New Mexico is not only a state that makes natural wonders its strong point, but also manages to offer a real window into the past of the United States. I'm not just talking about the well-known Pueblos of the natives, who continue to live and fascinate tourists, but also about theFar West epic.
In particular, I refer to the mythical deeds of one of the best known American outlaws Billy the Kid and the havoc he caused in these lands before being executed by his nemesis Pat Garrett. We will then embark on an itinerary in the heart of New Mexico which, in addition to history, will make us discover beautiful landscapes and off-the-beaten-path tourist routes.
- The epic of the Far West: the story of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
- Childhood in Silver City
- The Lincoln County War
- The clash with Pat Garrett and the death of Billy the Kid
- We walk the Billy the Kid Trail
- Visit the city of Lincoln
- Fort Stanton
- Other places related to Billy the Kid
- Side table
- Fort sumner
- Events related to the Far West and the history of Billy the Kid
- Old Lincoln Days
- Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium
- Fort Stanton Live
- Map of places
The epic of the Far West: the story of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
When it comes to telling the story of Billy the Kid it is always difficult to separate the truth from the legend, since it is an outlaw whose myth has been able to stand intact over the years. This is also thanks to Hollywood which has dedicated many successful films to him including Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid from 1973, for which Bob Dylan he composed the soundtrack and played a part.
Childhood in Silver City
The chronicles tell that the mother of Henry McCarty, who still did not have the pseudonym of Billy the Kid, moved around 1873 to the town of Silver City, where the future outlaw spent much of his childhood. Some claim that in these places he carried out his first robbery. Unfortunately today the city does not offer any museum / attraction entirely dedicated to Billy the Kid, with the exception of a small wooden hut, donated by director Ron Howard after finishing the shooting of his film The Missing, located in the place where it is believed to be Henry McCarty actually lived with his family.
The Lincoln County War
The fame of the bandit Billy the Kid is mainly linked to the episode known as the Lincoln County War. It all began when an Englishman named John Tunstall decided to settle in Lincoln County in New Mexico to take up the stock trade, which at the time was strictly controlled, even with unorthodox methods, by Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan. The two managed the only shop in the entire county and, over the years, had formed what we can define in modern terms as a real cartel.
The tension escalated to the killing of Tunstall which detonated the Lincoln County War proper. Tunstall employees, including Billy the Kid, joined a group called "Regulators”Which, already from the name, makes us understand very well how their main purpose was to avenge his death in any way.
Raids and shootings plagued the county for many months (suffice it to say that the then President of the United States Rutherford B. Hayes called Lincoln Main Street "the most dangerous street in America"), culminating in the battle of Lincoln when for 4 uninterrupted days the representatives of the law on one side and the Regulators on the other clashed, with the latter barricaded inside a house. The episode is known to have been one of the most violent and bloody events in the history of the Far West. Despite the defeat of his side, Billy the Kid still managed to escape in a lucky way.
The clash with Pat Garrett and the death of Billy the Kid
Once he escaped death in the battle of Lincoln, Billy the Kid began a period of inaction during which he did not, however, stop his raids in the area. Another iconic character of the period put an end to his blood and violence: the sheriff Pat Garrett, a man with a turbulent past and almost as unclear as our protagonist, who after months of research and manhunt, put an end to the life of Billy the Kid on a ranch in the Fort Sumner area.
We walk the Billy the Kid Trail
In New Mexico there is a real one scenic byway named after the legendary outlaw that crosses the city of Lincoln (as we have seen one of the most important places concerning the life of Billy the Kid): interesting naturalistic landscapes such as the Lincoln National Forest, the Ruidoso River and the Sierra Blancas, and many other places that recall the history of the Far West. Let's find out the main ones.
Visit the city of Lincoln
You can almost still hear the echo of the shootings that took place in this location walking along the streets of the town of Lincoln, which if it is not a ghost town, we are close to it. Despite the few inhabitants, the area has managed to retain the charm of an original Far West outpost, and offers its visitors a real window of time on that turbulent period in the history of the United States.
To visit the historic sites of the city, you need to pay a combined ticket costing $ 5. The complex is open every day of the week from 9:00 to 17:00 (although some buildings close at 16:30). Closing days are January 1st, Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. For any changes to schedules and special events, please check the official website.
Among the things that are absolutely worth seeing we point out:
- Il Justice palace (Lincoln County Courthouse): stands on what used to be Lawrence Murphy's shop, and was used as a prison for Billy the Kid awaiting his death sentence by hanging, from which he managed to escape. You can relive the events of that daring escape by visiting the rooms and observing the bullet holes fired by Billy the Kid himself.
