Billy the Kid Museum - Bosque Redondo Museum - Old Fort Sumner

Fort Sumner, New Mexico - December 19, 2018 - It's always fun to visit a museum or place that you have seen or read about in history books, and seen on television and film. From the road, this looks like a tourist trap (they do have a gift shop) but I can assure you it is not. Caroline and I spent over an hour there and were suitably impressed. It was difficult to take it all in. Well worth the visit and it's only $5 for admission.

Who Was Billy the Kid?

Billy the Kid was a late 19th-century thief and gunfighter. He was reportedly killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett, who later burnished the legend of the Wild West outlaw.

Billy the Kid was born William Henry McCarty Jr. on November 23, 1859, in New York City. Little is known of his youth, but early on he entered a life of thievery, eventually heading west and joining a violent gang. Billy was captured and sentenced to death for the murder of a sheriff but escaped after killing guards. The legend of Billy the Kid was created by his killer, Sheriff Pat Garrett.


Billy the Kid's Two Graves

Billy The Kid was killed in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881, and today it is the only reason anyone makes the trip. The road south from Santa Rosa is unmarred by other towns or highway patrols and, soon enough, the signs for Fort Sumner's main attraction appear.

First, yellow paint-on-plywood says only: SEE BILLY THE KID'S REAL GRAVE. Just ahead, another sign reads BILLY THE KID MUSEUM (though tacked above it is a newer thought: "Featured On ABC Prime Time Live.") We don't know it yet, but the signs are for two different and competing museums. Then we hit a third sign, an official town sign, which, we realize later, is a product of local peacemakers, "We've got the Kid...and so much more." It features a painting of Billy The Kid's Gravestone.



The Bosque Redondo Memorial

The Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner State Monument solemnly remembers the dark days of suffering from 1863 to 1868 when the U.S. Military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Navajo (the DinĂ©) and 500 Mescalero Apache (the N’de) on a reservation known as Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner, New Mexico— an area that encompassed 1,600 square miles (over one million acres).

The Bosque Redondo Memorial celebrates these two cultures’ dignity, resilience, endurance, courage and strength, in the face of extreme hardship, isolation, sickness and death, to emerge from Bosque Redondo to become the admired and proud people they are today.