A Tourist’s Guide to ‘The Real Grave of Billy The Kid’

Billy the Kid

A Real Tourist’s Eyeview

This hub is designed to give you a real tourist’s eye view of the Billy the Kid tourist attraction.

So often the stuff written about these places are written either by travel writers or tourist information places who either are paid for their opinions or want to encourage you to go so that they can part you from your money.

I have no axe to grind, the places I write about are places that I have personally visited as an ordinary tourist and so I have nothing to gain or lose by what I write.

I write therefore only to share my own personal experiences of these places and I share to the best of my remembrance and ability.

I hope that you will enjoy your trip as you come along with me to visit the real authentic gravesite of the infamous outlaw known as Billy the Kid.

How did we come to visit this place?

How did we come to visit this place?

Well as I remember it was my husbands idea to visit Billy the Kid´s grave he had noticed that it was just off our planned route and he said that it would only take a small detour to make it a part of our sites we want to see list.

Our holidays to the USA are usually fly-drive with only the first night and the last night’s motel booked. We have a vague idea of where we want to go but that often changes as we travelled as serendipity often brings us face to face with events or places that we hadn’t planned for.

Such was the real authentic grave site of Billy the kid. As my hubby was doing most of the driving and it was taking us into territory that none of us had seen before it seemed a good idea.

My husband and I are part of a generation that grew up with the obligatory Saturday afternoon cinema visit which frequently showed Cowboy films, so we of course grew up with the Hollywood version of the wild west.

Names such as Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill and many more were just as familiar to us as were the names of our friends.

How Long is this Little Detour Going to Take?

Armed with the location marked on our map and the assurances of the lady at the tourist information place that this was indeed the authentic resting place of Billy the Kid we set out.

Excited at the thought of seeing the actual grave of a name that was famous throughout the world, at least the part of the world that we grew up in, we began our journey.

Following the directions on the map we left the highway and headed towards Fort Sumner, this by the way was way back in 1999, and so some of what we experienced has no doubt change since then, but hopefully the grave site is still the authentic grave site.

The further we travelled from the highway the more rural the roads became.

What looked so close on the map was now beginning to have us wondering just how long this little detour was in fact going to take us.

Being tourists we were used to travelling on the long straight highways of the USA highways that were built for getting you to your destination by the shortest route in the quickest time, the rural roads were something new to us.

An Historic Bridge

On route to Fort Sumner we passed under a very nondescript road bridge that had a plaque which stated ´An Historic Bridge built 1937´ I can´t remember seeing why it was historic, it looked like a very ordinary concrete bridge with nothing at all outstanding about it it made us smile to think such an ordinary nondescript structure could attain the designation historic.

We Finally Arrive

After travelling what seemed to us at the time a long way off the beaten track we finally arrived at our destination and there it was the Old Fort Sumner Museum, with the words ‘Authentic grave site of Billy the Kid’ emblazoned in gold letters directly under the name of the museum.

It is a single story building and houses mostly as you would expect memorabilia connected to Billy the Kid it is not a large collection and its saving grace is the authentic grave site of the Kid himself which is located out back of the museum.

It was here that we met our Portaloo

One of the most memorable facts that I remember about this museum was that it had no indoor restrooms for visitors.

When I asked where the rest room was I was directed outside to a field next to the building where right in the middle of this field stood a Portaloo which had seen better days.

We openned the door of this Portaloo and quickly decided that we could wait until we could find a place with indoor plumbing and none of the wildlife that this Portaloo had.

This photo is not a photograph of the real authentic Billy the Kid´s Portaloo, I didn´t have the foresight to take a photograph of that loo so this is just a photograph of one I found on the Internet so that you knew what sort I was talking about.

The Grave of Billy the Kid

This grave site is only about three quarters of a mile from the place where the Lincoln County Sheriff of that time, a lawman called Pat Garrett, shot and killed Billy the Kid.

The first thing to strike you when you see the grave is that it is behind bars.

The Tombstone was stolen Three Times

It seems that in the past the real grave´s headstone has been stolen on three separate occasions but I can only find mention of of two of theses thefts, the the first time it was taken was in 1950 and it remained missing for 26 years before it was found and returned.

