Six hundred antiques including photos, firearms, artifacts, saddles and documents from the Old Fort Sumner Museum will be auctioned in an online offering October 6 to October 16, 2017. The items are deaccessioned from the museum and tourist stop that was a popular roadside destination next to Billy The Kid’s grave at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The auction is being held online only by Bentley’s Auction, based in Amarillo, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Intriguing auction lots include three tintypes that have been enclosed for decades in envelopes inscribed: “Billy The Kid Tintype With Jones Boys;” “Pat Garrett Tintype;” and “Paco Anaya Tintype.”
Billy The Kid is William Bonney the superstar 19th century outlaw, Jones Boys a regional gang at the time, Pat Garrett the dedicated lawman who apprehended and killed Billy The Kid, and Paco Anaya one of Bonney’s pallbearers and author of the book I Buried Billy The Kid, a copy of which is included in the auction. One of the greatest historical treasures in the sale is an original signed letter from Western author Louis L’Amour describing his early research on Billy The Kid and debunking a Billy The Kid pretender. Also in the sale are a 40-inch-high “Route 66 Kachina” created by Native American artisans, a beaded Native American fringe dress and cradle board, dishes labeled “Maxwell Family Dishes” (the Maxwell house is where Billy The Kid was shot by Pat Garrett ), an old mission bell, regional folk art wood carvings, ancient typewriters and a cash register, a very-early-model movie projector from the Ft. Sumner movie theatre, a marble urn from The Kid’s grave site, and many other curiosities from the museum. One of the most curious objects is a weathered stick of wood with the hand-lettered label, “The last of Billy The Kid’s Wooden Cross. In commissary 1929. Willard Johnson, Glenwood, MO.” There are a dozen old firearms in the auction, including a 1905 Colt Service Revolver carried in the early 1900’s by Texas Ranger E. H. Estes. Included in the offering are many books about The Kid and Garrett, some of which are autographed or first editions. There are many Victorian era household items in the sale, several works of original art, and many documents, photos and articles. There’s an ominous human skull with what looks like a large-caliber bullet hole in mid-forehead.
The Old Fort Sumner Museum was built in 1968 by Maryln and Joe Bowlin, colorful New Mexico historians, and the collection is being sold by Maryln’s estate after her passing in 2008 and the museum’s closing in 2016. Joe, who passed away in 1993, was from the family who started and still operate several Bowlin’s Travel Centers along the Interstate Highway system. Maryln is from a prominent pioneer and ranching family. Texas Ranger E. H. Estes was her grandfather. He died in 1934 at the age of 86. Fort Sumner is the 19th Century military fort in the New Mexico town of the same name where Billy The Kid was apprehended and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881. Joe was a Pat Garrett historian and Maryln was a Billy The Kid aficionado. The envelopes containing the 3 tintypes in the auction are labeled with Joe Bowlin’s unmistakable script.
Daniel Anthony, a Santa Fe, New Mexico, artist and friend of the Perez/Bowlin family is the organizer of the auction. “I wanted to call this auction Mysteries From The Museum, “ Anthony states. “The Bowlin’s verbal narrative about their collection is gone with them, unfortunately. Their stories were wonderful and were the reason the tourist destination was so popular. I wish deeply we had a video excursion of the museum with Joe and Maryln explaining each mysterious item, but sadly, we don’t. They treasured the historical importance of each object. Their mission together at Ft. Sumner and in New Mexico was all about the facts and locations of history, bringing the truth to life about Billy The Kid and Pat Garrett, and making tangible memorials to the famous pair.”
Believing in the innate goodness of The Kid, Maryln founded the Billy The Kid Outlaw Gang in 1987. The club continues to meet annually on the anniversary of The Kid’s death on July 14, hosts a frequently visited website and blog, and monitors Billy The Kid and Pat Garrett historical markers around New Mexico. Pat Garrett was gunned down in 1908 near Las Cruces, New Mexico, and a commemorative marker identifies the location.
Constructed on the site of an earlier museum started in 1932, The Old Fort Sumner Museum was built by Joe and Maryln Bowlin beside the Fort Sumner cemetery where Billy The Kid is buried. The original cross that marked The Kid’s grave was improvised from two slats of the Maxwell family’s picket fence around their house and yard. It disappeared before the end of the 19th century. The Bowlin’s museum and tourist stop was in operation from 1968 to 2016. It is not to be confused with the Billy The Kid Museum which is still open and thriving on NM Highway 60/84 in downtown Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Contact: Daniel R. Anthony in Santa Fe, [email protected]
Bentley’s Auction: www.auctionsouthwest.com