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Billy the Kid in Santa Fe: Wild West History, Outlaw Legends, and the City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail. A Non-Fiction Trilogy. Book One: Young Billy

Billy the Kid in Santa Fe: Wild West History, Outlaw Legends, and the City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail. A Non-Fiction Trilogy. Book One: Young Billy

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Billy the Kid in Santa Fe: Wild West History, Outlaw Legends, and the City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail. A Non-Fiction Trilogy. Book One: Young Billy

284 pages
2 heures
Feb 7, 2015


Billy the Kid spent part of his youth in Santa Fe in the 1870s.
~ What was New Mexico's territorial capital like in Billy's day?
~ How did Santa Fe's frontier character and its Hispanic culture shape the development of this future desperado?
~ What other residents did Billy encounter who would figure significantly in later chapters of his brief life?
~ And how did Billy spend his days and his nights as a youngster in Santa Fe? Did he ice skate? . . . play baseball? . . . tell ghost stories?

Historical facts and fanciful legends swirl around Billy the Kid's early days--and around the City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail--in Young Billy, Lynn Michelsohn's first book of the non-fiction trilogy, Billy the Kid in Santa Fe.

Young Billy includes over 40 photographs, drawings, and maps and two appendices.

Recommended for Western History buffs, Billy the Kid aficionados, and anyone who loves Santa Fe!

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1. Billy Comes to Santa Fe--despite defunct burros
Chapter 2. Santa Fe Life--blue-eyed Mexicans, scheming politicians, and military music
Chapter 3. The City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail--mud, mud, and more mud!
Chapter 4. February 1873--did Billy ice skate? or play shortstop?
Chapter 5. Billy Leaves Santa Fe--after a documented event, at last!

Appendix A. Pronunciation Guide
Appendix B. Finding Billy's Santa Fe Today

Feb 7, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Travel, history, and folklore often come together in Lynn Michelsohn's books. Ghost stories associated with particular historical locations especially interest her, as do fascinating characters and quirky facts about places she loves--the South Carolina Lowcountry, the American Southwest, and the Galapagos Islands. A Message from the Author: I write for three reasons. First of all, it's fun. Secondly, it keeps my brain alive and functioning as I learn new things. Finally, and probably most importantly, it keeps me out of my sons' hair (I just know I could run their lives, if only they would let me!). Several years ago, I closed my long-time New Mexico practice in clinical and forensic psychology to devote more time to writing--and beachcombing. My husband, a former attorney, and I now divide our time between Santa Fe and Hutchinson Island, Florida, where our two adult sons visit us regularly (but not often enough). Wow! This writing (and beachcombing) is really great! I recommend it to all of you who have ever thought about starting that memoir or article or novel. Kindle makes publishing incredibly easy, and who knows, you might even sell a few hundred thousand copies (I haven't yet)! After years of living in Roswell with its sometimes offbeat attractions and history--the Roswell Incident, for example--writing "Roswell, Your Travel Guide to the UFO Capital of the World!" gave me the chance to share these interests with visitors to the Land of Enchantment. Next I wrote a book about a distinctly different region, one I have loved since my childhood spent knee-deep in the marshes and saltwater creeks of the South Carolina coast. "Tales from Brookgreen: Folklore, Ghost Stories, and Gullah Folktales in the South Carolina Lowcountry" recounts stories from Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina's popular tourist attraction near Myrtle Beach. I am happy to see that the three shorter collections of tales from this longer work are quite popular on Kindle: "Lowcountry Ghosts," "Gullah Ghosts," and "Crab Boy's Ghost." Recently I released two new short collections, "Lowcountry Hurricanes" and "Lowcountry Confederates" in a new series called "More Tales from Brookgreen." I hope to add more lowcountry ghost stories and folktales to the series soon. Did you know that Herman Melville, of "Moby-Dick" fame, wrote a series of articles describing the Galapagos Islands? Neither did I until recently. I've had fun putting Melville's articles together with wonderful photographs taken by my son Moses in the Galapagos Islands, and writing introductory material to create a book for the modern visitor to the place Melville referred to as "The Encantadas." We call the book "In the Galapagos Islands with Herman Melville" and hope this glimpse into the "Enchanted Isles," written over 150 years ago, will enrich the visits of today's travelers. I've also put two shorter ebooks from it on Kindle that feature even more of Moses' great photos: "Galapagos Islands Birds" and "Galapagos Islands Landscapes." Recently I've gotten interested in researching the famous New Mexico outlaw Billy the Kid, especially the time he spent in Santa Fe. Did you know that more movies have been made about him over the years than about ANY OTHER individual? I have already completed one short book, "Billy the Kid's Jail," and one longer book, "Billy the Kid in Santa Fe, Book One: Young Billy." It is the first in a non-fiction trilogy exploring Santa Fe of the 1870s and 1880s and the time Billy spent there. I'm currently working on "Book Two: Outlaw Billy," describing his stay in the Santa Fe jail during the winter of 1880-1881. It's hard to avoid detouring into writing more about Santa Fe itself as I often get lost in reading local newspapers from that era. So many fascinating details!

