The Wild West was a violent era during which outlaws and lawmen alike spent time in New Mexico. So it makes sense that some of the most notorious individuals from that time are buried in our state.
1. "Black Jack" Ketchum
Real name: Thomas Edward Ketchum
Early years: Black Jack was born 1863 in Texas. He and his brother Samuel initially worked as cowboys on ranches.
Rap sheet: Black Jack first held up a train in 1892 and it was so successful that he did it several more times. He also confessed to committing murder-for-hire.
Biggest score: $20,000 worth of gold and $40,000 in silver from one train!
Who’s Who: The Ketchum Gang sometimes teamed up with Butch Cassidy’s “Hole In The Wall Posse.”
Fate: After Black Jack was badly injured during a failed heist, he turned himself in. He was sentenced to death in the town of Clayton, New Mexico. Clayton officials had never performed a hanging and accidentally decapitated Black Jack.
Final resting place: Clayton Cemetery
2. Elfago Baca
The background: The line between good guys and bad guys in the Wild West was often blurred. As a self-appointed sheriff, Elfago Baca represented the underdog. In Frisco (now Reserve) a group of Texas cowboys had been attacking the local Hispanic community. This culminated when the cowboys castrated a local resident.
The Frisco Shootout: A cowboy named Charles McCarthy fired on Baca in a saloon, which prompted Baca to arrest him. This didn’t go over well. Roughly 80 cowboys showed up to teach Baca a lesson. They shot 4000 rounds into the structure where he was seeking refuge. He survived the standoff and reappeared 36 hours later.
Baca was charged with the murder of one of the cowboys who died in the shootout. He was subsequently acquitted because he acted in self-defense.
Final resting place: Sunset Memorial Park in Albuquerque
3. Buckshot Roberts
Real name: Andrew L. Roberts
Early years: Buckshot Robert’s early years are sketchy but it seems that he fought in the Civil War for the Union Army and hunted bison with the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody.
Rap sheet: Buckshot Roberts had ties to the Dolan Faction in the Lincoln County War. Due to this association, he was – falsely it seems - accused of being involved in the murder of John Tunstall.
Fate: Buckshot Roberts encountered the Regulators (including Billy the Kid). He was convinced that if he turned himself in, they’d kill him. So, when the Regulators tried to capture him, he decided to go out with guns blazing. He disabled all who attacked him, including Billy the Kid. Buckshot Roberts killed Dick Brewer in the fight. He subsequently died from gunshot wounds, which were inflicted by Charlie Bowdre.
Final resting place: Blazer Cemetery, Mescalero
4. Charlie Bowdre
Early years: Charlie Bowdre was born in Georgia and grew up in Mississippi. He arrived in New Mexico by 1874.
Rap sheet: Bowdre appears to have been a farmer and cowboy rather than an outlaw.
Who’s Who: Nowadays, Bowdre would have starred in a Lifetime movie about the perils of falling in with the wrong crowd. He was friends with Billy the Kid and may have taken part in the Kid’s more illicit activities. We know he participated in the Lincoln County War as one of the Regulators.
Fate: During Billy the Kid’s arrest, Pat Garrett shot and killed Bowdre.
Final resting place: The old Fort Sumner cemetery
5. Billy the Kid
Real name: Henry McCarty
Alias: William H. Bonney
The story of Billy the Kid and the fact that he’s buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico is no secret. It’s actually the town’s main claim to fame. But, did you know that no one is certain of the exact location of his remains?
A flood displaced the cemetery’s headstones so the gravesite you see is a guesstimate of Billy the Kid’s true resting place. Apparently he is as elusive in death as he was in life!
The headstone that you see is surrounded by bars because it’s been stolen so many times. Perhaps Billy the Kid would have seen the humor in that.
6. Pat Garrett
Early years: Garrett was born in Alabama and grew up in Louisiana. When he was orphaned as a teenager, he went out West and worked on a ranch and then as a buffalo hunter.
Rap sheet: In 1876, Garrett fought with another buffalo hunter and shot him to death. He never faced legal consequences for his actions.
The Kid: Garrett moved to New Mexico in 1878 and settled in Fort Sumner. He and Billy the Kid frequented the same gambling halls and the duo was known as Big Casino (Garrett) and Little Casino (Bonney).
Lawman: By the time Garrett became sheriff, Billy the Kid was accused of murder. Garrett eventually located Bonney around Stinking Springs. Billy the Kid was convicted and given the death penalty. He broke out of jail, killing two guards. While investigating his whereabouts Garrett had a chance encounter with Bonney and shot him.
Fate: Garrett himself was shot to death – allegedly by Jesse Brazel, who claimed self-defense.
Final resting place: Masonic Cemetery, Las Cruces
Which of these gravesites have you visited? Can you think of any other Wild West legends who are buried in New Mexico?