Old West outlaw William Bonney, aka “Billy the Kid,” was famously shot by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico on July 14, 1881. He was buried in the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery alongside Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre, two members of the Kid’s gang, who had both been killed by Garrett’s posse in 1880. The Kid’s individual grave marker, which wasn’t placed until 1940, has been stolen and recovered twice. It is presently in shackles inside an iron cage.
There are those who believe that the person buried in Fort Sumner isn’t the real Billy the Kid, but an impostor. Numerous claims have been made, but two possible other Billy the Kids are Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts (buried in Hamilton, Texas) and John Miller (buried in Prescott, Arizona, where he died in 1937).
John Miller’s remains were exhumed in 2005. DNA was gathered from two corpses buried next to each other — researchers were unsure at first which of the two was the body of John Miller. DNA samples from these exhumations were to be compared with bloodstains from a bench where the Kid’s body was laid after he was killed in Fort Sumner. But so far the results of any comparisons with Miller’s DNA have not been released to the public.
The same team had also wanted to exhume the bodies of the Fort Sumner Billy the Kid, and the Kid’s mother Catherine Antrim, who is buried in Silver City, New Mexico. But officials in Fort Sumner and Silver City have successfully blocked these exhumations. For more details on the search for Billy the Kid see: A New Billy the Kid? The mad search for the bones of an American outlaw icon has come to Arizona. Despite the impostor theories, many historians believe the real Billy the Kid died and was buried in Fort Sumner.
Photographs by Joe Beine, 17 October 2007, Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Great photos, Joe! Outlaws have always fascinated me.
Even in death he’s STILL behind bars.
Hi Joe; excellent photos and interesting text. The legend surrounding Billy the Kid has made for many stories and speculations. We appreciate your work.
The grave of “Brushy Bll” Roberts is at Hico, Texas in *Hamilaton County* but not at Hamilton, Texas. A fanciful statue of “Brushy Bill” is located in Hico as well.
Actually “Brushy Bill Roberts” IS buried in Hamilton. I have been there. My grandfather is buried about 100 feet from him. Now there is a museum in Hico for Bill or Billy but The grave in in Hamilton.
Find A Grave shows the grave of Ollie Roberts (aka Brushy Bill) as being in Oakwood Cemetery in Hamilton, Texas (in Hamilton County). He was a resident of Hico, but he is buried in Hamilton.
I think that Ollie Brushy Bill Roberts DNA should be compared to that of his mother, and if he was telling the truth, that can be proven. But if Brushy Bill Roberts wasn’t who he said he was…then who was he? And where did he get 26 bullet and knife scars that he showed Morrison? Why would Pat Garretts own daughter say that her father did not shoot billy the kid when she had nothing to gain by it? Too many unanswered questions for them NOT to exhume the bodies and do dna testing. American history could be changed forever and put an old man’s wishes to rest and he can die the man he claimed to be and finally get that PARDON from America! If nothing else, the whole world would know the truth!
I agree whole heartedly with palsfan. Number1 If any one can recall the first conversation Morrison had with Brushy Bill, he asked him if he was the Legendary BILLY THE KID, he answered no my half brother in New Mexico is. More then likely refering to his Brother Joe, now why would anyone put someone else in it if this was’nt true or was hiding something from someone, thus being the conversation held in front of his wife likely being the fact, that Billy didn’ want his wife to know the true identity of Billy the Kid, actually being Ollie Roberts. Now lets talk about his wounds he had physicall scars and some say emotional scars that Billy the Kid would of had. I need to finish this soon as it is only a reply not a thesis which i could write with no problems putting every Historian to shame, the man Hines who actually turned out to be Jesse Evans was excepted no problems. Now i do not doubt this to be true for a minute, and if so he would have nothing to gain as an old man telling that Brushy Bill was indeed the Infamous Billy the Kid. The big problem here is they would all have to admit they were all wrong and if the man that was shot by the Druken Pat Garrett was indeed John Wesly Hardins cousin he would have said it was Billy just to save this mad man coming from Texas to shot him. This would have been a death warrant for anyone let alone a law enforcement officer as Garrett would have known. So lets everyone put their money where their mouths are and have some of these DNA tests like suggested, because all it does is say Ollie which could be AN ACRONYM FOR (Ollinger) Brushy Bill Roberts is Billy the Kid
those are beautuful pictures you took. id like to know if john miller or brushy bill roberts was him or not either way. people who really care wont get to know because the books could be proved wrong and a couple of government connected whiners have all hopes shut off as you would a light.
I love the photos. It’s ironic that to protect the headstone of a famous outlaw, it was put in a jail cell. This issue will never be resolved simply because of the tourist attraction it represents. If it ever came out that “The Kid” is not buried there, the municipality would lose money.
