Myrna Carpenter believes she has first hand knowledge that Brushy Bill Roberts was Billy the Kid from her grandmother, Addie Bell Pruitt McCarty.
“She was romantically interested in him,” Carpenter said. “I believe they had an affair that produced a child, Elra McCarty. She always called him Billy and told me he was Billy the Kid.”
Carpenter is the owner of the Billy the Kid museum in Hamilton, which is jam-packed with all kinds of interesting tidbits on Brushy’s life and the life of the Kid.
Carpenter’s grandmother was already married to John Henry McCarty when she met Billy the Kid and thought he was a cousin of the McCarty family. Billy the Kid’s mother was said to have been a McCarty.
For some reason, Carpenter said her grandmother became angry at Brushy and would no longer allow him in her home. In a bold step for Carpenter, because she was a child, she asked Brushy what the reason was for her grandmother’s anger towards him.
“He told me, ‘I’ve got secrets I’ll tell you about someday,’” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said she was 11 when Brushy died.
When Carpenter was told of Steve Sederwall’s belief that Brushy’s original grave had been moved from the back of the Hamilton cemetery, to the front highway side, she wasn’t surprised.
“I know a lot of people have thought that,” Carpenter said. “But it hasn’t been moved. The space was donated by the IOOF Fraternity and that might have been arranged by the mayor at the time.”
Sederwall was also skeptical that Brushy’s original tombstone had a different name and birth date. The original stone reflected what was listed on the official death certificate as the date of birth, which was Dec. 31, 1868, and the name on the crudely made memorial stone was Ollie L. Roberts.
Carpenter said there was a good reason for that change.
She said the original stone was stolen and was not replaced until Bob Gardner of Riley Gardner Memorials donated a new headstone in the mid-’90s. Carpenter said more of the story had unfolded by that time.
The name Ollie came from a cousin of Brushy’s who had died in Oklahoma and Brushy had assumed that name when he was still using aliases, Carpenter said.
“He didn’t like being called a cold blooded killer,” Carpenter said.
The birth date of 1868 was the cousin’s birth date or just a mistake on the death certificate, she didn’t know which.
She said the birth date on the new stone; Dec. 31, 1859 reflects when Brushy said he was born.
It’s been widely reported that Geneva Pittmon, the daughter of Tom Roberts, said to be the niece of Brushy, has the family Bible where Brushy’s birth date was recorded as Aug. 26, 1879, and his name was recorded as Oliver, making Brushy just two years old when Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garret shot and killed the Kid in 1881.
Carpenter freely admits that she purchased the canopy memorial stone that has the wording Billy the Kid (positioned above the donated headstone) and gained permission from the city of Hamilton to do so. She said she did so, under the condition that she could put a plastic tube on the stone with advertisement flyers inside to draw tourists to her museum.
Sederwall had petitioned the city in April to exhume the remains of Brushy Bill Roberts to obtain a DNA sample to compare to blood samples taken from the workbench that held the Kid’s body after he was shot and killed him.
Carpenter was against the exhumation and addressed the city council on the matter and they voted against the exhumation.
She said there were several reasons she didn’t want the grave disturbed.
One is that she doesn’t trust the reliability of DNA that is 125 years old. Another is that the grave where Billy the Kid is supposed to be buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, probably doesn’t hold any remains or could hold the remains of several people since the site suffered damage from a flood in 1938 and the grave went unmarked for decades, Carpenter said.
Fort Sumner officials fought in court to keep that grave from being exhumed because Billy the Kid tourists keep the town alive.
Carpenter said another reason she was against the exhumation was because the family members of Brushy did not want him exhumed.
“We know who he is - we don’t need it,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said she believes the proof needed to verify Brushy Bill Roberts as Billy the Kid lies in a plain cardboard box.
“When Brushy went to New Mexico seeking a pardon from the governor he left a box with a friend - someone he trusted,” Carpenter said. “He said it had his gun in it and other things and would only be opened if he got the pardon.”
The pardon wasn’t granted and Brushy died in downtown Hico on Dec. 27, 1950, a few weeks after his return from New Mexico. Carpenter said shortly after Brushy died, the friend who had the box also died, and it was passed around among Brushy’s friends.
She said she’s more interested in finding that box and believes it is with a woman in Fort Worth.
Carpenter also said it is not widely known, but that Brushy came to Hamilton during the Lincoln County War. She said he made several trips back and forth from New Mexico to Hamilton and she knows the family that provided a place for him to stay.
“A lot of people think he came here after he was older, but that’s not true,” Carpenter said.
Sederwall said he would also like to find the box, because it’s said to contain some of Brushy’s teeth and that would mean a new DNA source for the testing he would like to perform, not because he thinks Brushy was the Kid, but because he thinks Billy the Kid is owed a truly final resting place.
See Wednesday’s Empire-Tribune to find out why Sederwall and his partner, Tom Sullivan, turned in their badges as Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputies over the summer.
Angelia Joiner is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-965-3124, ext. 238.