Do some families have a date with destiny? The following is the tale of two related men, separated by several generations, yet each was killed by hazards indicative of their time and exceptional place.
Part 1 -Henry McCarty was born on New York City’s east side November 23, 1859. His father soon died, and his mother Catherine migrated with Henry and his brother to Indiana in 1865. There, Catherine met (and eventually married) Bill Antrim. The family moved on to Wichita, Kansas, then to Santa Fe and, finally, Silver City, New Mexico by 1873, where Catherine died of tuberculosis the following year. Henry McCarty/ Antrim was just 14 years of age.
In Silver City, Kid Antrim, as he was then called, was arrested for alleged theft but escaped jail and began wandering the desert southwest and northern Mexico. In Arizona, he took up horse rustling, and on August 1877 he got into an argument in a dance hall. The confrontation moved to the street where, being no match for the much larger man, he grabbed the man’s gun and shot him in the stomach. The man died the next day, and Kid Antrim was arrested by the Justice of the Peace. He was tried before a jury which stated that the crime “was criminal and un justifiable, and that Henry Antrim, alias the Kid, is guilty thereof.” He was put in the jail, but he escaped after just a short time and headed for New Mexico.
In January 1878, he found employment with the young English rancher John Tunstall, who together with his partners John Chisum and Alexander Mcsween, was embroiled in a bloody Lincoln County Range War. This war was actually a struggle between the two rival groups of businessmen and ranchers.
When Tunstall was murdered February 18, 1878, the Kid, now known as Billy the Kid, vowed vengeance on every man who participated in that cruel, wanton murder. He joined a force tha became known as the Regulators, led by Tunstall’s foreman Dick Brewer, who vowed vengeance and loyalty to partner Mcsween. Henry The Kid Antrim now became known as Billy The Kid. The war became one of kill or be killed.
The Regulators embarked on a killing spree of those suspected of involvement in the assassination. Billy then hatched and carried out an ambush plot for the leader of Tunstall’s murders, Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady. On April I, Billy and the Regula-tors murdered Sheriff Brady and his deputy George Hindman as they strolled through the town of Lincoln.
The Lincoln County War came to a bloody end during the five-day Battle of Lincoln in mid-July 1878. Billy had returned to Lincoln and, while in the McSween home, was surrounded by the local Law. After Billy had been in the Mcsween house for three days, Sheriff Peppin sent a note to the Fort Stanton Army Post. Two squadrons of buffalo soldiers were sent to assist the Sheriff. When they arrived at the McSween house, the Sheriff sent one of them around to the back of the house to set it on fire. There were 11 men and three women in the house. By dusk all three women were out of the house. Three men attempted to leave, but were shot down in the doorway. Mr. McSween tried to leave, but was shot as well. Six more men tried to leave, but were also shot. Billy was the last to leave. He ran out of the front door with a pistol in each hand. By the time he had escaped, he had killed the man who shot Mcsween and wounded two others.
Billy soon formed another gang and took up cattle rustling throughout the county again. Governor Lew Wallace (author of Ben Hur) offered a $500 reward to anyone who would capture William Bonney, alias The Kid, and deliver him to any sheriff in New Mexico.
Then entered another key individual in this story of the Wild West. Patrick Floyd Garrett was born in Chambers County, Alabama, in June 5, 1850, one of seven children, the son of John Lumpkin and Elizabeth Ann Jarvis Garrett. A tall, thin and angular man with prominent cheek bones, Pat Garrett left his Louisiana home at age 19 and moved to western Texas. As cattle rustling was rampant at that time, he worked both as a cowboy and cattle gunman for the LS Ranch. He then became a buffalo hunter, however he soon got into an argument with a fellow hunter over some hides. The altercation escalated to gun play and when the other man drew on Garrett, Pat shot him dead. By 1878 he had settled in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, after the slaughter of buffalo became unprofitable. There he married his first wife, Juanita Gutierrez, but she died before the end of the year. On January 18, 1880, he married his first wife’s sister, Apolinaria Gutierrez, and over the following years the couple had nine children. In November 1880 Pat Garrett had been elected Sheriff of Lincoln County, vowing to bring the current reign of lawlessness to an end. He was a good Sheriff at the time New Mexico needed such a man. In December 1880, Sheriff Pat Garrett and his posse.