I think there can be no doubt as to the death of Billy the Kid at the hands of Pat Garrett inside the Pete Maxwell house. Because there has been plenty of eye witness testimony by all parties at the scene. Along with his subsequent wake and burial the next day. And so, there will always be self deluded individuals and imposters looking for their place in history. But really, there’s only one Billy the Kid. The one who finally died in Fort Sumner after a relentless pursuit by Pat Garrett. Because, after all, what tells the tale better than the will and determination of human beings as they take their place in history?
As a relative of the late pat garrett I HOPE he didn’t shoot billy the kid. My grandfather WL Garrett said he did though. rz
After watching Young Guns II there are some people that speak about the myth that surround Billy the Kid. I began to do some reading about the issue and personally believe that Billy the Kid was not killed by Pat Garret. I would like to ask about the inscription PALS carved on the headstone. It was said that it was carved after the headstone was set but if that is so then who did it and is it believed to be Billy the Kid himslef? I don’t know I am just curious if anybody has any input.
The big “Pals” grave marker was placed at the head of the three outlaws’ graves in Feb., 1931. The Kid’s grave was given a cement covering by some of the seniors at Fort Sumner High School on Arbor Day (in late April), 1930. The curbing and marker pedestal were poured and set sometime in 1930, sometime after the aforementioned covering. The Kid’s smaller footstone and a six-post, six-foot-high chain-link fence around the curbing were placed at the same time in April, 1940. The smaller stone was stolen in 1950 and recovered near Granbury, Tex., in 1976, and stolen again in Feb., 1981, and recovered three weeks later in Huntington Beach, Calif. The smaller stone was reset, the chain-link fence taken down, and the garish steel cage built in time for a big rededication ceremony during Old Fort Sumner Days in June, 1981.
The controvery of whether Billy The Kid was killed by Pat Garrett just makes Billy The Kid more legendary. It is a good way to get more tourists to visit his real grave or his fake grave. He is becoming more famous in death than in life. The fact is Billy The Kid was a killer! I am too facinated with the history of the West as I grew up in Oklahoma.
I like to read the truth about what happend to Billy The Kid, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp and others instead of a made up story. To solve the question of who really killed Billy The Kid or Jesse James would end the legendary status of both.
To many untruths have been told about both Billy The Kid and Jesse James in the past. Untruths keep both alive and will for years to come. What will DNA results do for the legend of Billy The Kid? It will just make Billy The Kid bigger than he really was in life! However, western history buffs will enjoy reading more about the legend of Billy The Kid as well as Jesse James.
Not only has Billy the Kid’s stoen been stolen, but long prior to that there was a flood that dislodged many stones from that cemetery and Billy’s was one of them. It was recovered, but no one could recall precisely where The Kid was buried, so the current placement is probably not on his grave.
The famous late summer, 1904, flood was just one of several Pecos River floods that carved away and eventually erased some 40 percent of the former military (1862-68) post buildings that were sold to wealthy Lucien Maxwell in the Fall of 1870 and soon became the Maxwell family ranch complex (1871-84). The complex was home to about 200 villagers, 90 percent of whom were Hispanic.
While the Kid’s wooden cross was stolen and replaced, then disappeared again, Maxwell’s servant girl, a Navajo he named Deluvina Maxwell, kept going to the Kid’s grave, placing flowers on it and taking/directing visitors there over the years. Walter Noble Burns interviewed her at her Old Fort Sumner home in 1924. A WPA Writer’s Project writer interviewed her there in June, 1926. She lived at Old Fort Sumner until late 1926, when, elderly and in declining health, Deluvina moved into the nearby Village of Fort Sumner. From there, she was moved to Albuquerque, where she died in early 1927.
In the meantime, Charlie Foor, who arrived at the Maxwells’ complex three months after the Kid’s death and was hired by Pete Maxwell as a ranch hand, became the self-appointed tour guide of the old post grounds and nearby post cemetery where Folliard, Bowdre, and the Kid are buried. He continued to do so for decades. Foor, for example, took Hollywood film stars Johnny Mack Brown and Douglas Fairbanks there in the summer of 1932. He took reporters there several times. Foor died in the Village of Fort Sumner in 1941.
In 1906, the U. S. government hired Charles Dudrow to exhume the remains of 26 soldiers who were buried there during the fort’s heyday and take them to the Santa Fe National Cemetery for reburial. He drew a map of the old post cemetery, showing where the soldiers remains had been buried (along the length of the west wall); the three outlaws were buried (in the middle of the cemetery), and the Maxwells (Lucien, wife Luz, and son Pete) were buried (in the southeast corner). The Dudrow map shows that Bowdre was buried a slight distance south of Folliard, but that Folliard and the Kid were buried side by side. The Kid’s grave hugged the north side of Folliard’s grave.
