Welcome to the Old West of Brushy Bill Roberts!

Who was Brushy Bill Roberts?

In 1948, William V. Morrison, a probate investigator working in St. Louis, Missouri, was sent to Florida to work on the case of an elderly man named Joe Hines. Hines was claiming that the land of his recently deceased brother now belonged entirely to him, since he was the only surviving heir. While Morrison and Hines talked, Hines admitted that he was Jessie Evans, who, after he had been released from prison in Texas in 1882, had by all accounts disappeared. Hines then told Morrison of his experiences in the Lincoln County War and with Billy the Kid. This held a special interest for Morrison, since he was related to the Maxwell family of Fort Sumner. When he proclaimed to Hines that the Kid had met his death at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett in the house of one of his relatives, he was shocked to have Hines reply that the Kid was not killed by Garrett, or by anyone else for that matter and was still living. Hines went on to say that besides himself and Billy, there was only one other surviving veteran of the Lincoln County War, namely Jim McDaniels, a member of the Jessie Evans Gang. Further intrigued, Morrison probed Hines for “the Kid’s” name and address and the old man finally consented. He gave Billy’s current name as Ollie L. “Brushy Bill” Roberts and his address as Hamilton, Texas.

After finishing his probate work with Joe Hines (aka Jesse Evans), Morrison traveled to Hamilton County, Texas to look for Brushy Bill Roberts. He found him there, living in a little place called Hico. After interviewing the old man, what he then learned from him is the stuff of legends. I invite you to explore this page to learn more about the legend of William Henry Roberts, aka Brushy Bill, aka Billy the Kid.

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Books about Brushy Bill Roberts

The Return of the Outlaw Billy the Kid
by W. C. Jameson
This book introduces a man who surfaced sixty-eight years after Billy the Kid’s alleged death. Discovered quite by accident in a small town in Texas, that man did not seek public attention and at first denied that he was once known as Billy Bonney. Confronted with the evidence, William Henry Roberts, amidst the storm of controversy, eventually admitted his identity. Through research and investigation and painstakingly separating fact from lore, this book takes careful aim at the evidence and the argument both for and against traditional history and for the first time dares to allow readers to judge for themselves: who was Billy the Kid?
256 pages, Republic of Texas Press, 1997.

Billy the Kid: Beyond the Grave
by W. C. Jameson
Billy the Kid: Beyond the Grave traces the life of this famous desperado through his role in the Lincoln County War, the alleged killing by Sheriff Pat Garrett, Billy’s escape, and his life for the next sixty-nine years. In 1948, an old man named William Henry Roberts was confronted with evidence that he was Billy the Kid. At first he denied his identity, but reluctantly admitted who he was. Based on taped interviews with Roberts, new evidence discovered in the 1990s, and sophisticated photo comparison technology by the FBI, the conclusion that Roberts was Billy the Kid gains support.
184 pages, Taylor Trade Publishing; Reprint edition, 2008.

Billy the Kid:The Lost Interviews
by W. C. Jameson
The long-lost interviews with William Henry Roberts, alias Henry Antrim, Henry McCarty, Billy Bonney, and Billy the Kid, have been found and for the first time in history are presented here in their entirety. In 1949 investigator William V. Morrison, along with folklorist and writer Dr. C.L. Sonnichsen, determined that Roberts, then eighty-nine years old, was, in truth, the outlaw Billy the Kid, the famous badman many believed to have been shot and killed by sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on July 14, 1881. W.C. Jameson, a leading authority on Bill the Kid, provides two introductory chapters detailing the circumstances which led to the identification of Roberts as Billy the Kid as well as the events leading up top the discovery of the lost interviews tapes.
152 pages, Garlic Press Publishing, 2012.

Billy the Kid “Killed” in New Mexico— Died in Texas
by Dr. Jannay P. Valdez and Judge Bobby E. Hefner
Billy the Kid: “Killed” in New Mexico–Died in Texas, a biography, a defense of Billy the kid … who died in 1950, not 1881 … a true, suppressed, and hidden story.
Outlaw Publications; First Edition edition, 1995.