The second time that it was stolen was in 1981 but this time it was recovered much quicker it only took a couple of weeks to recover the headstone, the third time is supposed to have taken place more recently but when that was I have been unable to find out.

The Authentic Grave Site of Billy the Kid

Old Fort Days

In June each year Fort Sumner hold an Old Fort Days celebration this year it is the Old Fort Days Centennial Celebration, and starts June 6th through June 9th.

The Tombstone Race

One of the events is the Tombstone Race the inspiration for which came from how the thieves managed to achieve the theft of Billy the Kid’s gravestone.

Fort Sumner boasts that it holds the World’s Richest Billy the Kid Tombstone race for which you have to pay an entry fee of $20. The winner of this race receives a cash prize of about $2500, though there is more than one division and there is over $4000 available for prize money.

In this race contestants run around a course with 2 obstacles similar to those encountered by the thieves carrying an eighty pound stone replica of the grave stone, this years race will take place on Saturday 9th of June and I think that 2012 is the thirty second anniversary of this annual event.

The Tombstone Race in Fort Sumner

A Good Time To Visit

If you are going to visit Fort Sumner it sounds like this might be the ideal time of year that you should schedule your visit for, the three day 'Old Fort Day’s' event is packed full of all sorts of typical American type family entertainment ranging from Tug of War to Rodeo. As for other times there appears little else to see in Fort Sumner otherwise.

Did we enjoy our visit?

Did we enjoy our visit? Well it was certainly memorable and I am glad that we saw the real and authentic grave of the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid, and we got to travel some of the less travelled roads of America, but would I make the trip again? Only if it was during something like the Old Fort Days event when there are other things going on.

Better than the real thing?

I found this video on YouTube of the Spencers and their team visiting the grave of Billy the Kid, and I think watching their video is the next best thing to visiting Fort Sumner in person, no wait a minute thinking about the flies, the Portaloo and the long hot drive, maybe this is better than the real thing, see what you think.

The Spencers and their team visit Billy the Kid's grave

Seriously though I wouldn´t have missed this for the world, it was well worth the effort to get there and I am glad to be able to say that I have seen the real grave of Billy the Kid.

More by this Author

  • What Galveston Texas has to Offer
    21

    A fascinating town to visit see what Galveston has to offer the tourist. Photographs and videos of some of the many points of interest. There is something here for everyone

  • Washington DC on a Tight Budget
    20

    How and what to see in Washington DC if you are on a tight budget. See as much as possible for as little as possible. There are photographs included in this article. We had a great visit on the cheap.

  • Working Class Life in the 1940s - Wash Day
    51

    what wash days were like sixty years ago before there were such things as automatic washing machines. Read this first hand account of what it was like in a working class home in Britain on wash day.


Comments 27 comments

ewadfs profile image

ewadfs 6 years ago from New Jersey

that's crazy that someone would try and steal his tombstone!


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

My hubby would love this. I am with you on the portaloo matter


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

This was so enjoyable to read and seeing a piece of history, after all. Thank you so much. I would love to go there.


Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Thanks Maggs! This was a great hub on Billy the kid! I'm not surprised people stole his grave marker, and although it looks tacky, the fence is a good idea to preserve historical figures. He (though a really bad guy) helped make the 'wild west' what it was! Thank you for sharing another adventure!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

ewadfs you are right it is crazy, but it is a crazy world that we live in lol


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Ethel, the Portaloo left a lot to be desired and you would have had to be really desperate to use it even without the assorted spiders and other bugs that had made their home in it. It was certainly not for the faint-hearted lol.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Hello, hello I am glad that you enjoyed your little virtual visit to Fort Sumner and Billy's authentic grave.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Candie, I am sure you are right about having to put a cage round the tombstone to protect it because if it weren’t there it would be too inviting and would no doubt tempt others to try to steal it. Thanks for the visit, lots of love maggs


Mystique1957 profile image

Mystique1957 6 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

Hi, maggs...

This was a pleasant surprise to me as I have always been fond of Westerns and Macaroni Westerns since I was young. Lee Van Cliff, Eli Wallach, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Gene Hackman are among my favorite cowboys and villains. Great hub!

