Mesilla as a Social Center

General Store

In the 1880’s, people came from Chihuahua City and Tucson to attend dances, bullfights, cockfights, and theatrical presentations. The town also attracted outlaws such as Dutch Hubert, Nicholas Provencio and Billy the Kid. In 1861, Billy the Kid was tried in the courthouse on the Plaza and sentenced to hang.

Billy The Kid

The Territory of New Mexico, in the mid-1870s-80s, experienced a wave of rampant lawlessness, unparalleled in the history of the United States. One must walk a mile in their shoes before coming to conclusions about the lives of men and boys of that era.

Henry McCarty, alias Kid Antrim, alias William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, was born in the East and came to New Mexico in the 1870s, starting out on his own from Silver City. Go where you will over the trails he rode and you will agree, he is alive today. 

In Lincoln he became involved in the famous Lincoln County War. This was a time of political strife and financial power struggles. In most cases one had to kill be killed.

Upon the death of John Tunstall, Billy vowed vengeance on every man who paticipated in that cruel, wanton murder. Later, the Kid was involved in the death Morton, Baker, McCloskey, Brady, Hindman, and Beckwith. The vendetta led him through the heart of New Mexico. At Blazer’s Mill, near Mescalero, Brewer and Buckshot Roberts met their destiny. The Rio Ruidoso took them to Dowlin's ill and the Hondo Valley led to the Chisum’s South Springs Ranch near Roswell. The Pecos River trail winds up to Old Fort Sumner where Joe Grant caused his own demise. A dim trail leads off east to Billy's Los Portales Springs hideout. At the Seven Rivers crossing, near Carlsbad, 200,000 heads of cattle were tallied on Goodnight-Loving, Chisum trail from Texas. 

Patrick Floyd Garrett, born in Alabama, led a successful life as a buffalo hunter in Texas before drifting into New Mexico. His election as sheriff of Lincoln County drew him into this legend. He was a good sheriff at a time that New Mexico needed such a man.

The White Oaks skirmish on December 1, 1880, caused an accidental shooting at the Greathouse Stage-Station near Corona. The trail goes on to Anton Chico, Puerto de Luna, Sunnyside Springs, and Old Fort Sumner, where Tom O’Folliard fell in an ambush. The connections of Wilcox-Yerby ranches and Brazil Spring played a part in the surrender at Stinking Springs, and the death Of Charlie Bowdre. Billy's saga continued on to Las Vegas by wagon, to Santa Fe by railcar, through Albuquerque, on to Old Mesilla for trial. Under heavy guard they trudged through La Luz, Alamogordo, and back to Lincoln where Billy performed his daring escape and killed his guards, Bell and Ollinger.

Now, with a wanted poster for Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett was hot on his trail back to Old Fort Sumner. There, on July 14, 1881, Pat Garrett killed the famous outlaw in the Maxwell house. ln the old fort cemetery a vagrant wind whisks across the plain, a tiny dust devil will spin for a moment madly, futilely, and is swallowed up into nothingness. This was the life of the Kid, and certainly he is buried there in Old Fort Sumner.

Garrett’s trail continued to the Roswell area where he made his home. He made trails to the gold and turquoise mines in the Jicarilla Mountains and made numerous land deals. To the Oliver Lee Ranch and San Augustine Mountains, he followed the trails of Albert Fountain, trying to solve his mysterious disappearance. On the trail from Organ to Las Cruces, Pat Garrett met his death in 1908, and is buried in the Masonic cemetery in Las Cruces. Garrett left his mark on New Mexico in many ways; one of the more significant is, his daughter Elizabeth wrote “O Fair New Mexico”, the State song. So the Legends live on!


To Top