throws him out but before that billy steals some clothes and a gun from him.
6. Billy The Kid was a Target of Bullying.
According to Legends of America, 2 years after escaping the jail, he met a blacksmith called Frank Windy Cahill. Who always picks on billy, he was frequently a target of bullying because he was small and somewhat girlish looking. He was slim, had sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes, and wore a sombrero hat with a large decorative band. Billy wore sombreros often, usually in the form of a sugar loaf.
7. Billy The Kid’s First Murder
According to Historynet, on August, 17th 1877, Cahill’s insult went too far and in response to his insult billy, the kid responded by cuss word. A panicked Billy pulled out a gun and shot Cahill after the blacksmith jumped him, threw him down, and pinned him. Billy the kid jumped on a horse and ride into the distance. Billy has the support of people as one witness said, it was for self-defense.
8. Billy The kid Joined a Gang of Rustlers
After Cahill’s death, Billy headed back to New Mexico and joined the most infamous band of rustlers known as ‘The Boys. The leader was Jesse Evans and his sidekick was John Kinner, King of rustlers. The boys began working for ‘The House’, they are into selling goods, land, and cattle. James Dolan was one of the heads of the house, he was a hard businessman that was feard and wouldn’t let anything get in his way including the law and the local sheriff Brady.
Everything was going smoothly for the house and billy as well but, it all changes when a wealthy young Englishmen named John Tunstall arrived in Lincoln county, new mexico in 1876 and decided he could outwit the locals by setting up his monopoly with his store and cattle.
Tunstall’s business impacted the profitability of the house and put him directly in the path of James Dolan and the two became bitter enemies. Dolan gets billy and the boys to steal horses and they began stealing horses from Tunstall. One day they were caught and billy was imprisoned.
9. How did Billy The kid become Friends with Tunstall?
John Tunstall visited Billy in jail and they hit it off, he offered billy a job working for him, and the kid accepted. Tunstall was only 6 years older than billy but billy respected him and saw him as a mentor. He was welcomed in and became friends with Tunstall and his employers. It wasn’t until Henry was in his teens that he made his way into the lawless atmosphere that was the Arizona Territory in the 1880s.
Billy spent a few blissful winter months working as a cowboy and guard on John Henry Tunstall’s ranch. He found himself drawn to the lifestyle of some of his more experienced peers, taking part in criminal activities such as theft, horse theft, and even murder. It was at this point that his fame as Billy the kid began to spread, leading to his status as one of the most notorious outlaws of the old west.
10. He was the Center of Attraction/ Starting of the Lincoln County War
His humorous and pleasing personality grew to be a community favorite. He was the center of interest everywhere he went. The key event for the start of the Lincoln County War was a disagreement over how the insurance proceeds of Emil Fritz were to be distributed. Emil Fritz collaborated as an associate alongside L. G. Murphy. He passed away in 1874, and the estate’s executors employed Alexander McSween to handle the insurance claim.
11. He became Embroiled in the Lincoln County War
On February 18th, 1878, Tunstall and his group were out riding with billy when billy’s old gang the boys shot and killed Tunstall in cold blood in front of Billy and he became a part of the lincoln county war. Tunstall’s murder becomes a turning point in the kid’s life, he wants revenge for his mentor.
Several gunfights and revenge killings were to take place over the next five months between both sides. In the lincoln county war billy killed at least a few people including sheriff Braddy. Billy the Kid is renowned for being one of the most skilled gunmen in the Wild West.
As the legends of America, it is said that back in 1879, Governor Lew Wallace of the New Mexico Territory learned that Billy the Kid would be open to surrendering and bearing witness against fellow outlaws if his charges were cleared. They eventually met to discuss the situation and governor Wallace offered billy a seemingly straightforward deal. The deal was to testify against everyone involved in the war and he will be pardoned billy agreed to testify.
According to the deal, Billy was to be arrested for show and remain in custody until the trial dates; however, the district attorney declined to adhere to the governor’s order. During an argument in Fort Sumner on January 10, 1880, the Kid shot and killed a local drunk.
So without pardon, billy has no choice but to escape to jail once again and continue living on the run. The book Billy the kid: A short & violent life says that the pardon could have offered an opportunity for “legitimate prosperity”. Billy was the most terrible individual in the Wild West, but according to the book, “the law singled him let for special treatment.”
12. Billy The kid Formed his Gang
After escaping from the jail billy formed his gang of outlaws. Typically, the gang led by Billy the Kid was known as the “Rustlers” or simply as “Billy the Kid’s Gang.” This group survived by stealing and rustling cattle as he had in the past. The six most notorious members of the gang were Tom O’Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, Tom Pickett, Billy the Kid, “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, and Billy Wilson. Fort Sumner was his home for a year.
