The abandoned rock house about 16 miles east of Old Fort Sumner said to have been built by Alejandro Perea, in which Billy the Kid, Charlie Bowdre, Billy Wilson, Tom Pickett, and Dave Rudabaugh sought refuge on the night of December 22, 1880, after Sheriff Pat Garrett's posse surprised the gang as they came into Old Fort Sumner, in the snow on the night of December 19, and shot Tom O'Folliard. On the morning of December 23, 1880, Charlie Bowdre was shot as he appeared at the door of the rock building to feed his horse. Long ago this rock house was torn down and the rocks used elsewhere. (Source: This photo and info appeared on the front cover of the 1995 Outlaw Gazette. The Outlaw Gazette is published annually by the Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang.)
Pat Garrett led the posse that captured Billy
and his gang at Stinking Springs
It has been claimed by some folks over the years that this photo was taken of Billy the Kid shortly after his capture at Stinking Springs. The man on the far right is supposedly Billy the Kid. This photograph is very interesting for many reasons. There appears to be snow on the ground which, would match all of the first hand accounts of the capture. Note that the man on the immediate left of him appears to be pointing a gun at him. Also note the striking resemblance to the man on the far left of this photograph to the authenticated photo of Pat Garrett seen directly above on this page.
A close up comparison photo
Posse Member Jim East: "We got to the rock house just before daylight. Our horses were left with Frank Stewart and some of the other boys under guard, while Garrett took Lee Hall, Tom Emory, and myself with him. We crawled up the arroyo to within about thirty feet of the door, where we lay down in the snow.
There was no window in this house, and only one door which we would cover with our guns. The Kid had taken his race mare into the house, but the other three horses were standing near the door, hitched by ropes to the vega poles.
Just as day began to show, Charlie Bowdre came out to feed his horse. I suppose, for he had a moral in one hand. Garrett told him to throw up his hands, but he grabbed at his six-shooter. Then Garrett and Lee Hall both shot him in the breast. Emory and I didn't shoot, for there was no use to waste ammunition then.
Charlie turned and went into the house, and we heard the Kid say to him: "Charlie, you are done for. Go out and see if you can't get one of the s-o-b's before you die."
Charlie then walked out with his hand on his pistol, but was unable to shoot. We didn't shoot, for we could see he was about dead. He stumbled and fell on Lee Hall. He started to speak, but the words died with him.
Now Garrett, Lee, Tom, and I fired several shots at the ropes which held the horses, and cut them loose-all but one horse which was half way in the door. Garrett shot him down, and that blocked the door, so the Kid could not make a wolf dart on his mare.
We then held a medicine talk with the Kid, but of course couldn't see him. Garrett asked him to give up, Billy answered: Go to H**l, you long-legged s-of a b!
Garrett then told Tom Emory and I to go around to the other side of the house, as we could hear them trying to pick out a port-hole. Then we took it, time about, guarding the house all that day. When nearly sundown, we saw a white handkerchief on a stick, poked out of the chimney. Some of us crawled up the arroyo near enough to talk to Billy. He said they had no show to get away, and wanted to surrender, if we would give our word not to fire into them when they came out with their hands up, but that traitor, Barney Mason, raised his gun to shoot the Kid, when Lee Hall and I covered Barney and told him to drop his gun, which he did.
Now we took the prisoners and the body of Charlie Bowdre to the Wilcox ranch, where we stayed until next day. Then to Fort Sumner, where we delivered the body of Bowdre to his wife. Garrett asked Louis Bousman and I to take Bowdre in the house to his wife. As we started in with him, she struck me over the head with a branding iron, and I had to drop Charlie at her feet. The poor woman was crazy with grief. I always regretted the death of Charlie Bowdre, for he was a brave man, and true to his friends to the last."
The foundation seen above is all that remains of the rock house at Stinking Springs.
This photo was taken in July of 1995 on my first visit to Stinking Springs.
This photo taken from the same approximate view was taken 11 years later on July 19, 2006.
This photo was taken on July 19, 2006 just a little before 9:00 A.M. In this photo I am facing where the front door was located. This was where Bowdre stepped out and was shot by the posse that was laying down in the arroyo seen just behind and to the right of where I am standing.
Posse Member Louis Bousman: "We went to the house and took the trail of the horses and trailed them to the rock house and saw the horses tied on the outside. So me and Pat Garrett and Lon Chambers and a Mexican went over there and lay down in a hollow by the door so we could look in the door.
The arroyo in which the posse was laying
We layed there all night in the snow on our blankets. And then Pat told us, "If Billy goes out to feed the horses, he will have on a Mexican hat. You boys cut him down and kill him." Then Bowdre came out to feed the horses, so we all took a shot at him. He fell with his head back in the house. We thought it was Billy the Kid. Afterwards Bill hollered and said Bowdre wanted to come out there to us. Pat told him to come ahead and leave his guns in the house. But he came out with his gun right in front of him with his hands up. And when he got there, I raised up and got him and laid him down on my blanket. He was shot in three places and was bleeding. He did not live but a few minutes.