Brushy Bill Roberts and Billy the Kid—The Complete Facts
Below, I have written a basic history of the case of Brushy Bill, and then listed the evidence for him as Billy the Kid, the evidence against him as Billy the Kid, the falsely used evidence against him, and a list of questions regarding Brushy that remain unanswered.
Read more…

The mystery of J. Frank Dalton
Some critics have doubted the story of Brushy Bill Roberts because of his association with a character known as J. Frank Dalton, who claimed to have been the outlaw Jesse James. These critics cast doubts on Brushy Bill’s story because of his association with Dalton, who was believed to have been a fraud. But who really was J. Frank Dalton, and was his claim to being Jesse James really untrue?
Read more…

Did Pat Garrett Kill the Wrong Man?
by K. Steven Monk

If Pat Garrett didn’t kill Billy the Kid on that night long ago in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, then obviously the Kid lived on to be someone else, no doubt under another alias. Indeed, it would have been extremely likely that he would have adopted another name to live his new life under since he had shown such a propensity for adopting alias’ for most of his life. If historians know anything at all about the Kid, they know that he absolutely defies being pinned down to a real name and date and place of birth. So, if Billy the Kid survived his supposed grave at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, it would come as no surprise that he would be found years later living under such a name as William Henry Roberts in a place like Hico, Texas. Indeed, one of the real given names that many historians subscribe to the Kid was William Henry.

So, if we are to admit to the possibility that William Henry “Brushy Bill” Roberts was in fact Billy the Kid, then we must first address the issue of whether or not Pat Garrett killed Billy on that summer night in Fort Sumner, New Mexico on 14 July 1881. There are several people who were there that night who say that he did not. Among these people are John William Poe, one of the two deputies who were with Garrett at the time of the shooting. When Garrett came running out of the darkened room from which he had just fired the fatal shot, he remarked, “That was the Kid in there and I think I got him.” Upon a moment of reflection, Poe was said to have replied, “Pat, you shot the wrong man. The Kid wouldn’t be here.” In later years, regarding the shooting of Billy the Kid, Poe has been quoted as saying, “I had felt almost certain that someone whom we did not want had been killed”.

What about the other deputy there that night, Thomas McKinney? He never spoke publicly about the shooting, although various second-hand sources claim that, in private, he did tell the “real” story of what happened. According to miner Frederick Grey, who allegedly knew McKinney, the deputy told him that he, Garrett, and Poe went into the bedroom of Paulita Maxwell, tied and gagged her, and when Billy came by later that night, Garrett shot him from concealment. Although at first listen this does seem more likely than the versions Garrett and Poe told, on closer inspection it loses credibility. Surely, Pete Maxwell would not have permitted his sister to be abused in such manner, and, even if he did, Paulita herself would have been very vocal of her mistreatment. According to some McKinney relatives, he told a different story from the one he reportedly told Grey. In this version, McKinney stated that he killed the man in the Maxwell bedroom. This man was discovered to not be Billy, while the real Kid escaped. Another story that McKinney reportedly told other relatives was that Garrett shot the wrong man on the porch, while the real Kid escaped. Why did McKinney tell all these different versions in secret? Whatever the reason, the differing claims he made tend to destroy his credibility completely.

With so many different versions being told about the events that happened that night in Fort Sumner, by the witnesses involved, how can we know with any degree of certainty what actually happened? After over 130 years we have only the recorded testimonies, both on and off the record, of those who were there, and all those people are long since dead.

One of the biggest problems I have with believing that Billy the Kid was killed that night, are the stories of numerous witnesses who knew Billy well and who reported having seen him in the years after his supposed death at the hands of Pat Garrett. Take, for instance, the report by Mrs. J. H. Wood, of Seven Rivers, who claimed she served Billy a dinner on July 17, 1881, just three days after he supposedly died at the hands of Garrett. Manuel Taylor, who was a boyhood friend of Billy’s when he lived in Silver City, claimed to have seen him in 1914 at a bullfight in Guadalajara, Mexico. Mrs. Syd Boykin, of Lincoln, also claimed to have seen the Kid after his supposed death in 1881. Jesse Cox, a wagon driver from New Mexico, claimed he had seen and spoken to Billy numerous times after 1881.

With so many stories from people who knew the Kid quite well claiming to have seen him since his supposed death in 1881, how can we be so sure that Pat Garrett killed the right man? And if he didn’t kill Billy, then who did he kill? That question may never be answered with any definitive proof, because if the man that Garrett killed wasn’t Billy the Kid, like Garrett claims it was, then he certainly wouldn’t have wanted anyone to learn the identity of who he really did kill. Although there has been some speculation on who that man really was, we will probably never know for sure with any degree of certainty. Evidently, Pat Garrett did a good job of covering up his mistake.

For many decades the history of Billy the Kid and the account of what happened to him that night so long ago in Fort Sumner, New Mexico has been based largely upon a book that has been described by some historians as containing several contradictions and even a few outright lies. I think that the history of the life of the Old West’s most legendary outlaw and who he really was is long overdue a serious reexamination. Billy the Kid wasn’t born in New York City — there’s simply no documented evidence to support the claim that he was — and he didn’t die in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He was born in Texas… and he died there too. History needs to be rewritten.

Why I Feel That William Henry Roberts Was Billy the Kid:

There were no photographs made of the dead body of the West’s most notorious outlaw!

