His stepfather was a drinker and a gambler and eventually faded from family life. His mother who was in the final stages of tuberculosis when the family moved to Silver City died when Henry was 14. A neighboring family took him. in.
As a young man Henry was very amiable and known as a hard worker. To earn his keep he worked at the hotel owned by the family that adopted him. The manager once said, "he was the only man that ever worked for him that did not steal anything".
When the family that adopted him started to have domestic problems, Henry moved out and on his own. His problems with the law started at this time. Mostly petty theft and horse thievery.
Henry would allegedly kill his first man at 18. An altercation with a blacksmith led to what witnesses say was a 'self defense shooting'.
By 1877 Henry found himself working as a ranch hand for various ranches in Lincoln County, NM. He also found him self in the middle of the Lincoln County War. A war between merchants of Lincoln and local ranchers.
In 1878 General Wallace of the Union Army became Governor of the New Mexico Territory..
In an effort to restore peace to Lincoln County, Wallace proclaimed an amnesty for any man involved in the Lincoln County War who was not already under indictment. McCarty, who had fled to Texas, was under indictment, but Wallace was intrigued by rumors that the young man was willing to surrender himself and testify against other combatants if amnesty could be extended to him. In March 1879 Wallace and McCarty met in Lincoln County to discuss the possibility of a deal. True to form, McCarty greeted the governor with a revolver in one hand and a Winchester rifle in the other. After taking several days to consider Wallace's offer, Henry McCarty agreed to testify in return for amnesty.
The district attorney at the time had other ideas and jailed McCarty. He escaped.
During this time, McCarty became acquainted with an ambitious local bartender and former buffalo hunter named Pat. While popular accounts often depict Henry and Pat as "bosom buddies", there is no concrete evidence that they were ever friends. Running on a pledge to rid the area of rustlers, Pat was elected as sheriff of Lincoln County in November 1880, and in early December, he assembled a posse and set out to arrest McCarty,
Responding to rumors that McCarty was lurking in the vicinity of Fort Sumner, NM almost three months after his escape, Pat, newly elected sheriff. and his deputies set out for Lucien Maxwell's ranch, a friend of Henry's
The story goes McCarty entered the kitchen late at night carrying a knife. He noticed someone in the darkness, and uttered the words, "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?" which means 'who's there', at which point he was shot and killed in ambush style by Pat.
Shortly after Henry McCarty's death, pulp fiction writers in the east feeding on 'western cowboy fever' wrote about Henry's escapades in grand style. It was said he killed 21 men for each year he lived [in reality only four could be pinned on him]. He would eventually become a legend even though his life was not legendary.
Henry McCarty??? Oh you've heard of him...and Pat and General Wallace too.
General Lew Wallace, first governor of the New Mexico Territory would go on to write Ben Hur while living in the governor's palace in Santa Fe.
And sheriff Pat? You know him as Pat Garrett -- the man who shot Henry McCarty aka William Bonney aka Billy the Kid.
And now you know....the rest of the story.
!!!BUT WAIT -- THERE'S MORE!!!
Being a fan of the old west I had heard this story and seen it in movies. There was a legend though that I was curious about -- that of Billy the Kid having two graves. Now several other men have claimed to be Billy the Kid but historians agree the real Billy the Kid was shot and buried in Fort Sumner, NM at a cemetery on the Maxwell property. The Maxwell House where he was shot no longer exits.
Myself, Chad and Steve set out to find Billy the Kids grave[s] ourselves.
Our journey started on Interstate 25. We headed east to Fort Sumner which is about two hours away and to my surprise was not 'desert' at all which I associate with Billy the Kid and the 'old west'. Eastern New Mexico is actually farming and cow country. In fact it looks like East Texas.
The drive was un-eventful -- miles and miles of farmland. We made it to Clines Corners [more on that next post] and then took 285 south to Vaughn and then to Fort Sumner.
It was Sunday and Fort Sumner is a typical small town. Everyone was in church and the streets were dead. Only Sadies restaurant was open. Well...except for the Billy the Kid Museum. A good enough place to start I guess.
There were plenty of artifacts -- most having nothing to do with Billy the Kid. This was a museum that used his name but most of the things here are just antinque collections. From typewriters to desks to lamps to toys to... what the f...???
As far as I am aware, Billy the kid did NOT ride around in a Star Wars snowspeeder!!
After making some wisecracks about the artifacts I was thrown in the hoose-gow. The nerve.
After paying my bail, we did infact find Billy the Kid's grave. The tomstone is marked 'Pals' as two of his friends from The Regulators [his posse] are buried with him. Billy's headstone is at the far righ.... wait a sec!!!!!! What is going on here!!!!!
What were they trying to pull!!!! Pull out just a little and take a look at the sign on the fence!!!!
This good sir...IS A SHAM!!!
This is the gravesite that has been fooling the American public for so long!!! Most probably don't even read the sign, much less drive an additional two miles to find the 'real' thing. Not this western afficianado!!! We got in our horseless carriage and headed east!!
Here we found another museum!!! This museum was definately the forgotten museum. It was old and run down and much smaller...BUT at least this museum had real documents. Letters written by Billy the Kid to Gov. Lew Wallace. Unfortunately, we were asked NOT to take pictures. You will just have to go for yourself.
And on that note...I cannot recommend driving two hours to the middle of nowhere unelss you are a western fan. This is a long drive and can be boring especially if you are taking kids. I however LOVED IT. It was a great drive with friends and a part of history not too many people experience. In fact, there was only one car in the lot when we drove up. The employee at the desk said it had been a slow day. People seem to stop at the bigger museum and gift shop and don't make the two mile journey to see the real thing. How very sad.
After walking around the one room museum, we headed out to the back...where the REAL Billy the Kid is buried.
And there he lay.