and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

More from Hoodoo and Lizzie Brown's Dodge City Gang - Billy Wilson


Another member of the Dodge City Gang was Billy Wilson, the "Mystery Rustler", who was also associated with Billy the Kid.  Accounts differ as to where he came from but he's believed to have been born William Harrison Wilson on October 30, 1859 in Arkansas, to have run away from home in his mid-teens after a fight with his father and to have soon thereafter fallen in with outlaws.

He left Arkansas after killing a man in a bar fight and is then thought to have traveled through Mississippi, Missouri, and Indian Territory. After another unfortunate murder, this time what's believed to have been the accidental killing of a friend in a hunting accident, he moved on to Dodge City. There he joined Dodge City Gang members, was given the nickname "Buffalo Billy", and traveled with them to Las Vegas, New Mexico.

He didn't stay long with the gang but long time friend and Dodge City Gang member Dirty Dave Rudabaugh would soon join him. Wilson opened a livery stable in the boom town of White Oaks. Around 1880, he sold it and went on to Lincoln, where he began riding with Billy the Kid's gang. What he didn't know was that he'd been paid in fake money.  Dave Rudabaugh, on the run from Las Vegas law, such as it was, soon joined Billy's gang with him.. 

Word of the counterfeit bills in Lincoln County reached Washington, D. C., and a special agent from the U. S. Treasury Department, Azariah Wild, was sent to New Mexcio to investigate. Wild determined that Wilson was part of West, and the Dedrick brothers counterfeit ring.

Though innocent of counterfiting, on Nov. 27, 1880, Wilson was involved in the killing of Deputy James Carlyle, when a posse surrounded Billy the Kid and his gang at Jim Greathouse's ranch. Between the murder of Carlyle, and the Wild investigation's, local law enforcement was more determined than ever to catch the Rustlers.

On Dec. 19, 1880, Wilson was with Billy the Kid and other members of the Rustlers, when they rode into Fort Sumner and Pat Garrett and his posse opened fire on them from ambush. Rustler Tom O'Folliard was killed, but the rest escaped.

Wilson was again with Billy the Kid and the Rustlers on Dec. 23, when they were captured at Stinking Springs by Garrett's posse,(Rustler Charlie Bowdre was killed in the fight.)

Wilson went to trial at Santa Fe for counterfeiting and robbing the U.S. Mail, the latter a crime he committed with the Rustlers when they held up a stagecoach. He was convicted of the counterfeiting charge and sentenced to seven years in prison. However, he managed to escape in Sept. 1882 and became a rustler again in Mexico and along the Mexican border, falling in with another gang, which also included Tom Pickett. He left the gang after an attack on four unsuspecting Mexicans. He's believed to have gone back to Missouri, gotten married, and had a child, settling down and changing his habits under the name Robert Levi Martin. Robert Martin died on September 30, 1935.

Other researchers say Billy Wilson was born David L. Anderson in Ohio on Nov. 23, 1861, moving with his family to Texas when he was still a child. It's said that he first became a cowboy and then began rustling, changing his name to Billy Wilson and travelling to Dodge City. Those who believe this account of Billy's life think that after escaping from jail he fled to Sanderson, Texas, where married, had a child, and opened up a bar.

It's said that in 1895, by pure chance he ran into Pat Garrett and that the two talked and Garrettbecame convinced that Wilson had changed so decided to try to use his influence to have him pardoned. Sometime in 1906, Garrett achieved this and Pres. Grover Cleveland issued a full pardon for "Dave Anderson, alias Billy Wilson."

In 1905, Wilson was elected sheriff of Terrell County, and is said to have been much loved by the people of the town. On June 14, 1918, he was called to silence a disturbance. A drunk ranchhand named Ed Valentine, who Wilson knew and had been on friendly terms with, was causing trouble. Anderson tried to talk Valentine down, but Valentine shot him in the chest, killing him. Valentine was then lynched by an angry mob.

No one knows for sure if William Harrison Wilson/Robert Martin from Arkansas was THE Billy Wilson, or if it was Dave Anderson. Because of the Garrett Pardon, it is generally believed to have been the latter of the two.

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