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3.6
12 votes

Old Fort Sumner Museum

3501 Billy The Kid Road, Fort Sumner, New Mexico 88119 USA

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“the true story of the grave behind bars”

William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney is known from film and folklore alike, and as with any good legend, mystery surrounds his death.

Billy the Kid only walked this earth for 21 years, but his legend lives on over 130 years after Pat Garrett supposedly shot the Kid down. Like all great legends, controversy about the Kid’s life and death abound, but perhaps the most intriguing mysteries related to Billy the Kid surround his grave… From thieves, to cover-ups of the Kid’s death, to the unknown whereabouts of his actual gravesite, Billy the Kid’s grave has become a legend as big as the Kid himself.

If you visit Fort Sumner, NM, you can visit Billy the Kid’s “grave,” at the Old Fort Sumner Museum and you’ll notice it’s caged and secured more than a tiger in a zoo… And it’s for good reason. You see, Billy the Kid’s headstone has been stolen not once, but twice. (Some accounts mention 3 times, but this has proven difficult to verify. The grave was, however, knocked over and vandalized in the 2000s.)

Billy the Kid’s tombstone was first stolen in 1950 by parties unknown and remained missing until a couple from Texas visited Fort Sumner in 1975 and mentioned when they sold their house in 1969 the new owner found a headstone partially buried on the property. The Branhams, the couple from Texas, and the home’s new owner, Gaylan Wright, gave the stone back to Fort Sumner for re-placement at Billy’s “grave.” (More on why grave is in quotation marks later…) Billy the Kid’s tombstone remained unharmed for 6 years before being stolen once again in 1981, only to be recovered a week later in Huntington Beach, CA.

The Fort Sumner Cemetery was washed out in a flood in 1904, exposing the remains and leading to them being reburied without identification, so determining if the DNA is even from the right corpse would be difficult. And then there’s the Silver City cemetery where Billy’s mom is buried… The cemetery was sold in 1882 and the graves relocated outside the city. No one is sure if the tombstone marking her grave actually corresponds with the right dead stiff under it.

As of today the mystery stands, and you’ll have to decide as you visit both Old Fort Sumner Museum and the Billy the Kid Museum in Hico, TX, which one is really the final resting place of the most infamous kid of the wild west.

History recants his death as occurring in Fort Sumner in July of 1881. Legend denies it. Even the exact site of his grave is unknown due to a flood shortly after his death, and contentions between this and another local rivaling museum. Visit, hear the stories, and decide for yourself!

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Reviewed by
janisbeth

  • 1 Review
  • 5 Helpful
February 05, 2016

"Dead stiff"? Is that any way to refer to anyone's mortal remains in the context of a supposedly serious article?

5 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Austin Coop

  • 487 Reviews
  • 414 Helpful
August 31, 2014
Rated 4.0

Great little museum along with the grave of Billy the Kid. Or is it? Legend surrounds the whole thing, but this place is incredibly fascinating. Read the letters, newspapers, etc. in the museum and you'll walk away with a new appreciation for the legend of Billy the Kid.

5 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
dcai.rhodes

  • 1 Review
  • 3 Helpful
February 09, 2016
Rated 5.0

You people have no life or sense of humor do you? I'd pity you if you weren't so ignorant. Did you forget the man was a notorious killer? I guess you'd feel sorry for Manson or Bundy if someone slighted them too?

But to call someone "low brow" because you don't agree with their writing style? Hey royalty, that's not a high horse your sitting on there, it's a big ole MULE!!

Great article!

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
MikeMontague

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
March 12, 2016
Rated 1.0

I wouldn't drive 1 mile out of my way to see this!

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Old Fort Sumner Museum

3501 Billy The Kid Road
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
88119 USA

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