Today in History: Billy the Kid’s Last Jailbreak

Billy the Kid

On this day in 1881, the renowned Billy the Kid escaped from the Lincoln County jail in Lincoln, New Mexico.  Many have heard of The Kid, but not many know about his life story.   Most of his notoriety that grew into legendary proportions happened because of his numerous jailbreaks, and his accuracy in shooting, and illustrated stories that were published in dime novels popular in the day. In New Mexico, this was all a part of what became known as the Lincoln County War, where various merchants in the region vied for lucrative military contracts and their motley crew of employees, later glorified as Hollywood’s “Young Guns” were in frequent wild western gun battles.   In spring of  1881, toward the end of the Lincoln County War, William Bonney was jailed in Lincoln,  having been tried for the murder of Sheriff William Brady.  He would escape one last time from the courthouse jail on April 28th, killing Deputies JW Bell and R. Olinger on his way.  Billy headed out to lie low with friends near Fort Sumner.  It was in this area that a few short months later, Billy would meet his end when killed by the Sheriff Pat Garrett.

You can watch Billy the Kid related videos on our Youtube channel.

Today in History: Father José Manuel Gallegos

Palace of the Governors Photo Archives negative number #9982

A most interesting early civic leader of New Mexico was Father José Manuel Gallegos, whose life chronicles some amazing historical events.. He was born in Abiqiu in 1815, while Nuevo Mexico was still part of New Spain. He was ordained as a priest in 1840 after study in Durango, Mexico, and began serving a parish church in Albuquerque.  He then stood for election and served in the Mexican Legislative Assembly for the Department of Nuevo Mexico from 1843-1846, and then after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican American War and New Mexico became a US territory, Gallegos was elected to the first Territorial Council in 1851. That same year, following a power struggle between local priests and the new Archbishop Lamy, Gallegos devoted himself to government entirely after Lamy removed him from his church. By 1853, Gallegos won election to serve as territorial delegate to Congress in Washington DC.  He was elected to a second term, but his seat was contested, as was his loyalty to the United States, and it was claimed that he only had a majority of voters because of fraudulent Mexican voters. Voter fraud was never proven, but he was denied the election because of these claims and Gallegos came home to New Mexico.  He returned to the New Mexico territorial government, serving as a legislator, treasurer and other offices, and one more stint in Congress. 

He died in Santa Fe on April 21, 1875.   

Today in History: Black Sunday

 Dust storm, by Dorothea Lange, 1935. It was conditions of this sort which forced many farmers to abandon the area. Spring 1935. New Mexico | Library of Congress (

 All but forgotten today, dust storms hit New Mexico hard in the 1930’s.  The Depression was difficult enough, but the dust bowl covered large swaths of the eastern New Mexico plains, as well as the midwest.  Come explore our exhibits on the lower level where we explore the impact of the Depression and the severe weather phenomena on life and survival in New Mexico. in the 1930’s.  Dorothea Lange took the photograph above when she worked for the Farm Security Agency and wrote, “Dust storm. It was conditions of this sort which forced many farmers to abandon the area. Spring 1935. New Mexico,”    Image Courtesy of Library of Congress     

Read more here:: The Black Sunday Dust Storm of April 14, 1935.   And watch this short video: The Dust Bowl | Black Sunday | PBS

1st Wednesday Lecture: Hoofbeats Through History

This month, Cynthia Culbertson joins us to share the unique history of the horse in New Mexico.

When we think of New Mexico history we sometimes forget that the humans in the narrative have often been dependent on their equine companions. The influence of New Mexico on the history of the horse in the Americas is both fascinating and profound. From the pre-historic ancestors of the horse found here millions of years ago, the first horse breeding and racing in the Americas, the introduction of the horse to Native Americans and the subsequent development of some of the greatest horse cultures in history, New Mexico is arguably the most significant state when it comes to the history of the horse in the U.S. A horse lover since birth, Cynthia Culbertson is proud to have served as a consultant for multiple museum exhibitions featuring horses. She served as co-curator of an exhibition at the International Museum of the Horse featuring artifacts from 27 museums around the world, including such prestigious institutions as the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has also served as a consultant for the equine components of many other projects, including a UNESCO World Heritage museum. Cynthia is the author of several books on the subject of Arabian horses and is a regular contributor to international equine media. She has been a lecturer in more than ten countries and has scripted and narrated multiple educational videos, including a New York Times Vision Award recipient. Friends of History is a volunteer support group for the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its mission is to raise funds and public awareness for the Museum’s exhibitions and programs. Friends of History fulfills its mission by offering high quality public history programs, including the First Wednesday Lecture Series. For more information, or to join the Friends of History, go to