Legendary Lawman Pat Garrett

Lawman Pat Garrett is famous for having killed Billy The Kid; an act some people doubt he ever committed.


This month we'll look at a legendary lawman famous for an act some conspiracy theorists (you know who you are) doubt even occurred: the shooting of William H. Bonney, better known as "Billy the Kid" (but probably born as Henry McCarty). That man is Patrick Floyd Garrett and during his 57 years he held the title of cowboy, bartender, sheriff, and customs agent personally appointed by Theodore Roosevelt.

Born in Cusseta, Alabama (Chambers County) June 5, 1850, Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett was one of seven children born to John and Elizabeth Garrett. Three years later the family moved to a prosperous Louisiana plantation near Haynesville in northern Claiborne Parish, just below the Arkansas state line.

Pat Garrett was a tall, thin man with angular cheekbones and a gentlemanly prominence. In 1869 Garrett would leave home for Dallas County, Texas to work as a cowboy on the LS Ranch. He would eventually go out on his own to become a buffalo hunter in 1875. In 1878, Garrett shot a fellow buffalo hunter who charged at Garrett following a disagreement over stolen hides. Upon dying, the hunter reportedly brought Garrett to tears by asking him to forgive him.

In 1878, he had moved on to Fort Sumner, New Mexico just as the Lincoln County War was drawing to an end. The battle between these rival gangs resulted in decades of violence and lawlessness in southeastern New Mexico. Garrett would settle down in Fort Sumner and took a job as a bartender at a saloon called Beaver Smith's. In 1879, Garrett married Juanita Gutierrez. She died within the year and in January 1880; he married Gutierrez's sister, Apolinaria. The couple had nine children.

Following the early departure of the Lincoln County Sheriff (no, he wasn't shot; he resigned with two months left on his term), Garrett was appointed Sheriff. By all accounts Garrett took this responsibility seriously and set about putting an end to the bloodshed that has resulted from the Lincoln County Wars. This included rounding up all those involved, most notably, Billy the Kid. In December, 1880 Governor Wallace but a $500 price on Billy's head and Garrett set out to bring him to justice with earnest.

After several failed attempts with Billy always seemingly one step ahead, Garrett would finally capture Billy in Stinking Springs, just outside of Fort Sumner. After some four months of confinement and having been convicted in a court of law, Billy would escape by killing Deputy James W. Bell and long time nemesis Bob Olinger.

Once again it came to Garrett to track down Billy and return him to justice.

Months later, Garrett would receive some solid intelligence on Billy's location. Having thought that Billy would run for Mexico, he found that he had holed up somewhere around Fort Sumner. It was again time to run down Billy and he enlisted two deputies, John W. Poe and Tom "Kip" McKinney. Billy was staying at the Maxwell Ranch, as he was a friend with Pete and the rest of the Maxwell family - as was Garrett.

On July 14, 1881 at 9 PM, the three men would ride to the Maxwell home so Garrett could speak with Pete Maxwell in private. Near midnight, Garrett entered Pete's bedroom and woke him. Being aggravated at this point (he did wake up to an armed man in his bedroom) Pete heard Billy on the porch questioning Poe and McKinney in the darkness. Billy then entered Pete's bedroom with pistol drawn to ask him whom these men are outside.

When seeing that Pate wasn't alone he asked, "Quien es?" Those would be the last words he spoke, as Garrett drew and fired, striking Billy just above the heart. This event solidified Garrett's position as a legendary lawman and gunslinger (even though some of the specifics of the event are in dispute).

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