Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 22, 2012

3-26 Pat Garrett Rides Again in Roswell

32612 Pat Garrett
SANTA FE – New Mexico's most famous lawman finally will be honored this Saturday, March 31, as Roswell celebrates the installation of a larger-than-life statue of former Sheriff Pat Garrett, sitting tall in the saddle.
Garrett was elected to track down Billy the Kid. He had to do it more than once, finally ending the Kid's life in July 1881. Then in 1896, he was asked to track down the cold-blooded killers of Col. Albert Jennings Fountain and his eight-year-old son, Henry.
Although he succeeded in both dangerous responsibilities, his bravery has never been recognized anywhere in our state, according to historian Mike Pitel. The only monument to Garrett is a headstone in a crowded family plot in the Las Cruces Masonic Cemetery. That, of course, was courtesy of his family.
Roswell and Las Cruces were Garrett's two main places of residence during his lifetime. His widow, Apolinaria, remained in Las Cruces after Garrett's murder outside of town in 1908.
Why was Garrett never recognized for his bravery and courage? He always seemed to be on the wrong side. Billy the Kid was the hero of the little guy, the underdog, the oppressed.
Garrett was just doing his job but that job aided the Santa Fe Ring which controlled New Mexico. Today they would be known as the one-percenters. And then there was the way in which Billy the Kid was killed. Garrett said he shot from the dark of Pete Maxwell's room. That isn't the way John Wayne would have done it.
Others said Garrett tied Billy's girlfriend Paulita Maxwell to the bed in her room and ambushed Billy when he walked in. Others say Garrett shot someone else and claimed it was The Kid. In the Fountain trial, the defendants were acquitted.
Garrett never could catch a break. He was tall, angular, handsome, a good shot and a good horseman. Many historians regard the night he shot and killed the Kid as the moment the nation perceived that law and order had finally taken root in the territory of New Mexico, moving us a little closer to statehood.
Some say Garrett was a disagreeable sort who couldn't keep friends. You couldn't prove that by my grandparents, all of whom lived in Las Cruces at the time of the Garretts. They all thought highly of the family. One grandmother even confided in me that Garrett didn't kill Billy the Kid. He was such a nice man, she said, that he never would kill anybody.
I imagine a sheriff candidate in those days with a reputation for being too nice to kill anyone wouldn't have a chance of getting elected. But that's the way my grandmother saw it in the 1940s.
The dedication of Garrett's heroic, outdoor statue will commence at 10 a.m. adjacent to the Chavez County Courthouse on North Main Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.
Among the speakers at the Garrett statue dedication will be Garrett biographer Leon Metz, of El Paso and state Sen. Rod Adair, who represents portions of Chaves and Lincoln counties.
Among the guests of honor will be at least two of Garrett's grandchildren, Susannah Garrett of Santa Fe and Jarvis Patrick Garrett of Albuquerque.
Among Summers' other commissioned sculptures in Roswell is a larger-than-life bronze of famed cattle baron John Chisum, mounted alongside his lead steer, a Texas longhorn named Ol' Ruidoso. The statue was dedicated in 2001.
According to Pitel, Garrett's pitched-roof, six-room adobe, where he and his wife, Apolinaria, lived from 1880-1891 still stands at the north end of Bosque Road east of Roswell.
The thick-walled residence is on the State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places but is currently being used as a private storage facility.
The residence is also where Garrett's longtime friend, ex-reporter and former Roswell postmaster Ash Upson wrote the first 15 chapters of Garrett's 1882 book "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid."


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