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Patrick (Pat) Floyd Garrett

Patrick (Pat) Floyd Garrett

Garrett, Patrick Floyd (Pat), 1850-1908, U.S., lawman. Raised in Louisiana, Patrick Garrett was one of six children. His parents died shortly after the Civil War and at eighteen, in 1869, Garrett went west to seek his fortune. He worked as a cattle driver in the Texas Panhandle and later became a buffalo hunter. While working in Texas, Garrett killed his first man. Near Fort Griffin, Texas, in November 1876, Garrett got into an argument with Joseph Briscoe, a burly Irish skinner. Garrett made a derogatory remark about Briscoe washing his clothes in a stream and both men got into a wild fistfight. Briscoe was a short, squat man and Garrett was six-foot-four-inches tall. He easily bested the mule skinner but Briscoe grabbed an ax and raced toward Garrett who, in turn, lifted his rifle and fired into Briscoe's chest. The mule skinner died a few minutes later with Garrett standing over him, tears running down his ruddy cheeks.

The plains-hardened Garrett, who had become an expert with a gun, arrived in Sumner, N.M., driving cattle. Here he got a job tending bar and later opened a small cafe. He married in 1879, but his teenage bride died of illness and Garrett married again. While tending bar and running his restaurant, Garrett also spent a considerable amount of time gambling, and at the tables he met most of the young cowboys who later became gunslingers involved in the infamous and bloody Lincoln County War. One of these was Billy the Kid. The two became so close that they were known as Big Casino and Little Casino, nicknamed after their sizes and because they were constantly playing casino poker.

When the Lincoln County war erupted between warring cattle barons, Billy the Kid and his friends shot and killed several gunmen who had murdered John Tunstall, the Kid's former employer and mentor. In 1880, Garrett was elected county sheriff with specific instructions to halt the bloody war and, most importantly, bring Billy the Kid, his former friend, to justice. So Garrett and his deputies set out after the Kid's gang and, in early December 1880, Garrett and others encountered Tom O'Folliard on the trail in Lincoln County, N.M. O'Folliard was riding to join the Kid at the time, and once he spotted the posse, he fired his Winchester several times in a running gunfight with the pursuing lawmen before outdistancing them.

Garrett, in December 1880, had just delivered some prisoners to Puerto de Luna, N.M., when he encountered a boisterous Mariano Leiva in a store. Leiva saw Garrett, by then a noted lawmen, and began stomping about the store, snarling: "No gringo can arrest meC' He then went to the street and shouted for all to hear, particularly the patient, tight-lipped Garrett: "By God, even that damned Pat Garrett can't take me!"

Garrett stepped onto the porch of the store, faced his antagonist, and pushed him into the street. Leiva went for his gun, firing a single bullet that went wild. Garrett drew his six-gun and snapped off two shots, one missing Leiva, the other ploughing into Leiva's left shoulder, smashing the blade. The would-be gunman was thrown over a saddle and led to jail. He was later fined $80 for attempting to murder Garrett.

In an effort to capture Billy the Kid and his gang, Garrett and a number of lawmen moved into the post hospital at Fort Sumner. One of the Kid's riders, Charlie Bowdre, had a wife who lived at the post, and Garrett was expecting that Bowdre and the others would soon ride into Fort Sumner to visit the woman. He was correct. On the evening of Dec. 19, 1880, Billy the Kid, accompanied by Charlie Bowdre, Tom O'Folliard, Billy Wilson, Tom Pickett, and Dave Rudabaugh, rode into the post.

Garrett, Lon Chambers, and others stepped onto the porch of the hospital and saw O'Folliard and Picket riding ahead of the Kid and the rest of the riders. "Halt!" shouted Garrett and at that moment O'Folliard drew his six-gun and began blazing away at the lawmen. Garrett and Chambers fired back simultaneously and a bullet stuck O'Folliard in the chest. He and Picket, along with the Kid and the others behind him, turned their horses about and galloped away. Pickett was wounded and Rudabaugh's horse later died from a wound. But the gang escaped, riding pell-mell from the post, except for O'Folliard, who suddenly wheeled his horse about and trotted back to face the lawmen. O'Folliard shouted: "Don't shoot, Garrett! I'm killed!"

Barney Mason, one of the deputies, aimed his six-gun at the wounded O'Folliard, saying: "Take your medicine, boy." Garrett stopped him from shooting and ordered O'Folliard: "Throw up your hands! Surrender!" "I can't raise my arms," O'Folliard said weakly as he rode slowly forward. He then fell from his horse into the arms of the lawmen, who took him to the hospital where he was put on a couch and doctors told him he had a fatal wound.

