Billy the Kid and Brushy Bill Roberts: were they the same person?
Billy the Kid and Brushy Bill Roberts: were they the same person?

Billy the Kid Museum

Field review by the editors.

Hico, Texas

Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid was shot dead and buried by sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on July 14, 1881.

1880 Colt Deringer: Billy the Kid may have carried it in his boot.
1880 Colt Deringer: Billy the Kid may have carried it in his boot.

Or not.

"The grave in Fort Sumner has no body in it," said Sue Land, director of the Billy the Kid Museum. "They have a grave, but unless you ask they never mention not having a body."

The Billy the Kid Museum turns traditional Western history on its head with the claim that Billy did not die in 1881; he escaped and, decades later, settled in Hico, calling himself William "Brushy Bill" Roberts.

"The adults in Hico would tell their kids to stay away from that crazy old man," said Sue -- but not because he was Billy the Kid. "He never told anyone he was Billy the Kid until 1950," said Sue. By then the Kid was 90 years old.

Brushy Bill and New Mexico Governor Mabry: their meeting did not go well.
Brushy Bill and New Mexico Governor Mabry: their meeting did not go well.

It's a complicated story that Sue or one of her museum staffers will be happy to explain to you -- or you could simply watch one of the small museum's three flat screen monitors, each playing a different video with historians and researchers asserting that Brushy Bill and Billy the Kid were the same person.

Brushy and William Morrison, who examined Brushy Bill's battle-scarred body.
Brushy and William Morrison, who examined Brushy Bill's battle-scarred body.

Sun ran through the details: Pat Garrett mistakenly killed someone else in Fort Sumner, then covered it up to hide his embarrassment and collect the reward money (A flood in Billy's cemetery later "washed away all those old wooden caskets and bones and things," said Sue, leaving the grave empty). Billy escaped the shootout, changed his name, and reformed, embarking on a career that included catching horse thieves, working for Hanging Judge Parker, and holding down jobs as a constable, deputy sheriff, and plainclothes policeman.

By 1950 Brushy Bill knew he was dying and wanted to be pardoned by the governor of New Mexico for his crimes. His body was examined, revealing bullet wounds and knife scars that matched those known to be on Billy. "I don't know any man that would've shot and stabbed themselves just so they could have the same scars as Billy the Kid," said Sue.

"All he was asking for was a pardon," said Sue. "Not money or notoriety or anything like that."

The New Mexico governor, however, scoffed at Brushy's claims (And was probably alarmed at the thought of losing Billy the Kid tourists to Texas). The governor said, according to Sue, "I don't believe him. He's just a sick old man."

Heartbroken, Brushy Bill returned to Hico. A month later, four days shy of his 91st birthday, he dropped dead on a downtown sidewalk, walking to the post office to mail a package for his wife.

Billy the Kid grave.
Brushy's grave is festooned with offerings from well-wishers.

Blindsided by its unexpected fame, Hico tried to forget Brushy Bill -- but couldn't. Decades passed. "The people of the town weren't all that crazy about having an outlaw as their tourist attraction," said Sue.

Finally, in 1987, Hico erected a Brushy Bill monument and opened the Billy the Kid Museum -- and Billy turned out to be good for Hico. Wild West fans trek to this part of central Texas to see Brushy's grave, death spot, statue, and the museum, with its small collection of firearms and Western memorabilia. Sue admits that Hico's delayed embrace of Brushy hurt the museum's collection, limiting it to a handful of items owned by the old man (including possibly one of his guns). "By the time we come along, almost everything was gone."

Still, according to Sue, visitors seem satisfied to read the museum's informational displays and get the facts from Sue and her small staff. "One man said, 'I wanted to know that the Kid made it out,'" said Sue. "That's the way the majority of them feel."

She added, "I tell people, 'Now, what Billy did wasn't necessarily right. But he tried to make up for it later.' And he did."

Also see: Jesse James Lived to be 103

Billy the Kid Museum

Address:
114 N. Pecan St., Hico, TX
Directions:
SW of Glen Rose via Hwy 220, right on Hwy 6/2nd St., left on Pecan St., storefront on right.
Hours:
M-Sa 10-4, Su 12-3 (Call to verify)
Phone:
254-796-2523
Admission:
Donations appreciated.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Statue of Billy the KidStatue of Billy the Kid, Hico, TX - < 1 mi.
Billy the Kid Died HereBilly the Kid Died Here, Hico, TX - < 1 mi.
Giant Metal SpurGiant Metal Spur, Hico, TX - < 1 mi.
In the region:
80-Foot-Tall Tin Soldier, Waco, TX - 59 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Texas

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Texas.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

October 17, 2019

My Sights

My Sights

Save Cool Vacation Destinations!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Texas Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Mothman Museum, Point Pleasant, West Virginia (Oct 14-20, 2019)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special rates for hotels.

Nearby Hotels: Hico, Texas

Nightly rates found:

Book Now