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Billy the Kid in Santa Fe - Lynn Michelsohn

Billy the Kid in Santa Fe

Wild West History, Outlaw Legends, and the City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail.

A Non-Fiction Trilogy

Book One: Young Billy


Lynn Michelsohn

Cleanan Press, Inc.

Roswell, NM USA

Copyright 2014 Lynn Michelsohn

Table of Contents

Title Page

Introduction to the Trilogy

CHAPTER 1. Billy Comes to Santa Fe—despite defunct burros

CHAPTER 2. Santa Fe Life—blue-eyed Mexicans, scheming politicians, and military music

CHAPTER 3. The City at the End of the Santa Fe Trail—mud, mud, and more mud.

CHAPTER 4. February 1873—did Billy ice skate? or play shortstop?

CHAPTER 5. Billy Leaves Santa Fe—after a documented event, at last!


Appendix A. Pronunciation Guide

Appendix B. Finding Billy’s Santa Fe Today


About the Author

Other Books by Lynn Michelsohn

Introduction to the Trilogy

What people believe to be true is often as important as reality. It may, in fact, be part of the truth.

- Gary Roberts, Historian

Cold fury overtook the desperate teen. The drunken bully’s insulting words cut him like a knife—like the deadly pocketknife now clutched in his slender, shaking fist.

Once, twice, three times he struck. Bystanders gasped as blood-red smears covered his finally still hand, but the hulking blacksmith who had accosted his beloved mother uttered not a sound as he slipped slowly to the rough plank floor.

It was done.

The cheerful, friendly boy, courteous to women, kind to children, helpful to his teacher, had become a desperate criminal, an outcast.

Billy the Kid had killed his first man.


Or had he?

Controversy and conjecture surround this supposed incident, as well as almost every other aspect of the birth, life, death, age, and even the name of a young outlaw sometimes called William Bonney. Substantiated information about this villain, or hero, of the Wild West remains rare. Historical facts—as elusive as quicksilver—rapidly devolve into myth and legend. Historical writer Fredrick Nolan once noted, Few American lives have more successfully resisted research than that of Billy the Kid.

Most of Billy’s well known exploits—some of which actually happened—took place in New Mexico Territory, from the early 1870s until his death here in 1881.

First settled by Spanish Conquistadors around 1598—if you ignore the Native American population, which historians usually have—New Mexico entered history as the northernmost territory of Spain in the New World, the most isolated and backward of all its holdings.

The colony’s capital of Santa Fe, a meager cluster of adobe—that is, dried mud—buildings, populated mainly by failed adventurers and refugees from the Inquisition, stood surrounded by scattered but peaceful Pueblo villages. Attackers, in the form of nomadic Navajos, Apaches, and Utes, always posed a threat, however. The fledgling settlement maintained its only contact with other Europeans by mule-back or ox-cart over the Camino Real to Mexico City, 1200 miles to the south.

The Camino Real and the Santa Fe Trail

When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Nuevo Mexico became the most isolated and backward province of this new country. The year 1821 also marked the opening of the Santa Fe Trail. Now, regular contact with the growing United States could begin, as Franklin, Missouri, waited a mere 900 miles to the east.

Finally, following our 1848 war with Mexico, New Mexico Territory—still accessible mainly over the by-now-well-traveled Santa Fe Trail—took its place as an isolated and backward part of the United States. In this new American Territory, public education was unknown, English was a foreign language, and telegraph wires had yet to make an appearance.

Change came slowly. Billy the Kid himself witnessed the beginnings of New Mexico’s first real emergence from isolation when the railroad arrived in 1878. Still, most Americans continued to consider this part of the United States to be primitive and otherwise undesirable for years to come. Susan Wallace, wife of New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace, and clearly not a fan of the place, wrote in 1879, We should have another war with Old Mexico to make her take back New Mexico.

This backward and isolated state of affairs certainly contributed to our lack of documented information about Billy the Kid. Record keeping took low priority on a frontier where the struggle for survival loomed daily and illiteracy rates ran high. A mysterious fire destroyed New Mexico’s store of public records in 1892, creating even more gaps.

When facts are scarce, legends grow. They certainly did in Santa Fe, with the popular frontier pastime of storytelling filling in many of those gaps with hearsay and myth.