In December 1880, Sheriff Pat Garrett and his posse trapped Billy the Kid and his companions in a one-room rock house at Stinking Springs, near Fort Sumner. After a three-day siege, the gang was captured on December 23, l 880, and Sheriff Garrett took the shackled prisoners by buckboard to the town of Las Vegas.
On April 8, 1881, Billy went on trial before Judge Warren H. Bristol in Mesilla, N .M. He was facing two charges -1) the murder of an officer on an Indian reservation, 2) the murder of Sheriff Brady. He was found guilty on both charges and the judge ordered that the prisoner be delivered to the custody of Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett and that on Friday, May 13, 1881, William Bonny, alias the Kid, alias William Antrim, “be hanged by the neck until his body be dead.
The Kid was taken to Lincoln where he was chained to the floor of a second-floor room in a vacant store. Once the prisoner was secured, Sheriff Garrett dismissed the posse men except for Bob Ollinger and Jim Bell, who were assigned as guards until the hanging. However, on April 28, while Sheriff Pat Garrett was out of town, The Kid escaped. He had been playing cards with guard Jim Bell through the bars of his cell. While Bell was guarding the prisoner, Bob Ollinger, was having lunch in the saloon across the street. Billy obtained a gun from a hidden place and shot Bell. Ollinger heard the gunshots from across the street and ran outside to see what had happened. Billy had gone downstairs to the office and grabbed a shotgun. When Ollinger ran out into the street, Billy was in an upstairs window. He aimed at Ollinger and shouted, “Hello, Bob!” When Ollinger looked up, Billy shot him. Billy then ran into the street, stole a horse, and rode out of town.
With this major tum of events, Sheriff Pat Garrett was intent on bringing Billy the Kid to justice. During the next two and a half months the Sheriff scoured the countryside searching for the Kid. Finally, on July 14, 1881, Sheriff Pat Garrett and Deputies Poe and McKinney rode to Fort Sumner, N.M. Garrett and Billy had a mutual friend, Pete Maxwell, who lived there. Garrett wanted to ask Maxwell if the Kid had been around lately. The men reached Maxwell’s house at around 11 :00 p.m. Garrett went inside to talk to Maxwell, and the deputies waited outside on the porch. Around midnight a small man came out of one of Maxwell’s outbuildings. He asked Poe and McKinney who they were, but they wouldn’t tell him. They didn’t recognize him, and he went inside to ask Maxwell who the men were. He stepped into the bedroom where Garrett was sitting on the bed. Billy assumed the man in the dark was Maxwell and asked him who the men outside were. Garrett, recognizing the voice, drew his revolver and Billy asked who he was. Garrett shot into the dark, jumped aside, and shot again. One of the shots hit Billy in the heart, killing him. Although he didn’t live to celebrate his 22nd birthday, Billy the Kid remains one of the notorious legends of the American West, and Pat Garrett was the sheriff who brought him down.
In April 1891, Pat Garrett (no longer Sheriff) moved his family to Uvalde, Texas, southwest of San Antonio. There he settled down to a more relaxed life and devoted his energies to his dreams of irrigation. Also, in July 1896, he became n United States deputy marshal. He needed the extra money and the government needed his services in the area. However, eventually failing in his irrigation efforts, he sold his Uvalde property to John Nance Garner1 in 1900 and moved back to Las Cruces, near the town of Roswell, New Mexico. He made trails to the gold and turquoise mines in the Jicarilla Mountains, he followed the trails of Albert Fountain, trying to solve his mysterious disappearance. On December 16, 1901, President Roosevelt nominated Pat Garrett collector of customs at El Paso and sent his name to the United States Senate for confirmation. Confirmation came on December 20.
