2014 - Silver City, New Mexico
Henry McCarty (a.k.a. Billy the Kid) called Silver City home from 1873 to 1875. It was here that he watched his mother grow sick and pass away from tuberculosis. It was here that he was first arrested for the petty crime of stealing shirts. It was here he made his first jailbreak. Unfortunately not very much remains in Silver City that dates back to the 1870s but we managed to fill Billy the Kid Days with plenty of field trips and presentations regardless.
The fort was established in 1866 to protect the miners and settlers of Piños Altos, Santa Rita, and Silver City from Apaches. After Geronimo surrendered in 1886 the fort was transformed into a sanatorium for the treatment of U.S. Army soldiers suffering from tuberculosis. In 1922 Fort Bayard was transferred to the Veterans Bureau and a modern hospital was built. During World War II German prisoners were brought to the fort to care for the grounds and the cemetery and in 1965 Fort Bayard was given to the State of New Mexico. Until 2010 the fort was used as a long-term medical facility for military and civilians alike.
Currently the hospital stands empty and runs the risk of being sold or left to crumble. The Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society is working to “preserve the viability of Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark.”
Silver City Museum
Since 1967 the Silver City Museum has been housed in a restored house built in 1881 by H.B. Ailman. The collection contains objects and exhibits related to the history of Southwest New Mexico. The most overwhelming exhibit may be that of the “Big Ditch”. Photographs line the walls illustrating the effects of the floods that ravaged Main Street in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Where Billy’s home once stood (among many other homes and buildings) is now park in the center of town.
Founded as a stage stop along the Butterfield Trail, Shakespeare is now owned privately and only open to thepublic a few times a year. It saw notable Old West characters such as “Russian Bill” Tattenbaum, Sandy King, members of the Clanton family, John Ringo, and Curley Bill of Tombstone fame, “Dangerous Dan” Tucker, and our own Billy the Kid who washed dishes there briefly after leaving Silver City. In 1935 the town and buildings were bought and used as a ranch by Frank and Rita Hill. The family has owned and maintained the property ever since (with help from tourists and donors) and thanks to their efforts it’s one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the Southwest.
Memory Lane Cemetery and Masonic Cemetery
Billy’s mother, Catherine Antrim (misspelled “Katherine” on her headstone) is buried in Memory Lane Cemetery along with Mary (Richards) Casey, Billy’s school teacher, and Carlotta (Baca) Brent, one of Billy’s dancing partners from his days in San Patricio. Harvey Whitehill, who holds the distinction of being the first sheriff to ever arrest Billy the Kid, is buried in the Masonic Cemetery south of town.
Buckhorn SaloonThis year we were lucky enough to hold our banquet in the historic Buckhorn Saloon. While we dined in the Opera House, which was reconstructed in the 1960s to look like the original, the Buckhorn is the original Piños Altos saloon where Billy would have attended dances with his mother.
A big thanks to the Palace Hotel, the Silver City Museum, Shakespeare Ghost Town, and Fort Bayard.