The Wild West was a time of madness and mayhem. Outlaws earned respect because of their fearless, and often cruel, ways. Many of them managed to evade officials for years, and their legacies have lived on in the forms of books and films. Some of these western criminal include:
- Billy the Kid
The name given to Billy the Kid, at birth, is believed to have been Henry McCarty. As a youth, to honour his mother and stepfather, he began using William H. Bonney. As a rancher, he became known as Billy the Kid, and many of those that were close to him say he didn’t choose to became an outlaw, but did so out of necessity.
Henry McCarty was born in a poor Irish neighbourhood in New York, and was raised by his mother and stepfather. After his mother died, Billy left his stepfather and brother and began to work as a rancher. John Tunstall hired him as a bodyguard, in New Mexico, and the two became good friends. After a rival cattle gang killed Tunstall, Billy became the leader of a group of vigilantes who were sent to retrieve the killers. The vigilantes shot Sheriff Bill Brady and others accused of the murder, instead of taking them prisoner, and went on the run.
In July 1878, a rival gang surrounded the house where they were staying and held a siege that lasted five days. Against all odds, Billy and several members of the gang, shot their way out of town and escaped. The outlaw was subsequently captured by his former friend, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and in April 1881, was found guilty of the murder of Sheriff Brady and sentenced to be hanged.
Two weeks before his sentence was to be carried out Billy the Kid escaped, killing two deputies while he was fleeing. In July 1881, Garrett tracked Billy to a ranch in Fort Sumner, New Mexico and shot the outlaw in the chest. At the time of is death, Billy the Kid was only 21.
- Doc Holliday
Born John Henry Holliday, on August 14, 1851, this infamous outlaw was known for his impeccable manners and his skill as a dentist. Diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 15, many people believed that he lived feeling that he could die at any moment. He had fled to Dallas, Texas, for unknown reasons after his mother’s death in 1866 from tuberculosis.
In his new life, he began to drink and gamble and often got into fights over card games. One of these fights got out of control and Holliday was charged with murder. He fled Dallas and went on the run, eventually settling in Dodge City where he befriended fellow outlaw Wyatt Earp. The pair became involved in a legendary gunfight, known as ‘the shootout at O.K. Corral,’ in October 1881. During the shootout, Holliday was wounded and arrested for murder, but was released shortly afterwards. After accompanying Earp on a gunslinging journey, to avenge his brother’s death, Holliday moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He succumbed to tuberculosis on November 8, 1887 at the Glenwood Hotel at the age of 36.