By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
On August 30, 1950, a tombstone with the inscription, "The Boy Bandit King — He Died as he Lived" disappeared from a grave in the Old Fort Sumner cemetery. It was also inscribed with "Truth and History, 21 Men", below this were crossed revolvers.
Fort Sumner was a military post in the 1860s. It was established on the east bank of the Pecos River in New Mexico. As many as 700 infantry and cavalry troops were stationed at the fort until 1869, then it was abandoned. The buildings and land were purchased by Lucien B. Maxwell. He lived there until his death in 1875.
Present day, there is no trace left of the adobe buildings that made up old Fort Sumner.
In 1907, the remains of soldiers who were buried there were moved to the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. Some say that Billy the Kid's remains were mistaken for those of a soldier and moved as well. Graves of pioneers were left behind. During the 1930s, the old cemetery was preserved through the efforts of Adelina Wellborn, Peter Maxwell's granddaughter.
However if there is any the possibility that the Kid's body was moved elsewhere it would make the following antics quite ironic.
In 1940, a black tombstone was erected to mark the last resting place of Billy the Kid.
Perhaps to some it represented a time when an outlaw could become a hero. No doubt this allure is what prompted the robbery of the memorial in 1951. Enclosed by a 7-foot steel fence, and weighing at least a hundred pounds, the robbery had to be carried out by more than one person.
For 26 years, no one knew where the tombstone was at, until a Mr. and Mrs. Branham who were visiting the museum, told an employee where it could be found in a field near a ranch in Granbury, Texas. The town lies about 60 miles southwest of Dallas. Authorities when asked, said that for years it served as a local curiosity for the town, after it was accidentally discovered by a local resident.
Joe Bowlin who owned the Fort Sumner museum brought it back to the cemetery in 1976.
On February 3, 1981, someone took a crowbar to the fence and carried away the granite tombstone on the centennial year of the Kid's death.
Ten days later the DeBaca County Police received an anonymous tip it could be found in a house on Delaware Street in Huntington Beach, California. They found it in a bedroom of a house belonging to Walter Nicolson, 25.
"Big Jim" McBride a De Baca County Sheriff flew to Los Angeles to bring it back to New Mexico.
Once recovered iron shackles were used to keep it in place.
There is another version of what happened at the midnight hour in Pete Maxwell's bedroom in August, 1881, that again might put in doubt who exactly lies under the memorial in Fort Sumner Cemetery.
Some believe that William Bonney was spared by Pat Garrett, and that a derelict was supposedly buried in the Kid's place. The outlaw disappeared into anonymity taking on the name of Ollie L. Roberts, better known in the Texas town of Hico as "Brushy Bill". He died in 1950, at the age of 90.
During the 1960s, C. S. Holmes of Clovis obtained a copy of an old grand jury indictment issued in Seymour, Texas. It was filed in Hardiman County, Texas on December 28, 1881, charging a man of murder. Witnesses who testified were listed as W. A. Tackett, Jack Grishman, Billy the Kid and Sam Watson.
Considering this was four months after Pat Garrett but Henry Bonney in his grave, either this was an imposter, or someone else had been buried on August 15, 1881.
Jimmy Ramae a school principal in Hico said during a phone interview in February, 1981, that he remembered an old man who lived in the town during the 1940s, who said he was Billy the Kid. Most knew him as Brushy Billy, recognizable with his large hat, plaid shirt, a handlebar mustache and a gray beard. He wasn't a tall man, maybe 5'7' and occasionally he would chew on tobacco.
Most of the town, smiled and nodded their head when Brushy Billy would talk about being Billy the Kid, but just dismissed it as flights of imagination from an eccentric old man.
Charles Machen grew up in Hico, and remembered Brushy Billy. His wife described a story her husband recounted, "He (Brushy Billy) supposedly went to Santa Fe in the 1940s to get a pardon from the governor. They wouldn't issue a pardon to him until they found out if he was really Billy the Kid."
They brought a Mexican man who was familiar with Billy the Kid, to meet Brushy Billy. Henry Bonney's one-time friend said the old man had to be Billy, because he knew secrets only the Kid would have known. However this did not get Brushy his pardon, and he returned to Hico.
The old man never owned a car and instead rode a painted horse until the day he died. He had bucked teeth and speckled eyes, and old age did not rob him of his ramrod posture.
Brushy Bill had to compete with another man named John Miller who was said to be the Kid.
Miller never publicly claimed the identity of William H. McCarty, only after his death did friends and acquaintances speak of his stories and his unusual behavior through the years.
John Miller is first found in historical records on August 8, 1881, a few days after Billy the Kid was said to be killed by Pat Garrett. On that date he married a girl named Isidora in Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory. At the ceremony he carried a gun on his hip, and appeared to have a fresh bullet wound in his chest. This was visible through his shirt.
The couple left town right after the wedding and headed west. Miller rode a horse along with seven head of cattle, and his wife followed with a fully-loaded wagon. They traveled at night and slept during the day, stopping at Albuquerque, before continuing west until they came to El Morro. They stopped at the mining town of Reserve, where Miller nursed his wounds.
Once recovered, Miller with wife in tow, went to the Quemado area where he worked as a cook at Nation's Ranch. A gunfight broke out between Miller and a Mexican ranch hand. Neither was wounded, but Miller lost his job.
