The ghost town of Lincoln is famous for being the home of the West’s favorite outlaw, Billy The Kid. Although The Kid lived a tragically short life, the impression he left on the people around him would immortalize him in American culture.
(Image Credit: Getty Images)
Billy The Kid’s life as an outlaw started in 1875 when he was just 15. After the passing of his mother, Billy robbed a Chinese laundry and was arrested shortly after and jailed. Not wanting to face the consequences of his crime, Billy The Kid escaped by shimmying up the chimney and started his life as an outlaw and ranch hand in the Old West.
When he was 17, Billy The Kid killed his first man, Francis “Windy” Cahill, during a dispute in a saloon in Arizona. Although witnesses claimed The Kid was defending himself, he fled the scene. Within a few days was captured and subsequently escaped from custody yet again!
Returning to New Mexico, Billy The Kid went to work for the rancher John Tunstall. At this time there was a great feud between Tunstall and what was known as “The House.” James Dolan and Lawrence Murphy, ranchers who had had a monopoly on the area until Tunstall came to town, ran “The House”. Tensions finally came to a head when Lincoln County sheriff William Brady, a known House supporter, assembled a posse and killed Tunstall. Billy The Kid and several other employees of Tunstall banded together to form the vigilante group The Regulators. In what would become known as the Lincoln County War, The Regulators assassinated Sheriff Brady in retribution for the death of their boss. Several months of shoot outs between The House and The Regulators came to a head in a five-day firefight in Lincoln town center. Afterwards, The Regulators disbanded once a flimsy peace agreement with The House was reached.
Billy The Kid walked away from the Lincoln County War with the reputation of the West’s most skilled gunman and as a vigilante.
(Wanted Poster - Image Credit: Getty Images)
Wanted for the murder of Sheriff Brady, Billy The Kid was on the run again. It didn’t take long for Sheriff Pat Garrett to find and arrest him. Brought in and confined to the Lincoln courthouse Billy The Kid made his greatest escape yet. On April 28, 1881, The Kid requested to visit the outhouse and while on his way, slipped from his shackles, gunned down two guards and took control of the courthouse. He collected a small cache of weapons, used a pickaxe to cut his leg shackles, and fled town on a stolen horse.
(Lincoln County Courthouse - Image Credit: Getty Images)
Today Lincoln, New Mexico is a historic landmark and is a pristinely preserved ghost town. Every August the village holds a festival that features an open-air enactment of The Last Escape of Billy The Kid. Travelling the New Mexican landscape, looking at ghost towns you can see why we still tell stories about Billy The Kid today. Since his death 136 years ago, the stories and legends of Billy The Kid have captured the imaginations of thousands in cinema and in print. Billy The Kid wasn’t just an outlaw; he represents the rebel, the adventurer, and the wildness that lives in all of us. The landscape and the legend are what inspired The Kidd Tee. In classic southwestern colors, live wild and free, just like Billy The Kid.