Pat Garratt

Pat Garratt

Pat Garratt was born in Chambers County, Alabama, on 5th June, 1850. His family moved to Louisiana and after a brief schooling he became a trail driver and a buffalo hunter. In November 1876 he killed Joe Briscoe in a dispute. Garratt moved to New Mexico and in January 1880 he married Apolinaria Gutierrez. Over the next few years she gave birth to eight children.

In 1880 Garratt was elected sheriff of Lincoln County. He immediately attempted to deal with the problems being caused by Billy the Kid. In December 1880, Garratt shot dead two of the Kid's gang, Tom O'Folliard and Charles Bowdre. Soon afterwards Billy the Kid and the rest of his band were captured by Garratt.

Billy the Kid was found guilty of murdering Sheriff William Brady and was held in Lincoln jail while waiting to be executed on 13th May, 1881. However, Billy killed two guards and escaped while Garratt was away collecting taxes. News eventually reached Garratt that Billy was hiding out at the abandoned Fort Sumner. With his deputies, John Poe and Thomas McKinney, Garratt headed for Fort Sumner, a place 140 miles west of Lincoln. On 14th July, 1881, Garratt killed Billy the Kid during a shoot-out in a darkened room.

After he killed Billy the Kid Garratt (with the help of Ash Upson) wrote The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (1882). He then resigned as sheriff of Lincoln and for a while headed the LS Pat Garratt Rangers. Garratt's main objective was to bring an end to rustling in the Texas Panhandle. He resigned from the job after he discovered he was expected to kill rather than arrest the rustlers.

Garratt was instrumental in establishing the Pecos Valley Irrigation and Investment Company in 1885. The attempt to irrigate Pecos Valley ended in failure and the company went into receivership. Garratt attempted to become sheriff of Chaves County but was not elected to the post.

Garratt now moved to Uvalde County where he looked after his blind daughter, Elizabeth Garratt. A close associate of Helen Keller, she became a popular public speaker and a good musician, and eventually wrote the official New Mexico state song.

In 1896 Garratt was hired to discover why Albert J. Fountain and his son had disappeared. Garratt became convinced that Fountain had been murdered by Oliver Lee, Jim Gililland and Bill McNew. However he was unable to provide enough evidence for this theory and Lee and Gililland were acquitted when they appeared in court.

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Garratt as collector of customs at El Paso. The contract was not renewed after the completion of the two-year term.

Pat Garratt was shot in the back of the head and killed on 29th February, 1908. Wayne Brazel was charged with Garratt's murder but was acquitted. Others accused of the murder included James Miller and Carl Adamson. However, no one was ever convicted of the crime.

Primary Sources

(1) Pat Garratt, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (1882)

We had ridden to within a short distance of Maxwell's grounds when we found a man in camp and stopped. To Poe's great surprise, he recognized in the camper an old friend and former partner, in Texas, named Jacobs. We unsaddled here, got some coffee, and, on foot, entered an orchard which runs from this point down to a row of old buildings, some of them occupied by Mexicans, not more than sixty yards from Maxwell's house. We approached these houses cautiously, and when within earshot, heard the sound of voices conversing in Spanish. We concealed ourselves quickly and listened; but the distance was too great to hear words, or even distinguish voices. Soon a man arose from the ground, in full view, but too far away to recognize. He wore a broad-brimmed hat, a dark vest and pants, and was in his shirtsleeves. With a few words, which fell like a murmur on our ears, he went to the fence, jumped it, and walked down towards Maxwell's house.

Little as we then suspected it, this man was the Kid. We learned, subsequently, that, when he left his companions that night, he went to the house of a Mexican friend, pulled off his hat and boots, threw himself on a bed, and commenced reading a newspaper. He soon, however, hailed his friend, who was sleeping in the room, told him to get up and make some coffee, adding: 'Give me a butcher knife and I will go over to Pete's and get some beef; I'm hungry.' The Mexican arose, handed him the knife, and the Kid, hatless and in his stocking-feet, started to Maxwell's, which was but a few steps distant.

When the Kid, by me unrecognized, left the orchard, I motioned to my companions, and we cautiously retreated a short distance, and, to avoid the persons whom we had heard at the houses, took another route, approaching Maxwell's house from the opposite direction. When we reached the porch in front of the building, I left POE and McKinney at the end of the porch, about twenty feet from the door of Pete's room, and went in. It was near midnight and Pete was in bed. I walked to the head of the bed and sat down on it, beside him, near the pillow. I asked him as to the whereabouts of the Kid. He said that the Kid had certainly been about, but he did not know whether he had left or not. At that moment a man sprang quickly into the door, looking back, and called twice in Spanish, 'Who comes there?' No one replied and he came on in. He was bareheaded. From his step I could perceive he was either barefooted or in his stocking-feet, and held a revolver in his right hand and a butcher knife in his left.

He came directly towards me. Before he reached the bed, I whispered: 'Who is it, Pete?' but received no reply for a moment. It struck me that it might be Pete's brother-in-law, Manuel Abreu, who had seen POE and McKinney, and wanted to know their business. The intruder came close to me, leaned both hands on the bed, his right hand almost touching my knee, and asked, in a low tone: - 'Who are they Pete?' -at the same instant Maxwell whispered to me. 'That's him!' Simultaneously the Kid must have seen, or felt, the presence of a third person at the head of the bed. He raised quickly his pistol, a self-cocker, within a foot of my breast. Retreating rapidly across the room he cried: 'Who's that? Who's that?' All this occurred in a moment. Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside, and fired again. The second shot was useless; the Kid fell dead. He never spoke. A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and the Kid was with his many victims.