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

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

Patrick Lynch - July 9, 2017

The Sad Life of Pat Garrett: The Luckless Lawman Who Killed Billy the Kid
Garrett and Friends on the way to Curry’s. Pinterest

Garrett’s Failures

After discovering a large reservoir of artisan water in the Roswell region, Garrett began a series of failed business ventures in the field of irrigation. After losing in his bid to become the Sheriff of Chaves County in 1890, Garrett moved his family to Uvalde, Texas in 1892. He may have stayed there for the rest of his life, but the disappearance of Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain and his son Henry briefly thrust Garrett back into the spotlight.

He became Sheriff of Dona Ana County in April 1896, and after over two years, he achieved what others could not he arrested four men in connection with the disappearance of the Fountains. His deputy died in the pursuit of two of the fugitives, and his efforts were in vain because all four men were found Not Guilty of kidnapping the Fountains and also escaped punishment for the death of Garrett’s deputy. Garrett resigned as Sheriff in 1900.

He had one last chance at glory in 1901 when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as U.S. Customs Collector at El Paso, Texas. Garrett even had the honor of being named as one of the President’s three ‘White House Gunfighters.’ Garrett was involved in brawls during his tenure, and even though the President fielded complaints about the lawman, he stood by his man.

However, he tested Roosevelt’s patience once too often by lying about the identity of his guest at a party who took photos with the President. Tom Powers was not a prominent cattleman as Garrett claimed; he was the owner of a rowdy saloon. The irate President refused to reappoint Garrett in 1905.

Garrett was always a gambler and a lover of alcohol, and when he lost his coveted position as a Customs Collector, he became increasingly morose and turned to the bottle for solace. He was forced to auction off all his personal possessions to help with his debt but raised just $650.

Garrett blew his last chance when his friend George Curry, now the Territorial Governor of New Mexico, offered him a job as superintendent of Santa Fe’s territorial prison. Alas, Garrett had by now moved in with a prostitute, and when Curry found out, he withdrew the offer.

The Death of Garrett

After his son Dudley had arranged to lease the family’s Bear Canyon Ranch to Jesse Brazel for five years, Garrett was dismayed to learn that his tenant was using the land to raise goats. The desperate Garrett asked Carl Adamson if he would buy the family ranch in January 1908.

The Sad Life of Pat Garrett: The Luckless Lawman Who Killed Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid Pat Garrett, Barney Mason, Billy, Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, and the man next to Garrett May be Chavez Y Chavez credit:

Adamson eventually agreed, but Brazel refused to break the lease unless Adamson purchased the goats. While Adamson agreed to buy the 1,200 goats, Brazel said there was a mistake and claimed the actual number was 1,800.

On February 29, 1908, Garrett and Adamson traveled to Las Cruces to see if they could come to an agreement with Brazel. Brazel met them, and after a heated exchange, Adamson threatened to walk away from the deal. Adamson and Garrett rode on to Las Cruces, and when Adamson went to relieve himself, he heard three shots. He went to see what happened and saw Pat Garrett lying dead on the ground.

Adamson rode on to Las Cruces and said he did not see who killed the former lawman. While Brazel later claimed he did it in self-defense, he was acquitted after a short trial in 1909. Jim Miller is another suspect, as is Carl Adamson but in the end, no one knows who ended the unfortunate Garrett’s life. There were several cigarette butts found near the site of the murder, so perhaps he was the victim of an ambush?