Billy and his outfit began trying to dig port holes in that rock house. There was only one north window and one west door. Pat says, "There is no use for us to lay here all day, we better get away from here before they do get port holes." Then we went down in the hollow a little ways and single filed across to where our horses were and the rest of the men. Then we went back to the ranch house and got us some breakfast. Billy and his bunch tried to lead their horses into the house. They were tied to a post, and they could reach out and get them. I shot the first one right in the neck and he fell with his shoulders right in the door. The next one Pat shot the rope in two, and he ran off and some of our bunch caught him. We got the ranchman to bring us down some food and some horse feed and we stayed all day, and finally Billy turned his horses out of the house in the middle of the evening and we got them. Between sun down and dusk Billy surrendered. He said he smelt that bacon frying and he was right hungry. We took them back to the ranch house and guarded them all night, and the dead man too. Then we pulled out to Fort Sumner with them the next morning."
Rock house foundation at Stinking Springs as it appeared in 2006.
The arroyo where the posse was camped would be to the right in this photograph.
Another view from a slightly different angle.
Posse Member Cal Polk: "After we had gone on his trail a short distance we nodist blood a long on the snow from a wounded horse of thairs. We rode on their trail until about 2 o'clock in the morning. When we come in sight of there horses tide in fron of a little house that had been a ranch, but was vacant. We got down tide our horses and left too men with them. The ballance of us slipped up to a little spring branch which run along in front about 20 steps from the door. There they all stoped except me and Jim East. We crauld up and went all around the little house to see if they was any port holes in it.
The house was sollid made of rock and no holes in it. Only one door, and no shutter to it. They horses was tide to a pole that stuck out over the door. We could here them snoring in side the wall which was about 4 feet from me and Jim. We then went back to the craud at the branch and told them how every thing was shaped up. We put some blankets down on the snow under the bow of the hill and lay down on them. We could lay there until day light half froze. Just at sun up we heard them talkin and getting up and in a few minutes a man come out with a morat in his hand to feed his horse. His name was Charley Bodder. Just as he was putting the morat on his horse we all raised up on our kneese and drewe a beed on him with our winchester. He looked over his shoulder and saw us. Pat told him to throw up his hands.
He said all right in the minnet as he taken his hands down from the horses head, he jerked out 2 pistols and fired at us and at the same time we fired. They was three shots hit him one in the leg and too in the body. He dropped his pistols and come realing towarge us. He said something like I wish, I wish, and then said blood is cloging in my mouth and fell across one of our boys, Lee Smith. He roled him over to one side and there he froze in a short time and lay there all day. In a few minets after the shooting, Billy cride out is that you Pat out there. Pat says yes, then Billy says Pat why don't you come up like a man and give us a fair fite. Pat said I don't aim to. Billy says that is what I thought of you, you old long legged S...B. and then every thing hushed for a while.
All at once some of the boys nodist that they was reaching out at the door and cutting the horses loose and leading them in the house. They had got 2 in, and just as they got a nother one in the door, we fired on him and droped the horse dead in the door. We then shot the ropes in to the others was tide with and turned them loose. Billy and his men were afraid to get in front of the door to pull the dead horse out of the way, and this blocked everything. They aimed to get the horses in and mount them and come out a fiting for their lives. But they couldnt get over the dead horse in the door.
They was 2 boys went up on a little hill and comence shooting at the house. The horses in side got scard and was about to run over Billy and his men, so they turned them loose and out they come over the dead horse. As quick as they got out from the house we rounded them up and caught them. Pat sent a man to Wilcoxes ranch after some grub which was about 6 or 8 miles while we build up a big fire to warm by. While we was warming, Billy said Pat have you got any thing out there to eate. Pat said yes. Billy said we have got some in here if you will let us come and get wood to cook it with. Pat says all rite you all can come out after wood if you want too. Billy says you go to H... you cowardly S...B. and then he hushed.
He would crack jokes where we could here them all day as if nothing was the mater. we garded there all day and built up a bif fire up the branch about 200 yards and all got warm and cooked supper and while we was eating just at sundown, we saw a little white rag stuck out at the winder on a stick shaking. And in a few minutes Mr. Ruderbay come out with his hands up. He then come on up to us where we was eating supper and told Pat that Billy wanted to surrender under sun up and wanted to know where Pat would carry them. Pat says to Las Vegas. Ruderbay said if we hafto go to Las Vegas, we will die rite here for the Mexicans will mob us there. Pat says we will carry you to Santafee.
Ruderbay says if you will see us safe to Santafee jale we will surender. This was agree on. So the boys come on out and left the arms in the house. When they got to us they all shake hands with every man then set down and supper. And after supper we all mounted our horses. I took Billy the Kid up behind me while the other boys doubled up on ther horses and we started to Wilcoxes ranch about 6 miles. Billy made me a present of his Winchester and Frank Stuart took his fine Bay mair. We got to the ranch at 9 oclock and stade untill morning then got a wagon and put the prisners in it while the other boys rode horse back."