The couple returned to El Morro, then continued to the Zuni Mountains in the New Mexico Territory. Along the way they met Jesus Eriacho a cattleman, who hired Miller to look after a large herd. The deal Eriacho made with him was that at the end of five years, Miller could keep half of the new cattle born during those years.
The couple kept to themselves, living in caves or squatting in abandoned homesteads.
At the end of five years, Eriacho kept his word, and Miller built a house and ranch south of Ramah in a place that would become known as Miller's Canyon.
In the years that followed, Miller prospered as a rancher. The couple were well-liked by the community in the Ramah-Zuni area. However Miller never failed to wear a pistol, and keep a loaded rifle by the door of his house. His friends witnessed his skill with a pistol, and later they described where Miller would tell stories of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War. He also showed them various bullet scars he had on his body. He demonstrated he could get out of being tied up as well.
Despite Miller's denial that he was Billy the Kid, many of his friends came to believe he was. A few times when he was drunk he would say he was the Kid, only to deny it once he was sober. His wife Isadora did say he was Billy the Kid.
The couple had a chest they always kept locked, and which some suspected contained the proof of Miller's true identity.
Around the turn of the century the couple adopted a six-year-old Navajo boy which was left abandoned by his mother in the forest. In the 1910 census he's 16 years old and his name is Roman, in later records he's referred to as Max. The childless couple raised him as their own. At that time they were living in Valencia County, New Mexico.
Wherever there are cattle they are rustlers, and many time Miller acted as an intermediately between the outlaws and the ranchers. He would bargain with them for the return of the stolen animals. Some saw this as a familiarity with dealing with outlaws.
One neighbor said that in 1902, Miller, along with six outlaws traveled to Montana where they robbed a bank of $8,000.
In 1918, pestilence and drought visited the land, and Isidora was losing her eyesight. She also had a hand injury and Miller was suffering from rheumatism. Their ranch was just about ruined. Their son Max who had joined the U.S. Army, was listed as missing-in-action in Germany.
The couple gathered their things and headed to the small town of San Simon in Arizona. Max did not die, and turned up after being discharged from the service.
Two years later, in search of easing Miller's rheumatism, they moved to the town of Buckeye which was known for its mineral springs.
Miller worked as a horse trainer, and soon saved enough money to build another ranch near the town of Liberty. The couple were popular among the neighbors, who also came to believe he was Billy the Kid.
Towards the end of the 1920s, the Miller home caught fire with Isadora inside. She was pulled out, but she was dead probably from smoke inhalation. After his wife's death, Miller's health deteriorated. He fell from a roof he was repairing, and his son took him to the Pioneer Home in Prescott where he was admitted in 1937.
Sensing his end was near, it was said Miller tried several times to have his son or his friends visit so he "could set the record straight", but perhaps they thought there was more time. He died on November 7, 1937, and was buried with other pioneers in the Pioneer Home Cemetery.
After his death, the trunk Isadora and him had carried with them through their travels, became the property of the courts in Phoenix. A court representative went to Ramah looking for Miller's heir. He interviewed several of Miller's friends and allegedly told them the contents of the trunk proved he was Billy the Kid. They couldn't locate Max, and the current whereabouts of the trunk are unknown.
In 2005, John Miller's DNA was obtained in order to compare it with blood traces taken from a bench where supposedly the Kid's body was placed after being shot by Pat Garrett. The bench was discovered on a Fort Sumner ranch. The results have not been made public.
THE OTHER MCCARTYS
What many people forget, is that when the Kid's mother, Catherine McCarty née Devine left New York, she had two sons, Henry and Joseph. Joseph was born in 1863, making him the Kid's younger brother. Their father Patrick McCarty died in 1865.
Catharine McCarty moved out west to Kansas and ran a laundry. From there she went to New Mexico.
She married William Antrim in Santa Fe in 1873. She died the following year from tuberculosis. Joseph adopted his stepfather's surname and was known throughout his life as Joe Antrim.
When Billy the Kid was killed in July, 1881, his brother was living in Trinidad, Colorado. It was reported that Joe Antrim threatened to shoot Garrett to avenge his brother's death.
Antrim and Garrett came to face to face two years later in the billiards room of the Armijo House, an Albuquerque hotel at the corner of Third and Railroad (Central Avenue). When asked about the encounter Garrett said that Antrim had denied that he harbored any ill will against him. "I told Antrim I had only done my duty, and should not be hated for it, and we parted the best of friends."
In 1883, Joe Antrim ws a cook in an Albuquerque hotel, and later he was a bartender in El Paso, from there he drifted to Colorado.
In 1908 Joseph Antrim was working as a "runner "for poker games. He spent the rest of his life in Colorado in the gambling hall circuit. He kept the fact that he was Billy the Kid's brother a secret.
He died of apoplexy at the old Murphy House a gambling den at 1617 Latimer St., Denver, on November, 25, 1930. His body went unclaimed and was sent to the Colorado Medical School for dissection.
William Henry Harrison Antrim, Henry and Joseph's stepfather died in 1922.
The biggest surprise of all is that Henry and Joseph had an older sister named Bridget, born in 1853. She appeared in the 1855 census. What became of her is unknown.
Source - Deming Headlight, The New Mexican, Western Liberal, The Albuquerque Tribune
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