Billy vs. Brushy



Billy the Kid

Brushy Bill Roberts

No sooner was Billy the Kid’s body laid to rest in Fort Sumner bogus Billy the Kids began to pop up everywhere. Some were too ridiculous to take notice and some convinced a few people, but were forgotten through the passage of time. But one had caused quite a stir and gained nation wide attention and even to this day his claim is being talked about and his name (unfortunately) has latch on to the legend of Billy the Kid forever. Here's a brief summarization of Brushy Bill Roberts:

In the late year of 1949 William Morrison of a law firm heard that Billy the Kid was not killed in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881 by Pat Garrett, but was alive and well, living in Hico, Texas under the alias of Ollie P. Bill Roberts, also known as Brushy Bill. After tracking him down, the two met and went on a road trip to New Mexico. During their trip Brushy reminisced along the way while Morrison ate up anything he said with a spoon. Morrison admitted that Brushy got some facts wrong, but he believed Roberts was indeed Billy the Kid just because Roberts knew a lot about the Lincoln County War and the life of Billy the Kid...but so did a lot of people. By 1950, the story of Billy the Kid was well known and most facts (or legend) was common knowledge, especially for those who lived in the area and grew up with the stories. On November 29, 1950 Morrison arranged a meeting with Governor Thomas Mabry of New Mexico to request a pardon for his self titled Billy the Kid. During the meeting Brushy gave his weak and inconsistent testimony (even though he was coached before hand by Morrison) and became nervous when he learned the sons of Pat Garrett, Kip McKinney and William Brady were in attendance. When Oscar Garrett was asked if he wanted to question Roberts he replied, “I do not wish to dignify this claim with any questions” When all was said and done Governor Mabry gave his verdict, “I am taking no action, now or ever, on this application for a pardon for Billy the Kid because I do not believe this man to be Billy the Kid.” Disappointed Morrison and Brushy return to Texas. Four weeks later on December 27th, while walking to the post office, Brushy suffered a massive heart attack and died, but his claim to fame did not go with him; today some Billy the Kid buffs still strongly believe that Brushy Bill Roberts was indeed Billy the Kid.

Although I prefer not to give any attention to this controversial topic, I'm forced to discuss Brushy Bill Roberts who keeps turning up like a bad rash. Despite my conclusion about Roberts on my Fact vs. Myth page, I still get emails from visitors who want more proof or debate. It's disappointing for me to think that the only thing better to debate about on Billy the Kid is that his death was the greatest hoax in Old West history. It also saddens me to think that Billy the Kid enthusiasts that share the same admiration for this famous outlaw are divided and argue so bitterly about Brushy being Billy the Kid. I'm just as passionate that Billy the Kid IS NOT Brushy Bill Roberts as those that believe he is, so I'm going to be blunt and shoot from the hip. Below is some simple proof that Brushy Bill Roberts was NOT Billy the Kid.


Brushy was born in 1859, which would make him the same age as Billy the Kid.

Brushy's niece Geneva Pittman mentioned that Brushy’s birth is recorded in the family bible as August 26, 1879. Pittman says, “I know for a fact my uncle was born in 1879 in east Texas, and Billy the Kid was supposed to have been shot by Pat Garrett in 1881 and that would have made him two years old.” To support Pittman’s sources, Brushy Roberts a.k.a Oliver P. Roberts, is found in several census records:  age one in 1880, Arkansas; age twenty in 1900 Hopkins County, Texas; age 30 in 1910 Van Zandt County, Texas; age 41 in 1920 again in Van Zandt. In the 1930 Van Zandt census Roberts turned up again at the age of 52 with a wife named Lutcida. Now here’s where Brushy supporters deny that Oliver P. Roberts, in the above census, is not their Brushy Bill Roberts. They say it’s because Brushy wife’s name was Louticia, not Lutcida, so therefore this Oliver P. Roberts is not Brushy. Come now…hasn’t anyone else had their name spelled incorrectly? Are you going to tell me that Lutcida and Louticia are not the same woman just over a misspelling error? If only I got a dollar every time my name was misspelled as Marcella or Marcel. So in other words, it’s purely coincidental that Oliver P. Roberts and Brushy just happen to marry women with similar to identical names -I don’t thinks so. Brushy supporters also say the Oliver P. Roberts was dead and buried in 1939 at Alto, Texas, so again, he can't be the same man, but yet his name is not listed in the cemetery records.

