Do not go where the path may lead, go where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emmerson


Billy Wilson

From High Noon

Another controversial figure associated with the Dodge City Gang is Billy Wilson or the "Mystery Rustler". Associated with Billy the Kid, there are two different accounts of his life up to that point. There are two accounts of his early life, one asserting that he was born William Harrison Wilson on October 30, 1859 in Arkansas and that he ran away from home in his mid-teens after a fight with his father. He's said to have then fallen in with some outlaws and ended up killing a man in a barfight, causing him to flee the state.

Billy is believed to have then traveled through Mississippi, Missouri, and Indian Territory. After accidentally killing a friend in a hunting accident, he moved on to Dodge City, Kansas, and met up with Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett, J. J. Webb, Mysterious Dave Mather, and others. Around this time he was given the nickname "Buffalo Billy" and he followed Dave and his friends to Las Vegas, New Mexico, Wilson.

Dave and the others stayed on to join the Dodge City Gang but Wilson continued south to another boom town, White Oaks, where he opened a livery stable. In late 1879 or early 1880, Wilson sold his stable to men named Sam Dedrick and William H. "Harvey" West. They paid for the stable, however, in counterfit bills. Wilson traveled south to Lincoln, unknowingly spending the fake money.

At some point shortly thereafter, Wilson began riding regularly with Billy the Kid's gang, the Rustlers, (he had helped them from time to time in the past, but not been a full member). A few months after Wilson joined, Dave Rudabaugh, on the run from the law in Las Vegas, joined them.

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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