Bonney, William H.

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Bonney, William H. (“Billy the Kid”)

(1859–81) outlaw, murderer; born in New York City. Moving with his family to Coffeyville, Kans. (1862), Colorado, and Silver City, N.M. (1868), Bonney allegedly killed his first man at age twelve. After killing three Indians in Arizona (1876) and rampaging throughout the Southwest and Mexico, he led a faction in New Mexico's notorious "Lincoln County [cattle] War" (1878), and killed Sheriff Jim Brady. He continued killing and committing cattle theft with his followers until he was captured and sentenced to hang for Brady's death (1880). He escaped under heavy guard, killing two deputies, and remained at large until fatally shot by Sheriff Pat F. Garrett in Fort Sumner, N.M. (1881).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.