In spite of difficulties in documentation, we can be reasonably sure Billy Bonney spent fair amounts of time in Santa Fe on at least two occasions. How do we know? Billy’s reminiscing friends, along with early journalists who followed his escapades, and his numerous biographers all tell us so, even if official records cannot.

Local folks spinning their tales of real—or wished-for—celebrity encounters might be expected to make up stories. Therefore, we usually look to professional journalists and skilled biographers for accurate information about a historical figure.

In Billy’s case, this is not necessarily a good idea. Much of what we long accepted as fact has come to be recognized as fantasy in the last few decades.

Accuracy rarely struck early writers as an important goal. Frontier journalists often emerge as demonstrably misleading, frequently influenced by political agendas or the need to sell newspapers.

Billy’s first biographers turn out to be even less reliable. They readily invented events to flesh out gaps in their knowledge, or to present themselves in a more favorable light. This was especially true of Billy’s primary biographer, Pat Garrett, who himself played a leading role in the activities he recorded in his seminal 1882 work, The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid.

Later, noted cowboy and Pinkerton detective Charles Siringo followed Garrett’s lead—repeating earlier misinformation and making up a little of his own—to create his 1920 bestseller, History of "Billy the Kid."

Chicago journalist Walter Noble Burns then borrowed from both works, added stories from others who had known Billy, and produced his wildly popular but highly fictionalized 1926 biography, The Saga of Billy the Kid. His efforts established Billy as a lasting romantic hero.

For years, we merely accepted what had come before. If you can’t trust Sheriff Pat Garrett, who can you trust? As it turns out, Garrett, aided by his ghostwriter, Ash Upson, was one of Billy’s least trustworthy historians.

So, as researchers have delved into the accuracy of accepted beliefs, new information has emerged, much of it contradictory both to earlier reports and to findings of other modern investigators. Perhaps that’s what makes Billy such a fascinating character. We can each pick and choose from a myriad of facts to create our own special Billy the Kid.

Nevertheless, Billy did spend time in Santa Fe on two—or possibly three—occasions.

Why does this matter? Why do we care?

From the standpoint of today’s visitor exploring enchanting and enchanted quirks of The City Different, as Santa Fe is called, Billy’s time here adds one more intriguing twist to four centuries of history, myth, and mystery enshrined in its adobe walls.

Professional and amateur historians trying to uncover the real person that was Billy the Kid recognize other reasons to care. This future desperado first came to New Mexico’s capital as a boy of twelve or thirteen. Surely, Santa Fe’s frontier character and Hispanic culture helped shape the personality of the newly arrived youth.

Did Kit Carson’s tales of daring whet Billy’s appetite for adventure? Did the boy from back East hone his quick wit and lively sense of humor trading quips with saloon patrons as he sang for tips around the Plaza? Did the future monte dealer develop his card-playing skills by sneaking into infamous Palace Avenue gambling dens? Did the casual violence of life at the End of the Santa Fe Trail desensitize the impressionable youngster to later killing?

And where did Billy acquire his love and respect for Hispanic culture? He spent much of his later life working, playing, courting, and hiding within Hispanic communities in southeastern New Mexico. There, he became a beloved hero. Billy’s fluent Spanish and charming manners made El Chivito a welcome guest in Hispanic rancheros and sheep camps.

Perhaps Billy learned his fluent Spanish playing in Santa Fe streets with youthful descendents of its Conquistadors. Maybe the young teen acquired his gallant manners and his taste for lovely señoritas attending bailes and fandangos at la fonda, the Inn at the End of the Santa Fe Trail.

And what about the citizenry Billy the Kid met during his first stay in Santa Fe? Did the charming young teen encounter any of Santa Fe’s older residents who would later figure significantly in his brief life?

Did he gawk in awe at the nearly seven-foot-tall veteran lawyer who had once gotten away with killing a Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court in the billiards room of la fonda, but would later prosecute Billy for murder?

Did the spirited youngster encounter the sober state legislator, busily writing New Mexico’s first public education law, whom he would eventually ambush from behind an adobe wall in a little town far from the ancient capital?

Did the boy notice a newly appointed judge as they passed each other on the street, a meek little man with a bald head and a frightened look in his eyes, who would one day sentence Billy to hang for that infamous deed?

Moreover, what was Santa Fe itself like in 1873? How were its last days as the rip-roaring End of the Santa Fe Trail playing out during Billy’s first exposure to this outpost of the Wild West?

Civilization, in the form of Americanization, was already starting to take hold in the traditionally Hispanic capital when Billy first arrived. What changes were taking place as Taos mountain men and Philadelphia photographers, Mexican ricos and Hopi traders, pioneer homesteaders and fancy ladies, Jewish merchants and French-born priests, Missouri bull skinners and Irish nuns, Anglo cavalrymen and Hispanic politicos all exchanged pleasantries around the Plaza?

