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

President Abraham Lincoln was born on this day in 1809.

The Library does not have any archival material from the 16th president*, so instead today we’re sharing the stories behind his namesakes in New Mexico.

Map of the Territory of New Mexico

Lincoln County was created by the territorial legislature in 1869 to honor the president. It was originally much larger than today (see pink county in the middle of the map). Chavez, Eddy and Otero Counties were carved out of it, reducing it to its current size today.

The town of Lincoln, formerly known as La Placita Del Rio Bonito, was one of the largest towns in the region that became Lincoln County. It was the county seat until the county offices were moved to Carrizozo in 1909. Lincoln county came to fame/ infamy with the Lincoln County Wars, 1878-1881.

Lincoln Forest Reserve, named for the town and county (both of which were named after the president, so we’re including it) was created in 1902, and renamed “Lincoln National Forest” in 1918.

For more information check out Lincoln Historic Site

*If you have something of President Lincoln’s and are interested in donating, please email us (

Information from “Place Names of New Mexico” by Robert Julyan.

Book cover of “The Place Names of New Mexico” by Robert Julyan