by Kalynn Kirk
Pat Garret is a very famous man in the history of the Wild
West, and also a very famous man in New Mexico history. The thing he is most famous for, being
the person that killed Billy the Kid just 72 miles from my school in Elida, is
the reason I wanted to learn more about him.
Pat Garrett was born on June 5, 1850, in Alabama. His parents were John and Elizabeth
Garrett, and there were seven children in the family. When Pat Garrett was three years old his father bought a
plantation in Louisiana and that is the place where he lived until he left
there for Texas in 1869. His
family grew cotton on the plantation and they had a good life, but the Civil
War ended all of that when Union soldiers took his father’s crops and they lost
Pat Garrett went to work first on the LS Ranch in the center
if the western Texas Panhandle. near Hartley. The ranch was 35,000 acres, and cattle rustling was a big
problem. It was a lawless
place. Pat Garrett was a
cowboy and gunfighter and his job was to protect the cattle and stop cattle
rustling. Next. he worked as a
buffalo hunter in West Texas, but all the buffalo were finally killed off and
he stopped being a buffalo hunter in 1978.
But, while being a buffalo hunter, he got into an argument
with another hunter, and the other angry hunter ran toward Pat Garrett with an
ax. Pat Garrett pulled his gun and
shot the other man dead on the spot.
They were actually friends and he felt very bad about killing the man and
went and turned himself into the law.
No charges were ever filed because the law thought it was not a crime
because the other man acted like he wanted to kill Pat Garrett with the ax.
When he left West
Texas and stopped hunting buffalo, Pat Garrett moved to Ft. Sumner, New
Mexico. The Lincoln County War had
been going on there, and it was a bitter fight between two gangs of
outlaws. It ended with a shootout
out at a ranch that took five days.
News of this war and the wild west lawless society in Lincoln County
spread all the way back to Washington, DC. It took almost twenty years for things to settle down in Lincoln
County and the surrounding.
Pat Garrett went to
work on a ranch when he first arrived in the Ft. Sumner area, and he spent time
gambling at the saloon when he wasn’t working. It was there that he first met Billy the Kid. Billy the Kid was a known outlaw and
cattle rustler and even though they were acquainted, Pat Garrett kept his
distance and did not want to be involved or too friendly to Billy the Kid.
Patt Garrett had two wives that were half-sisters. His first wife got very sick the night
they were married and she died the next day. They never knew what caused her death. Later he married her sister,
Apolinaria Gutierrez. They had
Patt Garrett was an ambitious businessman and
tried several things before he ended up being sheriff. He had a hog farm, a saloon, a
store that sold groceries and he also owned a butcher shop at one time
Even though Pat
Garrett is famous for being the man that killed Billy the Kid, at one time they
went to the same saloon and gambled together. Meanwhile, the Wild West atmosphere in this part of New
Mexico got the attention of the Governor of New Mexico. The leaders of the state wanted to stop
the outlaws. Patt Garrett was
appointed to be the Deputy Sheriff and U.S. Deputy U.S. Marshall. Patt Garret moved up to be Sheriff of
Lincoln County in late 1880 and one of the things put at the top of the list
for Pat Garrett to do was to arrest and jail Billy the Kid. Pat Garrett set out to do capture Billy
the Kid right away.
He had to capture Billy the Kid two times. Billy the Kid had shot and killed the
previous Sheriff of Lincoln County.
Pat Garrett captured him and was responsible to keep him jailed until Billy
the Kid was to be hanged for the murder.
He had been found guilty and was put in jail in Lincoln, New Mexico.
Billy the Kid escaped and killed two guards in the jail while
Patt Garrett was away working on tax collections. It was a very famous jail escape and news about it spread
all over the United States.
Pat Garrett was very determined to recapture The Kid. He found out that Billy the Kid was
near visiting an old girlfriend and her name was Paulita Maxwell.
On July 14, 1881, Patt Garrett waited near Ft. Sumner in a
house owned by Paulita’s brother.
