Henry McCarty was — possibly — born in New York City on November 23, 1859. With his mother and brother he moved west — Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico. Mrs. McCarty married a man named William Antrim in Santa Fe. After she died in Silver City in 1874, the boy got into minor trouble, escaped jail to Arizona Territory, and used the name William Antrim. His size and age led to “Kid” or “Kid” Antrim. Arrested for shooting and killing a blacksmith who was beating him in 1877, the Kid escaped back to New Mexico and assumed the name William H. Bonney.
Lincoln County contemporary Frank Coe wrote about Billy:
He was about seventeen, 5ft 8in, weight 138lbs and stood straight as an Indian, fine looking lad as ever I met. He was a lady’s man and the Mexican girls were all crazy about him. He spoke their language well. He was a fine dancer, could go all their gaits and was one of them. He was a wonder, you would have been proud to know him.
Bonney enlisted in the range war in Lincoln County on the side of John Tunstall against Lawrence Murphy. After Tunstall was killed, the Kid rode with a group called the Regulators, a quasi-legal vigilante gang. The Regulators captured two of Tunstall’s killers and someone, most likely the Kid, killed both before they reached Lincoln and the jail. Later the Kid was among the group that killed Sheriff William Brady. The Kid was wounded in the fight at Blazer’s Mill with “Buckshot” Roberts. There were other gunfights between the warring parties. In July, the Kid was in the “five-day battle” in Lincoln where the leader of his group, Tunstall’s lawyer Alexander McSween, was killed. After that the war was considered over and the Kid lost any legitimacy. In August 1878, he was present when the clerk at the Mescalero Indian agency was killed.
Incoming New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace (the author of Ben Hur) issued a general pardon for the Lincoln County war, but it did not apply to Billy Bonney because he had been involved in the killing of Sheriff Brady. After another outburst of violence led to the killing of a lawyer named Chapman, Governor Wallace offered the Kid a full pardon if he’d testify against Chapman’s killers. Bonney agreed and was arrested in early 1879. Meanwhile Chapman’s killers escaped.
After waiting several months for the pardon, the Kid, who had some liberties, walked away from his guards, mounted a horse and escaped. He became a cattle thief, claiming it was owed him for back wages. He killed a saloon braggart whose gun misfired. Another man was killed in an attempt to capture Bonney.
The new Lincoln County sheriff, Pat Garrett, finally caught the Kid at Stinking Springs, 25 miles from Fort Sumner. After a gunfight the Kid was arrested. He was first charged in the murder of “Buckshot” Roberts, but eventually brought to trial and convicted for the murder of Sheriff Brady. Before Bonney could be hanged, he killed two deputies and escaped. Garrett located the Kid at Pete Maxwell’s ranch, waited in the dark bedroom, and shot him twice when he saw him outlined in the opened bedroom doorway, July 10, 1881. The Kid died without knowing who had killed him. He was 21 years old.
Souvenir hunters have chipped away. NewMexiKen photo, 2006.