A bizarre scene then ensued with Garrett and his deputies sitting at a nearby table, playing poker, while talking to the dying O'Folliard, asking him to name the members of the gang. "Tom," Garrett told him, "your time is short." He then asked for the names of the gang members.

Replied O'Folliard: "The sooner the better. I will be out of pain:" He then moaned out the names of his fellow outlaws: The Kid, Wilson, Rudabaugh, Pickett, and Bowdre. O'Folliard also gave Garrett the locations of the Kid's hideouts. About half an hour later he died. O'Folliard would later be buried in a common grave with Bowdre and Billy the Kid.

Four days later, on Dec. 23, 1880, with the knowledge of the identities of the gang and their hideout, Garrett led a large posse to a rock house at Stinking Springs, N.M. The lawmen surrounded the crumbling rock house and Garrett gave orders that when the Kid stepped from this structure in the morning, he was to be shot immediately. By this time, Garrett knew that Billy the Kid was lethal and that asking him to surrender was a futile gesture. The next morning Charlie Bowdre, who was about the same size as the Kid, stepped from the rock house. From a distance, he appeared to be the Kid and Garrett raised his rifle, a signal which caused the posse to open a withering fire. Bowdre was hit twice in the chest and sent reeling back through the door of the rock house. Someone inside the house slammed the door shut and gunfire erupted from its windows.

Then Billy Wilson could be heard to call out to Garrett that Bowdre was dying and that he wanted to step outside. Garrett shouted back that Bowdre should step from the rock house with his hands up. Suddenly, Bowdre was shoved outside by the vicious Billy the Kid, who screamed to his friend: "Kill some of the sons-of-bitches before you die, Charlie!" Bowdre, clutching his chest and bleeding heavily, could only stagger forward blindly. He fell into Garrett's arms. The lawman put the dying outlaw on his own bedroll where Bowdre murmured: "I wish - I wish - I wish..:" He then died.

The Kid and his men then tried to pull some of their horses tied up outside to the doorway into the house, but Garrett shot and killed one horse and the outlaws abandoned this attempt. Gunfire was exchanged periodically between the outlaws and the posse until Garrett shouted: "How are you doing, Kid?" The Kid replied: "Pretty well, but we have no wood to get breakfast." Shouted Garrett to his former friend: "Come out and get some. Be a little sociable."

There was no reply. Garrett stared at Bowdre's corpse and told other lawmen that he felt bad about the youth's death. Then he told his men to make several fires and begin cooking bacon and other food. This was done and the thick odor of the food being made wafted to the rock house. A white handkerchief on a stick was then waved from a window and Rudabaugh stepped outside to ask for food. Garrett, after some discussion, told Rudabaugh that if he and the others surrendered, they would be well fed and go unharmed. The Kid and the others slowly stepped from the rock house and surrendered. The Kid was taken to Lincoln and locked up, but he later shot his way to freedom, killing two of Garrett's best deputies while Garrett was away on official business. Garrett now set out to get the Kid, accompanied by Tip McKinney and Frank Poe. They rode into Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881, following a tip that the Kid was hiding with friends at the post.

Several accounts had it that when entering the crowded old fort, Garrett and the Kid actually passed each other, but neither recognized the other. That night, Garrett approached Pete Maxwell, a friend of the Kid's, asking if the Kid was in the vicinity. He entered Maxwell's house and went into the bedroom, sitting on the bed and questioning Maxwell. The room was unlighted and the , door opened. The Kid stood there, framed in the light from the hallway. He had just left his sweetheart and had come to Maxwell to ask for the key to the meat locker so he could prepare a steak.

Tip McKinney was a member of a noted Texas family. His grandfather, Collin McKinney, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence; Robert McKinney, Tip's uncle, died at the Alamo; and his cousin, Robert Moody McKinney, was owner and publisher of the Santa Fe New Mexcian. Tip's father, John McKinney, owned a stock farm in East Texas.

During the late 1870's Thomas L. McKinney helped his father drive a herd of horses to Palo Pinto County, where they traded their animals for a cattle herd. They drove the cattle to New Mexico's Seven Rivers country, where they soon became involved in fighting with the "Seven Rivers Warriors."

Tip later spent some time in Uvalde, Texas, and finally settled in Roswell. Pat Garrett appointed him deputy sheriff, and he was with Garrett when Billy the Kid was killed. McKinney's greatest notoriety as a gunman came during a close-range shooting scrape two months before the Kid's death.

The Kid was in his stocking feet and wore no hat. He had a butcher knife in his hand in preparation of cutting the steak. A six-gun was jammed into his waistband. Maxwell, cowering on the bed, whispered to Garrett in the darkness: "That's him."