It was very late at night and Pat waited in a bedroom for Billy to
return. Billy came in the room late that night and could not recognize Pat
Garrett who was in the room. Patt
Garret shot him on the spot.
Being the lawman that killed Billy the Kid was both a good
thing and bad thing in the life of Pat Garrett. A lot of people thought he was a hero, but some people also
held a grudge that he had killed Billy the Kid.
Pat Garret moved with his family in 1882 and settled in
Texas. He became a Lieutenant in a
special unit of the Texas Rangers and he worked there for two years. His job was to stop cattle rustling in
the Texas Panhandle.
Pat Garrett always had big visions for business and ranching
ideas and usually tried out his ideas.
Late in the 1880’s, he had an idea to build dams and start irrigating the
Pecos Valley. He thought his
project would make the area a very good place to farm and be successful. He had
a farm near Roswell and for a while and it was profitable. He expanded from just doing irrigate
farming and started a hotel, and a blacksmith business, a railroad and horse
stables. Finally, because he was
so ambitious and expanding too fast, he ran out of money to keep paying for
things. He had to find partners to
put in the large amounts of money that he needed to keep things going and
finally, they took over the businesses and he was cut out.
He became very discouraged and started to drink and gamble
too much. Some people described
Pat Garrett as bitter and very despondent during this part of his life.
He ran for Sheriff in Chaves County in 1890, but he
lost. This discouraged Pat Garrett
even more and he moved to Uvalde, Texas and started to try irrigating farming
there and raised horses. He was
successful in breeding trotting horses, but his gambling habit wasted a lot of
his money and caused more financial problems.
In 1896 William Thornton, who was New Mexico’s Territorial
Governor, contacted Pat Garrett and asked him to help hunt down the outlaws
that murdered Albert Fountain and his little boy. Albert Fountain was a famous lawyer that lived in Las
Cruces. Pat Garrett took the job
and got the men captured, but unfortunately, politics got in the way of their
trial. They were never found guilty even though they were the ones that
murdered Albert Fountain and his son.
The President of the United States at the time, Theodore
Roosevelt, had read about Pat Garrett and he asked Pat Garrett to become a U.S.
Customs Agent in El Paso.
He resigned in 1906 and they returned again to New Mexico
and Pat Garrett went back to ranching.
He had a lot of financial problems and was not successful. He began to get into a lot of
debt. His debts and the fact that
many people that did not like him because he had been a lawman and made enemies
finally led to the end of his life.
Pat Garrett’s life ended near Las Cruces, New Mexico on
February 29, 1908. Someone shot
him in the back of the head, and it still has not been proven who killed Pat
several theories about who the person was that hid along the road and shot Pat Garrett.
Every account of the murder believes
his murder was a conspiracy and part of organized crime in eastern New Mexico. Pat Garrett had a lot of bad
debts. He also had arrested and
killed several men that were involved in big water rights fights and land
fights in New Mexico early in the 1900’s.
There were a lot of people that wanted to get rid of Pat
Garrett to protect their illegal ways of making money. The top eight names that historians
think are suspects in plotting his murder were Print Rhode, Carl Adamson, Bill
McNew, James Gilliand, Bill Cox, Jim Miller, Oliver Lee, and Wayne Brazil.
The day that Pat Garrett was murdered the plot
was for his traveling partner, Carl Adamson, to stop at a site that was already
planned to use the bathroom on the side of the road. When they stopped, Pat Garrett got out of the buggy too and
the waiting assassin shot him from 50 feet way in the back of his head.
There was a meeting late in 1907 in El Paso, Texas. A group of men met at the Hotel St. Regis
and it is believed the plot to kill Pat Garrett was planned there. There were a lot of investigations and a
trial, but no one was found guilty. There are reports that when Carl Adamson was dying that told
his grandson that this group of men hired Jim Miller and paid him $1500 to kill
Even though it has never been proved who
actually pulled the trigger, it has been proved that it was a planned assassination.
The times were so dangerous and
organized crime was so strong that people were afraid to talk, and cover-ups
were very possible.