On another point to ponder, let's not forget that the birth date November 23, 1859 (the date that Ash Upson gave for the Kid's birth) is now highly questionable. There is more evidence against it than supporting it. So Brushy was simply following the historical trend at that time and claimed that 1859 was his birth date.

In November of 1950 Morrison and Brushy went before Governor Thomas Mabry to request a pardon for Brushy Bill Roberts alias Billy the Kid for his past crimes, not only to clear the reputation of Billy the Kid, but so that Brushy could die with a clear conscious.

Yes, that was their goal, but here's some food for thought: In March of 1879 Billy the Kid secretly met and made a bargain with Governor Lew Wallace to turn state evidence for a full pardon. The Kid stuck to his end of the deal, but the governor didn't follow through on his. After losing his trust for the governor and fearing conviction, the Kid escaped from custody. Two years later while confined in Santa Fe, the Kid wrote a few letters to the governor reminding him of his promise and also talked openly about the bargain he made with the governor to the news press. Billy the Kid always and strongly felt that he was used, betrayed, and cheated out of a pardon that he earned. So why didn't Morrison and Brushy mention the Wallace pardon? Why didn't they mention that Billy had carried out an agreement for a pardon back in 1879? If Brushy were Billy the Kid, he most certainly would have brought that up.

During his testimony, Brushy repeatedly contradicted himself and couldn’t recall important events in Billy the Kid’s life. For example, Brushy said James Dolan was one of those who gunned down John Tunstall and that Susan McSween was present when Dolan and Campbell killed her attorney, Huston Chapman and the most absurd was he couldn’t even remember Pat Garrett's name.  Supporters say, “he was an old man, his memory was a little fuzzy.”

A little fuzzy! No matter how old and senile Billy the Kid would not have forgotten Pat Garrett’s name and other crucial moments in his life, such as the fact that Dolan did not gun down Tunstall, because Dolan wasn’t even there. The Kid also would have remembered that Susan McSween was not present when Chapman was killed.

Also during Brushy's testimony, he would recall swearing revenge on John Tunstall's killers at his funeral.

Of course this story of the Kid swearing an oath to avenge Tunstall's murder at the funeral was made up in Walter Noble Burns bestseller "The Saga of Billy the Kid" in the late 1920s. Most likely Brushy was told about it and added this romantic myth to his testimony. In reality, at the time of Tunstall's funeral Sheriff Brady held the Kid and Fred Waite captive, so how could the Kid swear vengeance over his employer’s grave during the funeral if he wasn’t even there. The oath-swearing actually was Dick Brewer, not the Kid. Billy the Kid was very bitter and angry towards the sheriff, not only for the unjustified confinement and abuse he sustained, but causing him to miss Tunstall’s funeral. So if Brushy were Billy the Kid he most certainly would not have forgotten something like that.

After the killing of Sheriff Brady, Brushy said that Fred Waite and he jumped over the wall to reclaim his revolver.

Not exactly. It was Jim French that accompanied Billy to Brady's body so the Kid could reclaim his rifle and Alex McSween’s arrest warrant.

After capturing Billy the Kid at Stinking Springs, Garrett took his prisoners to Fort Sumner, where Brushy recalled how Mrs. Maxwell asked if he could be unchained from Rudabaugh and go in the other room with an Indian girl.

Yes, Mrs. Maxwell asked if the Kid could be unchained from Rudabaugh to go in the next room with a girl for a farewell fling, but it wasn’t with an Indian girl it was with Paulita Maxwell. Not only was she not Indian, but she wasn’t even all Hispanic, but only one-quarter. Once again, the real Billy the Kid would have known that.

Brushy clearly stated that he didn't kill Bob Olinger and James Bell during his escape from the courthouse, but instead he just got on a horse and rode off.

Just got on his horse and rode off, eh? If his testimony was correct then Olinger and Bell were never killed but lived to see another day, but of course as we all know that’s not so. In reality, the Kid gunned down both his guards, used a pick axe to free himself from his leg irons, had a groundskeeper saddle a horse for him and THEN he got on his horse and rode off.

On July 14, 1881 (the night the Kid was killed), Brushy recalled that he was warned that Garrett was in the vicinity and not wanting to be seen he sent his partner Billy Barlow to fetch some meat at Maxwell’s house. Moments later he heard shots fired, Brushy then ran towards the house and after a brief shoot out with Pat Garrett and his deputies he retreated in a Mexican’s house. Brushy was shot in the jaw, left shoulder and across the top of the head. After learning that Garret was passing Billy Barlow’s body off as him, Brushy slipped away unseen with the help of Frank Lobato.