How did these characters of Santa Fe—and Santa Fe’s own character—contribute to the development of a desperado? Can we, and even should we, sort facts from legends as they swirl around one young resident—later known as Billy the Kid—as we try to understand this intricate mosaic that is our American heritage?

Please Note: Many quotations included in this work contain ideas and language offensive to today’s sensibilities. They do not reflect the beliefs of the author or publisher but are included, un-censored, to convey the ethos of the era.

Book One

Young Billy

Under a sky of azure,

where balmy breezes blow,

Kissed by the golden sunshine,

is Nuevo Mejico.

- New Mexico State Song,

O Fair New Mexico

by Elizabeth Garrett

Chapter 1.

Billy Comes to Santa Fe—despite defunct burros

Young Billy the Kid had already killed when he first came to Santa Fe. He arrived bound out to a New Mexico farmer named William Antrim by the Children’s Aid Society of New York City. This welfare organization sent him west after he knifed another young tough in the dark hallway of a back-street tenement. Billy’s mother followed him to New Mexico, and later married Antrim.

No! No!

Billy grew up at a stage station near Santa Fe, a cross between a tavern and a saloon, run by his mother, who had married a soldier here. Billy received his education at the stage station, but was always considered a bad boy.

No, no, no!

Billy was born in Buffalo Gap, Texas, south of Abilene. When his mother died there during the Civil War while his father was off fighting with Quantrill’s Raiders, Billy went to live with his mother’s sister, Catherine, and her son, Joe. Catherine was something of a wanderer who often moved from place to place. Everyone just assumed Billy was her son when they arrived in Santa Fe.

Wait a minute! Is any of this true? Is there any proof that Billy the Kid even came to Santa Fe as a boy?

Actually, there is. However, his presence in Santa Fe—with all the stories that surround it—is backed by one, and only one—well, maybe two—irrefutable—well, fairly irrefutable—bits of documentation that place a youthful Billy the Kid here on March 1, 1873.

But exactly when did Billy and his family arrive in the capital of New Mexico Territory? How long did they stay? Where did they live? How did they support themselves? How did young Billy spend his days and nights in the venerable city?

All is lost to history—not that this has stopped storytellers from creating various, and often conflicting, scenarios.

Early writers say . . .

Billy’s first biographer, Sheriff Pat Garrett, aided by ghostwriter, Ash Upson, published The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid in 1882, less than a year after the young outlaw’s death. Garrett opened his highly fictionalized account with:

William H. Bonney, the hero of this history, was born in the city of New York, November 23d, 1859.

But little is known of his father, as he died when Billy was very young, and he had little recollection of him. In 1862, the family, consisting of the father, mother, and two boys, of whom Billy was the eldest, immigrated to Coffeyville, Kansas. Soon after settling there the father died, and the mother with her two boys removed to Colorado, where she married a man named Antrim, ... [today] the only survivor of the family of four, who removed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, shortly after the marriage. Billy was then four or five years of age.

It was here that the boy exhibited a spirit of reckless daring, yet generous and tender feeling, which rendered him the darling of his young companions in his gentler moods, and their terror when the angry fit was on him. It was here that he became adept at cards and noted among his comrades as successfully aping the genteel vices of his elders ...

About the year 1868, when Billy was eight or nine years of age, Antrim again removed and took up his residence at Silver City, in Grant County, New Mexico.

In spite of Garrett’s assertions, no convincing birth records for William Bonney, or for Henry McCarty, Billy’s probable real name, can be found in New York—or anywhere else, for that matter—and November 23rd was actually Ash Upson’s birthday. Garrett’s information is suspect from the start, but at least he did transport Billy to Santa Fe as a child.

Like Pat Garrett, Billy’s next biographer, Charles Siringo, another lawman turned author, placed Billy in Santa Fe at an early age in his 1920 History of Billy the Kid:

The young widow moved to the Territory of Colorado, where she married a Mr. Antrim.

Shortly after this marriage, the little family of four moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the end of the old Santa Fe Trail.

Here they opened a restaurant, and one of their first boarders was Ash Upson, then doing work on the Daily New Mexican.

Little, blue-eyed, Billy Bonney was then about five years of age, and became greatly attached to good natured, jovial, Ash Upson, who spent much of his leisure time playing with the bright boy.

Three years later, when the hero of our story was about eight years old, Ash Upson and the Antrim family pulled up stakes and moved to the booming silver mining camp of Silver City, in the southwestern part of the Territory of New Mexico.

Siringo had followed Garrett’s meager story fairly closely but did inject Ash Upson into the tale. Opening

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