Henry McCarty, popularly known as Billy the Kid, was born on November 23, 1859, in New York City to Irish Catholic parents, Catherine and Patrick McCarty. He was a notorious gunfighter and outlaw. He was also sometimes referred to as William H. Bonney. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, with his mother in 1870, where he committed his first crime at the age of 16 in 1875 — stealing food for his brother and himself. He went on to become one of the most notorious outlaws of the American Old West and his legacy lives on even after his death in 1881.
Henry McCarty was born on November 23, 1859, in New York City to Irish Catholic parents, Catherine and Patrick McCarty. Best known as Billy the Kid, he was a notorious gunfighter and outlaw. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, with his mother in 1870 and then moved again to New Mexico. His mother, unfortunately, died in 1874, leaving him and his brother orphaned. He was arrested for stealing food at the age of 16 in 1975, giving a notoriously tragic start to his criminal legacy.
Just 10 days later, he robbed a Chinese laundry and escaped shortly after being arrested. Fleeing from New Mexico Territory to Arizona, he became an outlaw and federal fugitive. He was referred to as Billy the Kid on wanted posters in 1875, and he began referring to himself as William H. Bonney in 1877. In that same year, he killed a blacksmith during an altercation, becoming a wanted man in Arizona. He returned to New Mexico and became well known when he joined the Regulators to participate in the Lincoln County War of 1878. Unfortunately, he was charged with killing three men, including a sheriff, and he was captured in 1880. He was sentenced to hang but he escaped, killing a further two deputies and evading capture for almost two months. On July 14, 1881, at the age of 21, McCarty was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garret.
He went on to become one of the most notorious outlaws of the American Old West and his legacy lives on even after his death in 1881.
He is arrested at the age of 16 for stealing food.
He escapes from jail and becomes an outlaw and federal fugitive.
He participates in the war and is charged with killing three men.
He escapes from jail for a final time before being shot and killed a few months later.
Why We Love Billy the Kid
Although he was a notorious outlaw, he was a legend in the American Old West. So much so that, even after his death, people believed that he survived and some even claimed to be him.
His influence on popular culture
Billy the Kid is one of the most well-known names when it comes to Western movies. His legacy has greatly influenced the Western genre, and his life and likeness have been frequently depicted in films and television shows.
He was a small-time crook for the most part
His legend far precedes his actual crimes. Despite being known as the West’s most notorious outlaw, he never actually robbed a train or a bank and his biggest crime was killing three men during a frontier war. He was a far cry from the image portrayed in Western movies.
5 Surprising Facts
Television shows and movies
He has been featured in more than 50 movies and several television shows.
He was called Billy the Kid to avoid confusion with two other Williams in his family.
He once met the legendary Earp while in Arizona.
His first arrest
His first arrest was a result of him stealing a basket of laundry.
His body count
He was involved in at least nine murders.
Billy the Kid FAQs
Did Billy the Kid survive?
No, he was killed in 1881.
What crime does Billy the Kid commit in 1875?
He stole a basket of laundry.
How did Billy the Kid's mother die?
She died of tuberculosis.
Billy the Kid’s birthday dates