Two Thumbs up!

warmest regards and blessings,

Al


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Cowboy and Cowgirl outfits were always a popular Christmas present back in the late forties early fifties and the Saturday cinema was always a noisy interactive thing with kids all playing along with their heros on screen, happy days. Glad you enjoyed the hub, thanks for your kind comments they are always a blessing. love maggs


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

What a wonderful experience, maggs! I never think about Billy the Kid's grave but now thanks to your wonderful presentation I have a feeling he will be on my mind a little bit more! LOL


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Ann, When I look at the photograph of the real Billy the Kid those times don't seem to look anywhere near as romantic and attractive as they did when I was a kid watching it all play out on the silver screen of our local cinema, if I thought the Portaloo was gross I don´t know what I would have thought of the plumbing back then. lol


ralwus 6 years ago

I am so glad you got to go there. Ahh yes, I remember watching all the cowboy shows and movies too. It sticks with you well, those days. I don't blame you for not using the portaloo. Is that what you people call it? LOL I'll refrain from telling you what we call it. When will you next visit here take place, hmmmm?


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi ralwus now you have got me intrigued I shall be wondering all night now what you call a portaloo in your neck of the woods? Lol We enjoy exploring your great country, there are so many interesting places to see, so many familiar place names that I want to see first hand.

I think that I must have watched far too many American TV shows and seen too many American films in the past for my own good. No sure when we will get back to America but with my daughter living there I hope that it won’t be too long.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 6 years ago from Wisconsin

This was very interesting. I would love to see it only because I am a history buff and have been reading lately all the speculation that the body was not really that of Billy the Kid. No one knows for sure yet, but reading about all the theories is entertaining.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

I suppose now that we have the DNA know how maybe this question can be settled once and for all. I hope it proves to be the real grave or these people will most likely lose their way of making a living. Thanks so much for your comments


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

well thats one part of the wild west I and hubby will NOT be visiting! lol love to you and I loved this most enjoyable article Maggie! barbara b


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Barbara, nice to see your smiling face it always cheers me up and brightens my day to see your profile photo on my comments. I am glad that I have saved you some valuable time Lol....


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

.....I so much love this hub and your beautiful style of putting it all together into an informative and entertaining travelogue - I say Bravo - and the next time you go somewhere - please take me along with you!

p.s. - apparently the picture, as you probably know, up above of Billy the Kid is only one of two in existence - now the point I'm making here - this particular photo, I read somewhere, is his actual death picture and that is him standing upright (well propped up as they say) - what do you think of this theory?


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

HI epigramman, Thanks for the interesting information.

I think this theory would explain the rather glassy stare that Billy the Kid has in this photo. There is something not quite right about this photo which is hard to put your finger on and this theory would seem to be a reasonable explanation.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

...we all love a mystery don't we - but one thing that is NOT a mystery - your hubs - they're great - especially this one - and one of my favorites ANYWHERE on Hubpages!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi epigramman, Wow, what a nice kind man you are, your comment has really made my day.


Gregory Hasman 66 profile image

Gregory Hasman 66 5 years ago from Denton TX

I like your approach to the grave. I visited the grave in June on my way to Gallup. I enjoyed the drive as I like scenic , anything non-interstate, roads. Good imput and descriptions.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Gregory, Thank you so much for your kind comments like you we enjoy exploring off the interstate highways.


ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

maggs,

I love your adventurous spirit! The open ended nature of your trips is the way to find the hidden jewels of history and culture that most folks miss as they rush from point A to point B on the interstate. Obviously...had you used the porto-potty...you probably would have found additional jewels so clearly discretion IS the better part of valor I suppose...lol.

As for Fort Sumner being pretty boring with the exception of "Old Fort's Days", I think that explains why (for fun) people steal old headstones.

Very interesting hub my friend!

Thomas


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you Thomas for your kind words I just wish that I had your wit and humour then I am sure that I could have made even this boring place a little more interesting, not to mention funny :D

I like our kind of holidays we never know where we are going to end up except for the first and last day and so many of our favourite places were happened on en route to somewhere else lol...


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi GetitScene We loved Tombstone too, we have visited there more than once and enjoyed each visit.

You know what they say about the young that youth is wasted on them lol...

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment :D

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working