The closest point the top of the east bank of the carved-out Pecos River channel comes to the closest corner of the old post cemetery is 1,300 feet. The outlaws’ graves and the Maxwells’ graves (Lucien died in 1875, Pete in 1898, and Luz in 1900) are another 100 feet northeast of that corner.
Maybe some, most, or all of the cemetery’s many wooden markers were washed away. But Dudrow located the cemetery’s four corners.
He used them as reference points to locate
the soldier’s graves, the outlaws’ graves, and the Maxwells’ graves.
Using the Dudrow Map, a former superintendent of Fort Sumner State Monument was able to take Dudrow’s measurements from the northwest and southwest corners of the 1906 old post cemetery to the outlaws’ graves and he came away impressed. The Dudrow measurements and his measurements were within a foot of one another.
There were too many friends of the Kid who lived at/near the old post cemetery for decades, who could locate his grave for reporters, authors, and the curious.
After the advent of automobile tourism, Foor launched a fund drive to erect a permanent grave marker. The Pals makrer was ordered in Oct., 1930, and the marker put in place four months later.
I think modern day science should unveil the truth about whether or not Billy the kids grave is actually where historians claim it is and if in fact the grave is of Billy the kid.
I know w/ out a dought that Pat Garrett shot and killed William H. Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid.. Miller and Roberts were just two old man who were wanting to get noticed and or fame before their time was up on this earth.Even today we have the same things happening now look at Elvis Presley people swear he is still alive. Let the kid have peace..R.I.P. Billy kid 7/14/81
well im not your idea of a genius but im a great fan of tha kid, and i have enough sence to belive that Garrett gave the kid “the pass” of the century meaning he let the kid walk. As much as he wanted to put a bullit through the kid’s head they had a type of friend ship that no one till this day can figure out. rest in peace “the kid” William H.Bonney
i live about an hour from the old billy the kid hang out and about an hour and a half to 2 hours from billy the kids grave. Suprisingly i haven’t been able to stop at either one, but i say let the myths , tails , stories , and all that other good stuff keep going , other wise there won’t be a spark left in the stories about billy the kid . I’m 24 and when i found out that where i am living is billy the kids old stomping grounds i acted like a little kid whose christmass had come early . so i say leave the stories the way they are. let us keep our dreams .
I stand with another reader on this one. Why not dig up the remains of Billy the Kid? Why are officials blocking the exhumation of the grave? The reason? They fear repercussions. 1.) Who wants to come to a grave that’s marked “Billy the Kid” when he is not there….loosing revenue for their city. 2.) It would make many historians look like amateurs who wrote in their biography’s on how they came about proving that the person laying in that grave is the REAL William H. Bonney, AKA “Billy the Kid” and all other accounts fictitious. Boy, what a slap in the face! We should not as people even question their supreme knowledge of the “Old West”…..god forbid!
Well said. People should read more then they will discover secrets who was the real billy the kid. He was buried in Prescott, Arizona.
Maybe we need to change History, to the Truth….
I agree with palsfan coment. I also agree with kata. I enjoy reading about Billy The Kid,.
There is a certain lack of ethics in regard to digging up a body in the attempt to prove a point! Money aside…seriously…let the body of whomever is in the grave just rest.
I stumbled along this site while watching “Young Guns”. I find Joe’s work interesting. Makes me want to get back in the game of writing and even possibly doing photos. Thanks!
After reading all of this you have to ask, where did the rumor of billy the kids survival originate from? And why did who ever said it say it? We need to start from scratch investigating such a legend.
Does anyone know if Billy’s .41 Caliber, Colt Thunderer is in existance?
Some years back an elderly relative died and among the old guns was one. Her Grandfather was from New Mexico and the gun is identical to the one in Billy’s belt. It is still in operating condition.
Nobody knows what happened to the Kid’s Colt that Garrett examined (after he’d shot and killed the Kid) and confirmed “…it was a self-cocker, .41 caliber.” Nobody knows what happened to the the Kid’s wide-brimmed hat, his boots, his holster, his saddle, or the horse he had ridden into Fort Sumner that final time.
I found an old picture in my grandmothers photos of a man wearing a gun and on the back of the photo is written Grandpa Stone, great nephew of Billy the Kid. He is wearing Billy’s gun. I do not know the truth of the story but I would like more input please
He also fascinates me. I think they should add the inscription on his grave: “Here lies Billy the Kid. He had 102 gunfights, but only lost one”
yeah, like that!!
