Pale Horse Revelations #34 - Pat Garrett
Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations. where we explore significant people, places, and events in Old West history. While I make no promises, don't be surprised if some of these places, people, or events find their way into future Pale Rider adventures.
The topic of this week's edition is a man that you have almost certainly heard of before. Pat Garrett is famous for killing the notorious Billy the Kid. But there is much more to the man's life than just that one action. His story is both fascinating and tragic. I hope you will find it as interesting as I do.
The story begins June 5, 1850, when Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett was born to John Lumpkin Garrett and Elizabeth Anne Jarvis in Chambers County, Alabama. He was the second of five children. When Garrett was three his father moved the family to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, where he had purchased a plantation.
Garrett was no stranger to tragedy as it would be a recurring theme in his life. The Civil War left the Garrett family in financial ruin. Two years after the war's conclusion tragedy would strike again when Garrett's mother died at the age of thirty-seven on March 25, 1867. Garrett's father joined her less than a year later on February 5, 1868. Garrett and his siblings were left with a plantation that was in debt more than $30,000.00. The children were taken in by relatives, but Garrett, who was eighteen, departed for the west in January of 1869.
Garrett's activities over the next seven years have been lost to history. He turned up in Texas hunting buffalo in 1876. At some point Garrett killed a fellow buffalo hunter named Joe Briscoe. Garrett turned himself into the authorities, but they declined to prosecute. As the bison numbers dwindled, Garrett decided to move on. He ended up in Fort Sumner, New Mexico where he worked as a cowboy for Pedro Menard "Pete" Maxwell.
Sometime thereafter Garrett married his first wife, Juanita Martinez. Tragedy would again rear its ugly head in Garrett's life when Juanita died just fifteen days after their wedding. Garrett married his second wife, Apolinaria Gutierrez, on January 14, 1880. She would give Garrett eight children between 1881 and 1905.
In November 1880 Garrett defeated incumbent George Kimball to become sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Although Garrett's term would not begin until January of 1881, Kimball appointed Garrett as a deputy sheriff for the remainder of his own term. Garrett was also appointed a deputy United States Marshal, which allowed him to pursue his elusive prey across state lines.
The prey was, of course, the infamous Billy the Kid, also known as Henry McCarthy (his birth name) and William H. Bonney. On November 30, 1880, Garrett and his posse raided the Dedrick ranch at Bosque Grande expecting to find the Kid holed up there. Instead, they found John Joshua Webb, who was wanted for murder, and suspected horse thief George Davis. Both men were taken into custody and turned over to the local sheriff. Garret and his men then headed on to Puerto de Luna. While there a local named Mariano Leiva picked a fight with Garrett and was shot in the shoulder for his trouble.
December 1880 found Garrett and his men lying in wait at Fort Sumner. On December 19th the Kid, along with Charlie Bowdre, Tom Pickett, Billy Wilson, and Tom O'Falliard rode into town only to be ambushed. The posse mistook O'Falliard for the kid and opened fire prematurely. O'Falliard was blasted from the saddle and killed, but the others managed to escape.
Three days later Garrett and his posse cornered the Kid and his companions at Stinking Springs. Charlie Bowdre was killed, and the others were all apprehended. On April 15, 1881, Judge Warren Bristol sentenced the Kid to hang. Just thirteen days later the Kid managed to escape, killing two deputies in the process.
On July 14, 1881, Garrett traveled to Fort Sumner to question an acquaintance of the Kid about the other's whereabouts. That's when Garrett learned that the Kid was staying with mutual friend, "Pete" Maxwell. Garrett went straight to Maxwell's house. He was standing in the shadows of Maxwell's bedroom when the Kid waltzed in. Not recognizing the man in the shadows, the Kid repeatedly asked, "who is it?" Garrett's answer came in the form of two gunshots. The first shot struck the Kid in the chest while the other missed completely. It is unclear whether the Kid died instantly or lingered for some time before succumbing to his wound.
Seeking to profit from his experience, Garrett coauthored "The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid" with Ash Upson. For several decades his work was deemed authoritative. Other writers soon began producing works that portrayed Billy as a folk hero while depicting Garrett as little more than a hired assassin. However, Garrett's book, despite being filled with errors of fact, became the main source for most books written about the Kid until the 1960s. A failure when originally released, it is (in this author's opinion) worth reading.
After hunting down the Kid, Garrett decided not to seek reelection the following year. He moved to Texas where he ran unsuccessfully for the state senate. He was then appointed a Captain of the Texas Rangers but returned to New Mexico less than a month later.
Over the next several years Garrett made multiple attempts launch irrigation companies. All of his efforts ultimately resulted in failure. By 1892 he had returned to Texas where he was befriended by future U.S. Vice President John Nance Garner.
In 1896 a headline making event drew Garrett back to New Mexico. On January 31, 1896, Army Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain and his eight-year-old son disappeared from the White Sands area in southern New Mexico. Neither was ever seen again. Despite the efforts of Apache scouts, Pinkerton agents, and an all-out-push by the Republican party the mystery was never officially solved. Garrett entered the picture in April 1896 when he was appointed Dona Ana County Sheriff. Two years later Garrett had gathered sufficient evidence to obtain arrest warrants for four men: Oliver M. Lee, William McNew, Bill Carr, and James Gililland. Garrett managed to arrest McNew and Carr within hours of obtaining the warrants.