- Il Turnall Store: Stepping into the shop that sparked the Lincoln County War is like taking a real time machine journey. Everything, from food to knick-knacks to get to the equipment, is original and refers to the years of the Far West. Once inside you will almost expect to see Billy the Kid pop up at any moment.
- La San Juan Mission Church it is the church of the town that continues to be in operation even today.
- Il Keep: a real, albeit rudimentary, defense tower placed to safeguard the city. It is also one of the oldest buildings in Lincoln, as it was built by the Spaniards to defend against native raids.
- THEAnderson-Freeman Visitors Center: the only one of the buildings to have been purpose built in more recent times to offer an overview of the area to visitors and to host a permanent exhibition that reconstructs all the bloody events that took place in this area of New Mexico.
A military camp of the American army was located in this place and, nowadays, it is particularly popular among nature lovers for hosting the Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area placed under the auspices of the Bureau of Land Management. This area therefore offers numerous solutions for trekking and camping.
It is also the entrance to the Fort Stanton Cave, the second largest cave in all of New Mexico, which was first explored by soldiers stationed in the fort, and the marks of their carvings can still be seen today. Particularly striking is the Snowy River Cave, which gives its name to the area, where there is a calcite floor which, with its characteristic white color, gives the impression of being a real river of snow. Currently, only Fort Stanton Cave is open to the public, and should you wish to visit it, you will need to apply for a permit from the BLM Roswell Field Office.
Much easier to visit the actual fort that today houses the Fort Stanton Museum and the event Fort Stanton Live, which is held every year and is very popular with the local population. You can find all the necessary information by visiting the official website.
In this location, the attraction that recalls the exploits of the Far West era is certainly theHubbard Museum of the American West, very well maintained and equipped with equipment dating back to the time of the American frontier. The permanent exhibition focuses on the history and development of firearms of the period, while numerous other temporary exhibitions are set up throughout the year that you can find illustrated on the museum's official website.
Other places related to Billy the Kid
Now we move away from the area traveled by the Billy the Kid Trail and go to visit two places in New Mexico that are closely linked to the deeds of the American outlaw.
The small town of Mesilla is one of the oldest settlements in New Mexico. The city is closely linked to the story of Billy the Kid because it is here that he, once captured by Pat Garrett, was tried and convicted of the crimes committed during the Lincoln War. L'Old Courthouse and Jail it still maintains its original appearance even if a museum has not been built inside but a Gift Shop entirely dedicated to Billy the Kid.
You will find some references to the turbulent history of Billy the Kid especially atOld Fort Sumner Museum, renowned for being the place where the notorious American bandit is buried. It was in these areas in fact that he was reached and killed by Pat Garrett. His gravestone is placed next to that of two of his outlaw companions on which stands the inscription pals or "friends". You will notice that they are protected by a steel grate to prevent thefts and vandalism that have occurred very often over the years.
Another attraction of the city entirely dedicated to the bandit is the Billy the Kid Museum run since 1945 by a nice elderly couple who, despite its spartan character, offers visitors a vast collection of relics and original objects that belonged to the outlaw. Admission costs $ 5 and times vary depending on the time of year, so we invite you to check the official website (also a leap into the past :)).
Events related to the Far West and the history of Billy the Kid
Below I point out the main events related to these places that recall the history of the Far West.
Old Lincoln Days
Annual event that takes place in the city of Lincoln in which masked actors recall the events that took place in the area, including the famous escape of Billy the Kid from the prison where he was locked up pending his death sentence. In addition to the shows you will find numerous food stands and live music. Generally it takes place in the first days of August, you can check in what period it will take place this year by consulting the event website.
Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium
Pack your hat and boots and dive into this full immersion of cowboy culture and traditions that takes place at Ruidoso Downs. Storyteller, rodeo, live country music, cowboy clothing displays and food stalls will take you on a journey through time to discover this popular culture in the United States. You can find all the information about the days in which it will take place this year and the ticket prices by visiting the website.
Fort Stanton Live
Speaking of the attractions in the Fort Stanton area we made a brief mention of this event which takes place every year. You will be able to see live the reenactment of the battles of the American Civil War and the Indian Wars, as well as witness the sharing of the works and experiences of historians, artisans, artists and photographers specialized in this particular and fascinating period of United States history. To find out the program of the event and all the information, take a look at the event website.