Now this doesn't sound logical at all.  To have pulled it off, Garrett and the Kid had to meet somewhere to plan this hoax, but Garrett and the Kid were not the “good” friends that legend claims. If a meeting was set, it would've been a trap and Garrett would've arrested or killed the Kid on the spot, not concocted such a plan. Besides Garrett couldn't depend on the entire population of Fort Sumner to go along with this little scheme, someone would surely have blab. Fort Sumner wasn't entirely filled with Billy the Kid supporters and friends, there were some that didn't like him.  If Garrett did accidentally kill the wrong man, he would have faced the music and the courts would have dropped the charges, it would've been declared a misfortunate accident during the line of duty; after all, if some police officers today get away with it, why not Garrett? Also how would Garrett know that after passing another corpse off as the Kid, he wasn't going to turn up again in Ft Sumner or New Mexico? Billy the Kid had a terrible habit of returning to places where he shouldn't be. Think about it. If the Kid didn't leave New Mexico after his jailbreak 2 1/2 months earlier, what makes people think he would've left and stay gone? Even Garrett had to have realized that, and he couldn't count on the Kid seizing the opportunity of having his death conveniently faked and leave the territory for once and for all.

Let’s look at this in another view: If the real Billy the Kid  knew Garrett was in or around Fort Sumner and sent his comrade to Maxwell's because he was suspicious, then upon hearing shots being fired, Billy the Kid would not have been so foolish as to run up to the house in the line of fire. The Kid was reckless but he wasn't stupid! Furthermore, if Brushy was as badly wounded as mentioned, he would not have been in any condition for immediate traveling. This isn’t a Hollywood Western where men walk around with half their shoulder blown off as if it were a paper cut; gunshots wounds as Brushy supposedly received, would have immobilized him for days. Also, if Garrett shot him in the jaw it would've left a very nasty disfiguring scar on his face, but yet when you look at photos of Brushy, there's no scar at all. We also have Frank Lobato helping the Kid escape, but Lobato wasn’t even at Fort Sumner at that time.

Now let’s talk about the Kid's friends. Billy the Kid’s death was mourned for years by his friends and one of his loyal admirers was Deluvina Maxwell, who not only visited his grave regularly, but at the time of the Kid's death, she was one of the first to find him lying on the floor of Pete Maxwell’s bedroom and she also helped prepare his body for burial. Till her dying day she was extremely bitter towards Garrett for killing Billy the Kid and would later go on to say that she was glad to live long enough to see him dead and buried. Now is this the right attitude for a woman who knew Garrett didn’t really kill the real Billy the Kid, but allowed him to escape? Many years later Billy the Kid’s Fort Sumner friends pitched in and bought a headstone for his unmarked grave in the 1930s. Now if they knew it wasn’t him, why would they waste their money buying a headstone? After all, they supposedly looked the other way when Garrett was passing Billy Barlow’s body off as the Kid...right? When wannabe Billy the Kids began surfacing, the Kid's surviving friends from Lincoln and Fort Sumner, including Lobato (who supposedly helped one wannabe slip out of Fort Sumner), discredited all such claims and firmly stated that it was Billy the Kid who was killed on July 14, 1881. Those that publicly identified Brushy Bill Roberts as Billy the Kid, where not really friends of the Kid’s (or even met him) but locals who had heard the stories of the famous outlaw or only saw Billy the Kid as a child, so how can they identify Brushy as being Billy the Kid almost 70 years later! Lastly, after intensive research nothing at all has surfaced or proved that Billy Barlow ever existed in or around Fort Sumner or New Mexico for that manner.

Pat Garrett's account of what happen on July 14, 1881 is sketchy, but it's not because he faked Billy the Kid's death, but more likely that he ambushed Billy the Kid in the dark. Brushy Bill Roberts on the other hand has a heck of a lot more holes and discrepancies in his account than Pat Garrett. All in all, Billy the Kid was killed that night in Fort Sumner because all the facts, including eyewitnesses accounts, said he was, while the Brushy Bill Roberts claim is built purely on conspiracy theories and second and third hand accounts.

Brushy was not left-handed and illiterate, but like Billy the Kid, he was literate and ambidextrous.

