Billy The Kid
Obviously the most well-known Old West figure in history, Bill the Kid’s life has been shrouded in rumor and mythology since he was killed in 1881 at the young age of 21. Scant information is known about his early life. The man who became as Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty to an Irish immigrant mother in New York City in 1859. His mother, Catherine, moved Henry and his brother Joseph to Indianapolis when the boys were still young.
Catherine remarried in Indiana and the family relocated to Wichita, Kansas in, and then finally to New Mexico, where Catherine died in 1874 of tuberculosis. Henry McCarty was now 15-years-old. It was not long before he embarked on a life of crime that would make him an outlaw and a hero throughout the world. McCarty had several brushes with the law from 1875 until 1877. He became a thief, stealing pistols, clothing, and food. His stepfather finally threw him out of the house, and McCarty made his way to the Arizona territory.
McCarty committed his first known murder in August 1877, a month before his 18th birthday. A disagreement during a poker game and a subsequent fight led to McCarty shooting and killing a man named Francis “Windy” Cahill in Arizona. McCarty fled Arizona and returned to New Mexico and started working for a rancher named John Tunstall. It was also during this time that Henry McCarty started to go by the name William H. Bonney.
Unbeknownst to Billy, he soon found himself in the middle of a battle between cattle barons in New Mexico known as the Lincoln County War after his new boss John Tunstall was murdered by a rival faction. Billy and his fellow cowboys vowed to avenge the death of their boss and caretaker. It was during the Lincoln County War that William H. Bonney became known in the press as the notorious “Billy the Kid.” Billy was handy with a pistol, and he killed several men during the conflict. He became a famous outlaw, and escaped from custody not once, but twice, further adding to his legend. Billy’s boisterous personality endeared him to friends, and his ability to speak Spanish allowed him to hide out in various villages throughout New Mexico while he was on the run from the law.
Billy was eventually hunted down and killed in Fort Sumner, New Mexico in July 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Since then, conspiracy theorists have speculated that Billy the Kid was not actually killed that night, and several men later came forward proclaiming they were indeed the infamous outlaw.