Billy stood squinting into the dark room, unable to see its occupants but knowing someone was there after hearing Maxwell speak to Garrett in hushed tones. Said the Kid: "Quien esta? Quien esta?" ("Who's there? Who's there?") He pulled out his six-gun and stepped into the room. Garrett fired a single shot which slammed into the Kid's chest. Then Garrett dove to the floor, expecting the Kid's six-gun to spit. The lawmen fired another shot as he leaped, but the bullet went wild. Maxwell ran from the room and Garrett followed him. The Kid lay on the floor, silent forever. His body was removed a short time later and he was buried the next day in the common grave holding Charlie Bowdre and Tom O'Folliard.

The killing of Billy the Kid brought Garrett fame and criticism. He was lauded for ridding Lincoln County of its most ferocious murderer, a youth who claimed to have killed twenty-one men. But the manner in which Garrett shot his quarry caused him severe criticism, especially from the supporters of Billy the Kid and those who never knew the vicious killer and had romanticized his bloody actions. In truth, he was a cheap, illiterate, back-stabbing slayer who shot from ambush and killed seemingly without cause. To those who idolized his legend, the Kid was the victim of a traitorous friend. Garrett claimed the reward for the Kid and even had to hire a lawyer to obtain this cash. The Republican Party refused to renominate him for sheriff and Garrett went into ranching, establishing operations near Fort Stanton in 1884.

Later, working for a special branch of the Texas Rangers, Garrett chased outlaws along the Texas-New Mexico border. He later supervised operations for other ranchers, established another ranch near Roswell that failed, and then tried to launch an irrigation scheme in the Pecos Valley that did not work. In 1890 Garrett ran for the office of sheriff in Chaves County, but was rejected by voters, a defeat that left him embittered. He moved to Uvalde, Texas, and set up a horse ranch. There he befriended a political powerhouse named John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner, later vice president in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administrations (1933-41). Garrett was elected a county commissioner in 1894, with Garner's help.

In 1896, Garrett was called back to the six-gun when Judge Albert J. Fountain and his young son disappeared and were presumed to be mysteriously murdered in White Sands, N.M. Garrett became sheriff of Dona Ana County with the specific assignment of tracking down the killer of the Fountains. These murders reportedly stemmed from a dispute over a huge cattle empire and were apparently carried out by Jim "Deacon" Miller. Although Garrett suspected Miller, an independent gunman for hire and killer of dozens of persons, he could prove nothing. The Fountain case remained unsolved.

While still sheriff of Dona Ana County, Garrett and four other deputies rode out to a ranch near Wildy Well on July 13, 1898, to arrest Oliver Lee and James Gilliland, who stood accused of murder. The Lee ranch, which was about thirty miles south of Alamogordo, was well-guarded and, as the lawmen approached, a ranch hand gave the alarm. The posse members, advancing on the house, were blasted by heavy gunfire from Lee and Gilliland after Garrett had ordered the pair to surrender. Garrett received a slight wound in the side and his deputy, Kent Kearney, was mortally wounded. So intense was the gunfire from the well-barricaded Lee and Gilliland that the lawmen were forced to retreat in disgrace. Both men later surrendered, but Lee and Gilliand were acquitted after a widely publicized trial.

This disgrace, coupled with his failure to find the killer of the Fountains, caused Garrett to lose his job as sheriff of Dona Ana County. He later opened a livery stable in Las Cruces, N.M., then moved to El Paso, Texas, where he was made a customs inspector through special appointment of President Theodore Roosevelt, again with the help of John Nance Garner. He refused another appointment in 1905 and began ranching again near Las Cruces. Pressed for cash, Garrett began leasing some of his best acreage. Some of this land was leased by Wayne Brazil (or Brazel) for cattle. When Brazil put herds of goats onto the land, Garrett said that he had violated their agreement and threatened to shoot Brazil unless he removed the goats. This led to a bitter feud.

On Feb. 29, 1908, Garrett met with Jim "Deacon" Miller and Carl Adamson, who claimed that they themselves would lease the land Brazil had been leasing. This was an apparent ruse. Miller, the suspected killer of the Fountains twelve years earlier, had apparently been brought in to murder the stubborn Garrett. Garrett, Adamson, and Brazil then rode together to inspect the land in question. Miller rode a circuitous route and lay in ambush about four miles outside of Las Cruces. When Garrett stopped his buggy to relieve himself, a bullet suddenly smashed through the back of his head and exited above the right eye. He spun around and another bullet tore into his stomach. The lawmen fell to the earth, dead. Brazil later reported that he and Garrett had quarreled and both had drawn their sixguns and Brazil had killed the lawman. Miller, however, was the real killer. Neither Brazil nor Miller were ever tried for the murder.



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