On the Trail of Billy the Kid

Lincoln Travel Blog

 › entry 15 of 94 › view all entries
The visitor center
 

After a hearty breakfast at Price's Rest Stop and a few early morning photos of downtown Roswell, I continued west before the high desert winds kicked up and temperatures rose. The sun was at my back. An hour later, I idled into Lincoln, New Mexico, looking for Billy the Kid. The small ghost town, neatly tucked in the Rio Bonito River valley, has been nicely restored to its 1870-80 appearance. I pulled up to a low-profile  adobe building which served as the visitors information center. A $5 admission ticket gave me access to the museum - located in the same building - and to four other buildings along the single road through town, including the old courthouse.

 

Built in 1873 as the Murphy-Dolan Store which eventually failed, the building was purchased by the county of Lincoln and converted into the courthouse, sheriff's office, and county jail.

The courthouse
Still lacking prisoner cells, inmates were chained and shackled in an upstairs room. Billy the Kid was among them, scheduled to be hanged on Friday, May 13, 1881. Two weeks before the execution, while Sheriff Pat Garret was out of town and U.S. Marshall Robert Olinger had taken the other prisoners across the street for lunch at the Wortley Hotel, Billy the Kid made his dramatic final escape by shooting Deputy James Bell . When Olinger heard the shots fired, he ran into the street where the Kid gunned him down with both barrels of a 10-guage shotgun. Sheriff Pat Garret eventually tracked down Billy the Kid at Fort Sumner, NM, and shot him dead on July 14, 1881. The Kid was 21 years old.

 

No western outlaw had been the subject of more books written or movies made than Billy the Kid.

Billy the Kid
Yet his role for making Lincoln, New Mexico, famous was minute. The town gained notoriety during the violent Lincoln County War which lasted from  1878 to 1882. The war - primarily between two civilian factions over political and economic control - took place not only in the courtrooms but involved widespread gunfights, murder, and cattle rustling. The U.S. Army stepped in. A federal investigation led to the replacement of the Governor, the U.S. Attorney, the sheriff, and the local military commander.

Exhibits, displays, photographs, and documents in many of the restored buildings at the Lincoln State Monument (the state's most visited) convey nicely the expansion of the New Mexico Territory, the Lincoln County War, and the wild, wild west.

 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
The visitor center
The visitor center
The courthouse
The courthouse
Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid
The only known photograph of Billy…
The only known photograph of Bill…
This fort tower, the Torreon, is w…
This fort tower, the Torreon, is …
An Apache scout
An Apache scout
Hey Kid, this town aint big enou…
"Hey Kid, this town ain't big eno…
Lincoln
photo by: ela82