Billy the Kid’s fame as a notorious outlaw had spread beyond the boundaries of this country by the time of his supposed death at the hand of Pat Garrett. I find it to be absolutely incredible that Garrett made no effort to summon a photographer so that such a momentuous moment could have been fixed into immortality upon a photographic plate. He could easily have arranged for one if he had so chosen. This conduct of Garrett’s is totally at odds with the usual scenario that surrounded such events in the Old West. A good case in point is the violent demise of the Dalton Gang in the streets of Coffeeville, Kansas a few years later. It was a carnival event, with hoards of the local citizenry vying alongside the lawmen to be photographed in company with the dead outlaws. Why didn’t Garrett do the same thing with the dead body of the West’s single most notorious outlaw? The thousands of dollars in reward money would certainly have been more than enough to compensate the photographer for his services. In fact, any photographer of that time would have been more than happy to take the pictures for free because of the value that such photos would be to him. But of course, photographs would have revealed the true identity of the man he killed.

The photograph comparisons of the tintype of Billy the Kid and Roberts, both as a young and old man, by the University of Texas at Austin are indisputable.

In 1990 a study was conducted using the Dedrick-Upham Tintype and a photograph of William Henry Roberts. The study was conducted by Dr. Scott T. Acton at the Laboratory for Vision Systems and Advanced Graphic Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. The study was supervised by Dr. Alan Bovik, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Using state-of-the-art facilities designed for such studies, the photographs were then digitized and image improved by employing a variety of image processing techniques. Similarities and differences between the two photographs were searched for, concentrating on facial features that criminologists use in their identification of criminals. The most important part of the study involved a computerized recognition system. These systems are statistically proven for a 92% success rate in face recognition and employed by the CIA, FBI, Scotland Yard, Interpol, and the Israeli Mosad. The actual parameters of comparison used to compare the two photos are too technical for inclusion here, but in the final analysis by Dr. Acton, “the similarity between the facial structure of William Henry Roberts and the man in the tintype is indeed amazing.” Later, in 1998, a similar study using the same technology was made by Dr. James J. Jurkanin of the Photo Institute at SIUC. In this study Jurkanin used a photo of a much younger Roberts, when he was 27 years of age. This later day comparison yielded an MSE (mean squared error) of just 3.0. According to Dr. Jurkanin, “I’d say that the similarity is indeed amazing. It is a near perfect match.”

So here we have two independent studies by professionals, using state-of-the-art photo comparison equipment of the type used to track down criminals around the world, technology that can see right through age and disguises, telling us that the only known authenticated photograph of Billy the Kid and two different photos of William Henry Roberts at different ages are all pictures of the same man. I find evidence like that hard to dispute.

The physical similarities of Billy the Kid and William Henry Roberts.

Through the years it had been noted by many people that there were remarkable physical similarities between Billy the Kid and William Henry Roberts. The list below gives a comprehensive overview of what these similarities were:

  • General apprearance: Robets had been characterized as slim, spry, and very muscular. Sonnichsen and Morrison described him as “straight as an arrow…about five feet eight inches tall” in cowboy boots. Billy the Kid has been portrayed by Robert Utley as being “slim, muscular, wiry, and erect, weighing 135 pounds and standing about five feet seven inches tall” without boots.

  • Teeth: One thing that people who knew Billy the Kid remember about him the most were his two large and prominent front teeth. They were evident everytime he smiled, which was often. According to an affidavit sworn to by Dewitt Travis, Roberts possessed two such teeth until they were removed by Dr. Cruz, a dentist in Gladewater, Texas in 1931. Relatives going through Roberts possessions after his death found a jar containing two large front teeth.

  • Hands and wrists: It is a well known fact that Billy the Kid had large wrists and small hands. This is why he was able to slip out of handcuffs so easily. According to Sonnichsen and Morrison, Roberts also possessed “small, neat hands with well shaped fingers, unusually large wrists, heavy forearm, and well developed biceps.”

  • Ears: Both Billy the Kid and Roberts possessed rather prominent ears. Photographic comparisons of the tintype and photos of Roberts show a remarkable similarity.

  • Eyes: Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic about Billy the Kid were his eys. They have been described by people who knew him as being bluish gray with tiny spots of brown in them. According to Sonnichsen and Morrison, as well as the sworn statement by Severo Gallegos on November 11, 1950, Roberts had exactly the same kind of eyes.

  • Scars: A postmortem which was performed on Roberts following his death in 1950, verified the existence of scars on his body that were in the same position as were those known by history to have existed on Billy the Kid.

Photos of Brushy Bill Roberts

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The Legend of Brushy Bill Roberts
Was William Henry “Brushy Bill” Roberts really Billy the Kid?

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