William Brady and Billy the Kid’s Regulators

Billy the Kid kills a sheriffThe Lincoln County War was going full tilt. William Brady was the sheriff of Lincoln County. Brady was known to be in the pocket of the Murphy-Dolan faction… the bad guys as far as Billy the Kid was concerned. The next sequence of events unfold as Billy the Kid’s Regulators come to the forefront.
           
During this time, Billy the Kid had formed his “regulators,” a semi-legal group to fight what he considered was the corruption in the county. And, for the most part, the average local looked favorably upon the regulators.
               
On the morning of April Fools Day 1878, Sheriff William Brady was walking down the Main Street of Lincoln with four of his deputies.
 
Then, from behind an adobe wall, guns started barking. It’s obvious that Sheriff Brady was the main target, because in a matter of seconds, he had more than a dozen holes in him.
 
Brady and Billy the Kid had history. Billy blamed Brady for the death of his friend John Tunstall, and in February of that year, Billy had tried to arrest Brady. But, Brady turned the tables on the Kid, and the Kid ended up in jail.
 
It was revenge through and through. When the shooting died down, Billy the Kid walked up to the body of Sheriff Brady. Some say Billy was looking for arrest warrants for Billy and the regulators. Others say Billy was looking for the Winchester rifle Brady had taken from him back in February.
 
When a bullet shot from hiding nicked Billy’s hip, Billy wisely returned to cover and the regulators left town.
 
Although Billy was able to get his vengeance, the outcome of the event wasn’t good for him. Because of the way it happened, Billy started losing the sympathy of the locals, and they began questioning the legality of his regulators. 

John Tunstall and Billy the Kid

John Tunstall and Billy the KidJohn Tunstall was an Englishman who came to America with some capital to invest. He wandered over to New Mexico where he met a lawyer named Alexander McSween. McSween suggested that there were good business opportunities in Lincoln County. What he probably didn’t mention was that there was a bit of a rivalry, over government beef contracts, going on between a J. J. Dolan and John Riley, owners of a general store called “The House,” and local cattle ranchers. Thus begins the story of John Tunstall and Billy the Kid.
           
So Tunstall came to Lincoln. He bought himself a cattle ranch… which was bad enough. But then, he and McSween decided to open a general store in competition with The House.
               
Tunstall wasn’t familiar with the ways of the West. He was used to a more genteel country, where disputes were settled in court. In Lincoln County it was might makes right. And the law was controlled by his competition.
 
Unfortunately for Tunstall, his partnership with McSween brought him into the middle of the feud. The owners of The House brought legal action against McSween regarding a debt. Since Tunstall became McSween’s partner, the law was convinced that Tunstall’s debt was also McSween’s. So, on February 18, 1878, a posse, led by men loyal to The House, headed to McSween’s ranch to confiscate some horses. McSween went out to meet the posse, and was greeted with a bullet to the head.
 
Dolan and Riley of The House probably figured McSween’s death would stifle the opposition. And it very well could have, had it not been for McSween’s 19 year old friend named William Bonney who became a whirlwind from hell. Incidentally, for anyone who may not know it, William Bonney is better known as Billy the Kid.

Dave Rudabaugh and Billy the Kid

Stephen AustinDave Rudabaugh was born in Missouri in 1841. Early in life he moved to Kansas. At the age of 18, Dave started a gang that rounded up and sold other people’s cattle. By the age of 29 he and his gang moved on to robbing payroll trains and railroad construction camps.
 
Obviously, the railroad didn’t like Rudabaugh’s activities. So they hired Wyatt Earp to stop them. But Wyatt’s pursuit didn’t inhibit Rudabaugh’s activities. For in January of 1878 he and his gang robbed a pay train in Kansas. Unfortunately for Rudabaugh, this was an area protected by Bat Masterson. Before Rudabaugh’s gang had a chance to spend the rewards of others labors, they found themselves in jail. Being a man lacking in character, Rudabaugh turned states evidence against his comrades and gained his freedom.
 
