The Sad Life of Pat Garrett: The Luckless Lawman Who Killed Billy the Kid

The Sad Life of Pat Garrett: The Luckless Lawman Who Killed Billy the Kid

By Patrick Lynch
The Sad Life of Pat Garrett: The Luckless Lawman Who Killed Billy the Kid

Pat Garrett is best known as the man who killed Billy the Kid in 1881. As well as being a lawman in the Old West, he was also a barman and a customs agent. Although he gained notoriety for the Billy the Kid murder, Garrett didn’t have much luck thereafter.

After losing his job as a Sheriff, he failed in his attempt to get elected to the Senate. Eventually, he was the victim of murder over a land dispute. Keep reading to learn more about this ultimately luckless lawman.

Early Life

Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett was born in Alabama on June 5, 1850. His father purchased a cotton plantation in Louisiana but the Civil War ruined the Garrett family financially, and Garrett’s mother died when he was 16 years of age in 1867. His father died less than a year later, and the family was now in possession of a plantation that was in enormous debt. Garrett left his siblings with relatives and moved West to make a new life in 1869. He worked as a cowboy in Dallas for several years.

Pat Garrett. Wikipedia

Little is known about his life during this period, but in 1876, he killed for the first time. Garrett had a serious dispute with fellow buffalo hunter Joe Briscoe, and Garrett shot him in Texas. Although he turned himself into the authorities, they refused to prosecute him. Apparently, Briscoe drew his gun first, and Garrett acted in self-defense.

The incident spelled the end of his career as a buffalo hunter, and in 1878, he moved to New Mexico. Garrett lived in Fort Sumner just as the Lincoln County War was concluding. He briefly worked as a cowboy but quit to open a saloon. He married Juanita Gutierrez in 1879, but bad luck once again threatened to destroy Garrett as she died in childbirth less than a year later. Within a few months, he married again; this time to Gutierrez’s sister, Apolinaria. The couple had a total of 9 children.

Garrett the Lawman

During his brief career working in the saloon, Garrett met William Bonney, otherwise known as Billy the Kid. It is not known whether they were ever friends or even acquaintances, but they were often seen together gambling at the tables. In fact, Garrett was known as ‘Big Casino’ (due to his large stature – he was around 6ft 4 inches tall), and Bonney was called ‘Little Casino’ because he looked much smaller in comparison.

Garrett was elected as Sheriff of Lincoln County on November 7, 1880, when he defeated the former Sheriff George Kimball in an election. Regardless of their previous relationship, Garrett immediately set his sights on capturing Billy, the Kid because the young outlaw was wanted for the murder of Joe Grant amongst other crimes.

On December 15, Governor Wallace put a $500 bounty on the outlaw’s head, and Garrett began his pursuit in earnest. After several failed attempts to capture Billy and his gang, Garrett and his men surrounded the outlaws on December 19. While one of the gang, Tom O’Folliard, was killed, the rest escaped, but Garrett was determined to get his man.