13. Pat Garrett Vs. Billy The Kid
Pat Garrett an exceptionally tall thin man, an ex-buffalo hunter and cowboy was elected a sheriff of lincoln county just been elected a few weeks before the great house incident. It didn’t take long for Garrett to learn that Fort Sumner was the kid’s favorite hideout just weeks after the Greathouse incident. He was determined to bring billy to justice. Garrett summoned a posse of his own and rode quietly into Fort Sumner to lay a trap for the kid.
The kid was hiding out on another Ranch at the time but Garrett craftily had a note written and sent to the kid telling him that the lawman had left delighted to be able to return to fort Sumner and get back to his award live the kid gathered his friends and rode back into Fort Sumner. Sheriff Pat Garrett trapped and captured Billy on December 23rd, just one day after Governor Wallace offered him a $500 reward for his arrest. By this time Billy had become a folk hero to some and an evil outlaw to others. In addition to endless news articles written about him.
Billy spent months in a Santa Fe jail before he was brought to trial in April 1881. Kid’s representative is Albert Jennings Fountain, who wrote scathing editorials about Billy’s former gang. There have only been two days of testimony for both sides in the case, so the case has concluded. They found him guilty and execution was scheduled for May 13th, and the sentence was death by hanging. Billy the Kid would be the only person in Lincoln County convicted of war crimes.
But, there were no bars to trap billy in, and somehow billy got hands-on the gun. He was thought to have received help from one of his gang members, but historians don’t have any solid evidence of this. On his way of escaping from the jail, he shoots two guards James Bell and Robert Olinger. Billy the kid stole a horse and raced out of town. Billy didn’t care about keeping his profile low when he returned home to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. But Pat Garrett keep his eye on him for three months.
14. The Last Day of Billy The kid
Pat Garratte started questioning several people in the town and he found out that the kid was staying with an old friend named Pete Maxwell. On July 14th, 1881, Pat Garrett and his group of followers went to Peter Maxwell’s residence to inquire if he knew the whereabouts of the young man. Billy was a close friend of maxwell’s wife. When Pat Garrett was in maxwell’s darkened bedroom to catch Billy, at the same time he was on his way over the dinner at maxwell’s house.
Billy showed up at the door, but he didn’t recognize Garrett because of the poor light and he was shot twice in the back by Pat Garrett. The initial shot struck him in the shoulder, causing him to fall to his knees. The second shot struck his heart, killing him instantly after escaping and living in a dangerous situation.
Pat Garrett later wrote about that moment in his books, ‘It was the first time during all billy the kid’s life of peril that he now lost this presence of mind and fail to shoot first and hesitate afterwards.’ After escaping from one dangerous situation after the next, he was dead at the age of 21.
At Fort Sumner’s cemetery, Henry McCarty was interred the next day alongside his dead friends Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre.
15. The Death Of Billy The Kid
The death of Billy the Kid has fascinated people for centuries. He was a notorious outlaw and murderer who gained his nickname from the fact that he killed two men during one event. On December 28, 1880, a jailhouse interview with the Kid is published in the Las Vegas Gazette. As he is quoted as saying, “What’s the use of looking on the gloomy side of everything? The laugh’s on me this time.”
Garrett’s account of what happened differs from that of several other witnesses, including his wife. She claimed that when she saw Billy lying on the ground, he looked up at her and said “Ma’am, I’m dying”, before falling over dead. Another witness claimed that Garrett shot Billy while he was still standing upright and walking toward him with his hands outstretched.
16. Movies & Books
According to Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride, there were numerous novels and nonfiction works with minimal facts released after his death. Even Patt Garrett wrote a biography of Billy. Throughout history, billy has been used to represent different things by each generation. During the 1920s, books depicted him as Robin Hood of a “lost pastoral world” following the end of the wild west era.
People in other decades have portrayed him as a heroic frontiersman, a homicidal maniac, or a martyr for freedom. His legacy has been carried on through more than a dozen movies and ballet to honor him. Furthermore, he still brings in millions of dollars for New Mexico’s tourism sector.
17. People who Claim to be Billy The Kid
Many people come forward and claimed to be the outlaw. Vintage news says that a person called Brushy Bill was taken a little seriously. While living in Texas in the 1940s, he managed to persuade local residents, some of his peers, and a lawyer that he was really an outlaw.
He could demonstrate how to get out of handcuffs and had 26 bullet and knife marks on his body. Brushy Bill filled a petition for forgiveness from the governor of New Mexico, but the governor was not persuaded. Brushy Bill stuck to the story until he died in 1950 and even requested that his tombstone include the line: “A.K.A. Billy the kid.”
More than 160 years after billy the kid was born, his legend is still going strong and it shows no signs of slowing down even if that legend is based on both fact and fiction. There was only a brief time when Billy the kid was famous and he barely lived two decades on earth. But it hasn’t stopped people from taking her name and image and turning him into whatever they want. During the short span of his life, he is believed to have killed 21 men, one every year. Nevertheless, many historians estimate he actually accounted for nine (four on his own and five with other people’s assistance).
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