During the summer of 1880 Rudabaugh joined the gang of a New Mexico ruffian by the name of Billy the Kid. About 6 months later Rudabaugh and Billy the Kid ran into a posse led by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Rudabaugh was arrested, tried and sentenced to hang.
 
Facing a rope, Rudabaugh went underground. He dug a tunnel and high tailed it to Old Mexico.
 
For 5 years Dave Rudabaugh created all kinds of havoc in Mexico. Then, finally, this man who had lived in the shadow of other more famous men got his moment of glory. For on February 19, 1866 the local Mexican villagers fed up with Rudabaugh’s escapades, killed him. They then cut off his head, stuck it on a pole, placed the pole in the center of the village and had a fiesta. For once Dave Rudabaugh or at least part of Dave Rudabaugh was the center of attention.

BILLY THE KID CONVICTED

Billy the KidEarly in 1880, Sheriff Pat Garrett deposited Billy the Kid in jail, and left town thinking this would be the last he would ever see of “the Kid”.  But it wasn’t so.  Here is the story of what happened.

Pat Garrett was elected sheriff on the promise that he would bring in Billy the Kid.  And within a couple of months after being elected, he made good on his promise.  Feeling that chapter closed, Pat Garrett left to find other outlaws.

 Billy the Kid was transferred to the town of Messilla, New Mexico for trial.  Having a number of possible charges to place against him, they settled on the killing Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady three years earlier.

Billy the Kid was convicted of murdering Sheriff Brady.  In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Bristol said, “You are sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead.”  Billy the Kid comely responded, “And you can go to…” three times.  The hanging was set for May.

Billy the Kid was sent back to Lincoln, New Mexico. Lincoln didn’t have a formal jail so he was shackled, locked in a room on the second floor of the courthouse and placed under a twenty-four hour guard.

On April 28, 1881 Billy received a note with one word on it…“Privy”.  Understanding the meaning, Billy said he had to go to the outhouse.  Hidden in the outhouse was a pistol.  As Billy the Kid was returning to his room, he pulled the pistol and shot his escort.  Next he broke into the armory, and got a shotgun.  From a second floor window he yelled down to Robert Olinger, a guard that had been ragging on him.  When Robert looked up, he was sent to eternity by a blast from his own shotgun.

An hour later, with shackles still hanging from one leg, Billy the Kid rode out of town, once again escaping death.

BILLY THE KID PARDON

At one time outlaw Billy the Kid came close to becoming an honest man.  But things didn’t work out the way he had hoped.

The year wBilly the Kidas 1879.  The Lincoln County War was all but over.  Lew Wallace, the governor of New Mexico, was in Lincoln County, taking a personal interest in getting to the bottom of the conflict.

Houston Chapman, an attorney had just been murdered, and Governor Wallace wanted his killers.  Although it was generally known who the killers were, someone had to testify against them in court.  The Governor knew that William Bonney, later to be known as Billy the Kid, was that man, because Bonny had already written him saying he would testify in exchange for immunity.  So, on March 17 Bonney and Governor Wallace met.  It was agreed there would be a mock arrest, and after the testimony, Wallace would give Bonney a pardon.


But, before the arrest, the killers of Chapman escaped.  However, Governor Wallace assured Bonney that the deal was still on.  So, on March 21, as per the arrangement, Bonney surrendered to the Lincoln County Sheriff.  In April the two accused murderers were captured again.  A grand jury was called.  But before Bonney could testify, he was taken away to Dona Ana County to stand trial for the murder of Sheriff William Brady, who was killed a year earlier. Bonney and two others were indicted for murder.  Although Bonney was still getting assurances that his deal was still in place, he sensed it was turning sour.  But he still went through with his part of the agreement by testifying against his friends.

Now feeling he had no bargaining power, and that things were still going bad, in May, William Bonney decided to give up trying to go straight, escaped his captors, went back to cattle rustling, and became Billy the Kid.

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