I totally believe that Billy the Kid was not killed by Pat Garrett. I also believe that Billy was indeed John Miller. The reason being is look how John lived his life. He had scars to prove it and never admitted pubicly. Only came to life after Billy the Kid was supposably shot and killed by Pat Garrett. Brushy Bill Roberts claimed he was Jesse James before Billy the Kid. That totally discredits him. John Miller never looked for public notrity.
Well said. I totally agree that John Miller is Billy the kid. The frame, the eyes, nose, ear, lips and slope shoulders. He could speak Spanish fluently and handwriting showed he’s educated. And he still use his gun at an old age. And John Miller didn’t have mustache like billy. Brushy had long ear, strong scary eyes, the frame of Brushy is much larger and not slamp shoulders, and handwriting is different than Billy the kids handwriting. John Miller always use his gun like Billy. And for the record he had buck teeth and protruding upper lips.
The history of Billy and all that surrounded him is totally fascinating to me.So I say to Billys spirit “ride cowboy ride” to the back door to heaven to the other side!
billy was a good kid but he made alot of bad choices. why bury him behind bars? everyone deserves a second chance in the afterlife.
i have a question, maybe i missed it but, i heard there was an unknown person who carved an inscription on billy the kids grave stone shortly after his death, i dont know what it said but i believe it was one word, would any of you know if it is true and what it said??
The inscription was the word ” PALS “. The story is that The Kid returned to the grave site of his fallen brothers and inscribed it.
I’m a decendant of Charlie Bowdre. My father was instrumental at the trial in the early 60’s to stop the disturbing of the graves. Without knowing exactly which grave is which, how would they know which one to open….don’t open my relatives. The whole story of Billy the Kid and his ‘Pals’ is great history…no matter which of the stories one believes. Bottom line…that’s where the story happened. Leave it there.
I love seeing so much interest in this story. It was important to my dad.
They need to get a court order to find out who is the real billy the kid
some things are best left unanswered
It’s obvious, the officials don’t want a DNA test conducted because they have everything to lose and nothing more to gain. If the body in Ft Sumner is proven NOT to be the Kid then that site loses its value as a tourist destination.
They should do the dna tests to prove its really him and make everything right by the proof of it and get the right name on the right head stone !! hes my favorite outlaw !
In order to do DNA testing of any sort, you need some kind of tissue sample from the remains of the person being tested. There is a big problem with that in Billy’s case. No one living today knows the exact location of where the Kid was buried, and even if they did, there is no certainty that his remains would still be there today.
Not many years after Billy the Kid was supposedly laid to rest in the cemetery at old Fort Sumner, a big flood raged down the nearby Pecos River and unearthed many of the bodies buried there, scattering their remains all over the cemetery. Even if, through some tremendous effort, a body was recovered that was reasonably believed to be that of the Kid’s, and then DNA testing showed that the sample did not belong to the Kid, would this prove that the Kid was not buried there? Would investigators then proceed to dig up the rest of the cemetery in a continuing effort to find Billy? Could they even procure all the permits that would be necessary for them to do that?
This is a mystery that may never be solved. Argue though we may, to this day we have only the world of Pat Garret and his two deputies, Tip Kinney and John Poe, that Garrett was the one who shot Billy the Kid dead that summer night so many years ago in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. In the many years since the supposed death of the Kid, there have been many reliable witnesses who knew him quite well who have sworn that they have seen Billy since that fateful night. Are we to simply take Garrett’s word for it against all those reliable sources?
I don’t know about you, but as a searcher for the truth, my conscience won’t let me do that.
I think that the kid is still alive in the minds and hearts of old west fans like me and if you want to think garrett bibnt kill him or did kill him that is up to you I have been to the gravesight and to the meusim in hico texas I think there are a lot of slips twix a cup and a lip and just mabey the kid died of old age somewhere between arizona and texas
The Billy the kid that buried in Hamilton Tx , they should do a DNA on him and find where the real Billy the kid is buried at. I hoping its in Hamilton. don’t wait for Old Mexico do DNA, let Texas do it and that will be prove that Billy the kid is buried here in Hamilton Tx ?
Yes they should do a DNA test because i have been trying to find out where he is buried and i have to visit the actual grave because i have heard through my family that i am related to him.
billy the kids grave is not in fort Sumner. i went to the kids museum there. they had a duplicate there with it they have a scription that reads where it is. while i was there i taken a picture of this scription. i am a historian myself. waiting to see the kids grave as well. but yet have not seen it what so ever. but will one day. and back then they had a lot of billy the kids back in those times. but i believe only one to be billy the kid as William h Bonnie.