According to authors W.C. Jameson and Fred Bean, who researched the Brushy Bill Roberts claim, they stated that Brushy was almost entirely illiterate and had terrible chicken scratch handwriting and his wife did all of his writing for him. In the beginning when Brushy first came forward with his claim, it was pointed out that Brushy was illiterate, but yet, he knew so much about the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid and since he couldn’t read about it, therefore he must be Billy the Kid. But as we learned over the years, the real Billy the Kid was not illiterate, contrary to legendary belief, but could read and write and had beautiful, readable penmanship. So now Brushy is literate! Here's another claim that flip flops: due to the reverse image of the Kid's authentic photo, it was thought for years that he was left-handed, so Brushy was said to be  left-handed too. But then it was learned the Kid was really right-handed, then suddenly Brushy is right-handed as well. Then historians/biographers unveiled that the Kid was actually ambidextrous, so now it's said that Brushy was ambidextrous too. It seems the character and testimony of Brushy keeps changing during the course of time as we learn more about the real Billy the Kid.

By looking at photos of Brushy Bill Roberts and Billy the Kid, one can clearly see the resemblance.

I’m sorry but people who think that must be blind. Look above at the photos...Brushy doesn't look anything at all like Billy the Kid. Not only were Brushy and Billy the Kid's photos  compared and analyzed on a computer and the results were negative, but one can easily see for themselves, without computer technology, the two are not the same man. First of all, Brushy appears to have had some Hispanic descent due to his dark hair and complexion, but he did have gray eyes with yellow specks around the pupil. While Billy the Kid was of Scot-Irish decent, had light hair, was of fair complexion and had clear blue eyes. Brushy had a square-shaped head, squared jaw line, large but long hanging ears and average set shoulders. Billy the Kid on the other hand, had an oval-shaped face, a narrow chin, small mouth, round ears and very narrow slopped shoulders. The Kid also had thicker and longer eyebrows than Brushy (and as one grows older, their eyebrows grow thicker). The two men couldn't look more different. That alone is more than enough proof that Brushy and Billy were not the same man.


This is only a handful of the most obvious of proof and I just skimmed the surface, there is still other bits of evidence that squashes Brushy’s claim ( I would recommend to visitors who wish to learn more, to click on the links at the bottom of this page). Even so, Brushy supporters disregard this evidence and their popular lines of defense is: “Brushy wasn't illiterate” -but he wasn’t literate either, he wrote like a child, or
His testimony was shaky because he was very nervous. -Billy the Kid nervous?! HA! Mr. Cool-headed! He laughed in the face of danger and even if he lived to be an old man the Kid would've still been as cocky as ever, and lastly: “He knew the history of Billy the Kid” -Hell, who didn’t at that time! Billy the Kid fever had broken out 25 years earlier and was still going strong. From what it sounds like Morrison used Walter Nobles Burns The Sage of Billy the Kid as a reference to coach his client. Supporters will center punch one sparse example such as the left-hand theory, but ignore or beat around the bush on major issues. Are Brushy supporters that gullible and blind to the truth? Are they so closed-minded to the evidence that they can’t rationalize it? I'm sure they feel the same way about me, but come on...the evidence clearly speaks for its self.

If after reading the above information and you still believe Brushy Bill Roberts was Billy the Kid and/or his death was a hoax, then I shake my head,  throw my hands up in the air, and say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” In closing, (just as Oscar Garrett had said) I do not wish to dignify this claim any more than I have and I wash my hands of it. I’m a Billy the Kid biographer and my goal is to educate people that Billy the Kid was not a cold-blooded killer, because to me, that is what’s most important. I didn't write this web page to argue or pick a fight with supporters, I know they'll never change their opinion, the only reason I even wrote this page was for those who are undecided and just need a little nudge in the right direction. If I have convinced someone out there that Brushy Bill Roberts was not Billy the Kid -then Hallelujah! Mission accomplished!


The truth about Brushy Bill Roberts” from Lucas Speer’s Billy the Kid Web Site. I highly recommend visitors to click here for more information. (Lucas- thanks for providing me with the photo of Brushy)

“Who was Brushy Bill Roberts”
from the Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang's web site Click here

Metz, Leon   Pat Garrett  University of Oklahoma Press: Norma, 1973

Bell Boze, Bell   The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid  Second Edition,
                            Tri- Star-Boze  Productions, Inc. 1996