On July 12, 1898, Garrett and his posse caught up with Lee and Gililland at Wildy Well near Orogrande, New Mexico. Garrett had hoped to catch the men asleep, but the two fugitives had taken their bedrolls to the bunkhouse roof to avoid being taken by surprise. One of Garrett's deputies heard footsteps on the roof and scaled a ladder to investigate. The two fugitives opened fire, mortally wounding the deputy. Garrett was nicked by a stray shot as well. Worried about his dying deputy Garrett arranged a truce with Lee and Gililland. The deputy died enroute to Las Cruces and the two fugitives remained at large for eight months. The two men eventually surrendered to another lawman and were ultimately acquitted for the murder of Colonel Fountain and his son. An indictment for the killing of the deputy was subsequently dismissed as well.
Garrett's final kill came in 1899. Accused murderer Norman Newman was known to be hiding out at the San Augustin Ranch in New Mexico. The local sheriff requested Garrett's help. The two men, along with Garrett's deputy, Jose Espalin, rode out to the ranch on October 7, 1899, and Newman was killed in the ensuing gunfight.
Garrett's story took an interesting turn in 1901 when President Teddy Roosevelt nominated him for the position of customs collector in El Paso. Despite public outcry, the appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 2, 1902. Garrett's tenure was rife with controversy. In 1903 Garrett got into a public fist fight with one of his employees and both men had to pay a five dollar fine for disturbing the peace. Complaints about Garrett's alleged incompetence poured into Washington. Roosevelt, however, stood resolutely behind Garrett.
In a show of support Roosevelt invited Garrett to attend a "Rough Rider's" reunion in San Antonio in 1905 (Garrett was not a member of the regiment). This proved to be Garrett's undoing, due primarily to his own poor judgement. Garrett was accompanied to the event by a man named Tom Powers. Garrett introduced Powers to Roosevelt proclaiming him to be a prominent cattleman from Texas. The two men were photographed with the President on two occasions, one of them a private dinner. Unfortunately, Garrett had not been truthful with the president. Powers was actually the proprietor of a notorious saloon in El Paso. When Garrett's enemies brought this to Roosevelt's attention, the embarrassed President had finally had enough. Garrett was replaced on January 2, 1906.
After his dismissal, Garrett returned to New Mexico. He spent the remaining years of his life in dire straits financially. When he could no longer make payments on his ranch the county actioned off all of his personal possessions. They got a meager $650.00 for their efforts.
It seemed as if Garrett's luck was about to turn but Garrett would manage to squander a golden opportunity. His friend, George Curry, was appointed the territorial governor of New Mexico and promised Garrett the position of superintendent of the territorial prison in Santa Fe. However, while waiting for Curry's inauguration Garrett returned to El Paso to work for a Real Estate firm. While there he moved in with "Mrs. Brown" who was known to be a local prostitute. When word of this reached Curry, he had no choice but withdraw the employment offer.
In 1909 Garrett and his son, Dudley, became involved in a dispute with a man named Jesse Wayne Brazel. This dispute would ultimately lead to Garrett's death. At the heart of the dispute was, almost unbelievably, a herd of goats.
Dudley signed a five-year lease on a ranch from Brazel. Garrett sought break the lease when Brazel moved a large herd of goats onto the property. Brazel refused and the matter went to court. At this point a mane named Jim Miller became involved as he tried to mediate the dispute. Ultimately, Brazel agreed to cancel the lease provided a buyer could be found for his 1200 goats. Carl Adamson, a relative of Miller's agreed to buy the goats.
Just when it seemed that the matter had been resolved, Brazel complicated matters by claiming that he had miscounted the goats. Adamson would now have to buy 1800 goats in order for him to void Garrett's lease. Adamson refused but did agree to meet with Garrett and Brazel to try and work out some kind of agreement. Garrett and Adamson traveled to the meeting together in Adamson's wagon. Brazel appeared on horseback somewhere along the way and Garrett was shot and killed. The identity of his killer remains mired in controversy.
Adamson and Brazel left Garrett's body on the side of the road and returned to Las Cruces. There Brazel turned himself in to Deputy Sheriff Felipe Lucero. Thirty years after the murder Lucero would claim that Adamson confessed to the killing. Despite this, Brazel's trial for the murder of Pat Garrett concluded with his acquittal on May 4, 1909. Adamson, the only witness, never appeared at the trial which lasted only a single day. Over the ensuing decades several modern authors have proposed alternative theories as to the identity of the killer.
And so, ends the story of a man famous for killing one of the Old West's best-known figures. And that brings us to the end of another edition of Pale Horse Revelations. I hope you found it to be both interesting and entertaining. As usual, I have tried to provide some interesting historical information while trying not to bog the casual reader down with too much detail. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to dig in and do a little research of their own.
As a reminder, I would love to hear your suggestions for topics to focus on in future editions of Pale Horse Revelations. If there's a particular location, person, or event that you would like to know more about, please let me know. Just fill out the Contact form found near the bottom of my home page (www.bmiltonhyde.com) and indicate your desired topic in the message box at the bottom of the form. I look forward to hearing from you all.
Please be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Pale Horse Revelations and thank you for your continued interest and support.