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William H. Bonney Alias Billy the Kid

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William H. Bonney Alias Billy the Kid

William H. Bonney alias Billy the Kid is probably the most misunderstood historical figure of the Old West. He was not a cold-blooded killer, nor was he a robber of trains or banks. Instead he was a gunfighter in a feud between two factions in which both sides stole from each other and killed. The Lincoln County War would have turned out exactly the way it did if Billy the Kid never took part in it. His role in the LCW was minor -he wasn’t the leader but a follower. Although Billy the Kid was one of many who fought and killed during the LCW, he was the only one that faced conviction and was sentence to death. So Billy the Kid used his wit and courage to escape his date with the hangman which boost his notoriety even more. If his spectacular escape wasn't enough, his controversial death was the final dramatic ending to his story. But it wasn't the end, Billy the Kid lives on in history and legend.

Billy the Kid’s real name was William Henry McCarty (1), when and where he was born, or who or what happened to his father is not known. It’s estimated that he was born around 1860-61 possibly in New York. History first traces the Kid as a youngster in Indiana in the late 1860s and then in Wichita, Kansas in 1870. His mother Catherine McCarty was a widow and single mother and he had a younger brother named Joseph (born 1863). By 1871, Catherine was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was told to move to a climate that was warmer and drier.

The Kid fled to one of his foster families and they put him on a stagecoach to Clifton, Arizona where his stepfather was living, but when he found his stepfather he didn’t want him and told the Kid to leave. All alone in a strange desert, the Kid wandered from one ranch to another to find work. For the next 2 years the Kid tramped around as a ranch hand and gambler. He then met up with a horse thief name John Mackie who taught him the tricks of the trade and the two became partners. But after some close calls, arrest, and escaping from custody, the Kid decided it was wiser to give up his new occupation.

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