In 1908, Pat Garrett engaged in a potential land deal, however the terms were never agreeable to either party. In fact, hard feelings resulted and Garrett became a target of revenge. While riding a buckboard on the trail from Organ to Las Cruces, Sheriff Garrett was murdered by a six-shooter in the hands of a disgruntled acquaintance. He is buried in the Masonic cemetery in Las Cruces. Pat Garrett left his mark on New Mexico in many ways; one of significance -his daughter Elizabeth wrote 0 Fair New Mexico, the state song.
Part 2 -I learned of the story of Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid shortly after I reported to New London for the fourth nuclear power school in mid-1957. A classmate was Pat M. Gamer, who conveyed to me that he was a direct descendant of the famous Sheriff Pat Garrett3 of Billy the Kid fame. Thus the ancestry of Pat Gamer was soon a topic of discussion.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, on 26 September 1931, Pat Mehaffy Gamer was the son of Samuel Camp and Sarah Lucille (Mehaffy) Gamer. Pat graduated from Vanderbilt in 1953, received his gold dolphins while on SPIKEFISH and then served on SKA TE where he participated in three Arctic trips under the polar ice cap. He also was nominated by the New London Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the ten most outstanding men in the Nation.
After completing nuclear power school in New London, the class reported for prototype training at the National Reactor Training Station in Idaho. After completing that training in mid-1958, Pat and I parted our ways. It was not until 1963 that we met again. I had reported to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to join the pre-commissioning crew of JACK as the Executive Officer. Pat Gamer recently had reported as executive officer of the sister ship USS THRESHER. THRESHER was the best of the newest. The ship was the first of a new class of submarine, designed for optimum performance of sonar and weapons systems, was able to dive deeper and run quieter than any other submarine at that time.
I had been in the commissioning crew of our fourth nuclear submarine USS SWORDFISH (SSN 579), a submarine of much different characteristics, so when THRESHER was about to conduct her next sea trial, I decided that I should try to go along in order to learn as much as possible about the operational aspects. Pat was agreeable to have me ride during the trial, but wanted to get the concurrence of the CO, John W. (Wes) Harvey. Pat suggested that I have dinner with him and Wes at the Shipyard’s BOQ that evening, where the subject could be discussed. I joined Pat and Wes
and after an enjoyable meal Wes advised that approval for me to ride was dependent on the total number of riders, and that I should come down to the ship the next morning.
At about 0700 on April 9, 1963, I boarded THRESHER and met Pat in his stateroom. He said that the CO was in the pre-sail conference in the wardroom, discussing last-minute details, and that we should go in and detennine my status as a potential rider. After a brief discussion, Wes concluded that he had too many riders and that he was not able to let me join them for the sea trial. Disappointed by the missed opportunity, I went topside and waited to watch the ship get underway. As THRESHER sailed down the Pisquataqua River I returned to our office on the second floor of building I 74
There were only three members of the crew of the pre-commissioning unit: the CO, Lou Urbanczyk; the Engineer, Al Tony; and myself. The three of us were working late that evening when one of the shipyard workers came over to our area to tell us that he had heard on the radio that there was a problem with THRESHER. The three of us joined him around the radio, listening to the news broadcasts as the various stations interrupted their programming to provide updated information
The rest of the story is well known by most submariners. The entire crew was Jost at sea as a result of flooding, compounded by loss of propulsion, inadequate procedures and an inability of the emergency blow system to function as intended.• My good friend, and relative of Sheriff Pat Garrett was lost at sea as a result of the inability of engineering design/construction and human factor enhancements to keep abreast of the technological advances instigated by the Cold War.
In the following days we were asked to activate the emergency blow system on THRESHER’s sister ship JACK while we were tied up alongside the dock. We placed the two switches in the blow position and within seconds the flow of high pressure air ceased. The piping/valve system froze solid as a result of the fine strainers that had been installed in the lines to preclude foreign particles from impacting the Marotta valves. This decision to install strainers to ensure valve operation served just the opposite. It prevented the system from operating.
Epilog -Though separated by almost 60 years, these two distinguished, and related, individuals met an untimely death under most unusual circumstances. Both lost their lives as a result of the hazards they faced in following their chosen path in life.