So here’s where I give you all a break from conference discussions to talk genealogy. I figured I’d try and join the trendy “Mormon history” posters and do an interesting story from history many of you might not know. The story of Billie the Kid and the Mormons. And, this being genealogy, how it relates to me. Now I should add this is how the genealogy has been related to me. There is a lot that still seems muddled though.
Our story starts with Helsina Bohne who was living in Denmark. She had been sent to the Royal Household in 1845 and became the mistress of the King shortly there after. According to the stories she bore a son who bore too close a resemblance to the King. So the King paid her off with a bit of money to immigrate to the United States. This included either a broach or a watch to remember the King. She gives birth in 1846 to Henry Magnus (Henrich Morten Bohna on the ship’s manifest I have a copy of) And sometime prior to their leaving (I’m not sure on this part) she joins the Church. Reportedly she uses the money she got from the King to bring several other Mormon converts to New York with her.
In New York she becomes destitute after a few years and shacks up with an Irish immigrant, Michael McCarty. (It’s not clear they were married formally – although they may have considered themselves married)
Now the illegitimate son of the King is my grandfather’s grandfather. She has two sons with McCarty. One is William Henry Bohne otherwise known as Billy the Kid. The other is Joseph Smith McCarty. William goes by Bohne rather than McCarty because McCarty is quite the . . . well add your own expletive. One story has him wanting to pay Tithing and breaking Helsina’s arm trying to get the broach or watch that the king had given her to pay for it.
Now my relative, Henry, leaves McCarty in New York to fend for himself. Probably because of McCarty’s nature. He then joins the Church in New York and migrates to Salt Lake City. He continues to keep in touch with his mother Helsina as she moves to Indianapolis and the New Mexico. In Utah he marries and has seventeen children. (Yeah – seventeen although several are twins and six die as infants) The second oldest is Joseph Bohne who plays a part in the Billy the Kid story.
Meanwhile back in New York McCarty is becoming more and more violent. One incident in 1872 leads Wlliam to stab his father. While McCarty is recuperating from the stabbing Helsina and her two sons flee to Indiana. Initially they use her maiden name but when they hear of McCarty’s unrelated death go back to using McCarty. (Which sounds weird to me, given his nature) Helsina also starts using her middle name, Katherine and the Americanizes it to Catherine. This is the name you usually read in the Billy the Kid biographies.
In Indianapolis she moves in will William Antrim and starts a very successful laundry business. However she discovers she has tuberculosis and, keeping with the theories of the time, moves to New Mexico to get better. In Sante Fe she and Antrim get married (in 1973) but dies only a year later.
There in New Mexico Billy ends up on the wrong side of the law, fights in the Lincoln County War, and eventually is shot down due to his actions in that war.
That part of the story is well known. (Come on, we all saw Young Guns) But the part my cousin dug up continues the story and the LDS connection.
As I mentioned my relative moved to Utah and was living in Mount Pleasant. He learns of his brother’s death at the hand of Pat Garrent the sheriff of Lincoln County. While he recognizes Billy is partially to blame for his circumstances he also thinks that the authorities were not fair to him. The Bohnes in Utah become more and more upset that Billy is being vilified by the press and by Garrett. (Garrett is using Billy’s shooting for his political ambitions)
Three of Henry’s sons are lawmen in Utah. Joe, the second son, is a particularly tough man. In 1891 while Sheriff at the age of 24 was tried for the murder or a prisoner in his custody. (He was found not guilty and continued as Sheriff) Well the family has become extremely incensed at how Billy is being talked about. So Joe decides to take care of the problem.
It’s thought by some in my family that Joe is the one who killed Pat Garrett. Pat Garrett, it is known, was found shot in the head while relieving himself on a stage line going to Los Cruces in July, 1908. The man who was thought to have killed him was charged with murder but posted bail disappearing until his trial in April 19, 1909.
The reason family think it was Joe is that in 1907 Joe disappears from Utah for nearly a year. He then returns in 1908, disappearing again in 1909 for one month in April. The same time as the trial for the killer of Pat Garrett. It appears that he adopted the alias of Jessie Wayne Brazel going undercover as a forgettable cowhand in northeastern New Mexico. He took the same stage as Garrett when he found out Garrett was going to Los Cruces to investigate a murder. His defense was that it was self defense which was enough to convince the locals, for whatever reason.
Whenever family members were asked about Billy the Kid they always answers, “we don’t talk about that.”
Joe continued his career in law and eventually retired in 1920 to Idaho Falls. In 1927 his visited some family members who had immigrated to the Cardston, Alberta area in the 1890s. (My relatives) My grandfather was the son of his youngest sister. He has a pretty good story about this visit.
Uncle Joe drove up from Idaho in his big Packard touring car. He stopped to see the family in Aetna and then came to Waterton where mother and dad had moved that summer for dad to work on the Prince of Wales Hotel. He stayed with us for several days and the thing I remember most is that he had two Colt .45 semi-automatic pistols strapped to the steering column of his car. He said that there were people who wanted to kill him and he wasn’t going to make it easy for them. He spent lots of time with his niece and nephews, telling them stories about the old west.
He took time to look up Charlie and said he had known him in Arizona when Charlie was running his father’s horse ranch.
Uncle Joe returned to Idaho and lived into his eighties, so I guess it paid him to have those .45’s. We did hear that he had a few shoot-outs after he went home.”
(Charlie is Charlie Wise, a gunfighter and friend of the family who used to trap with my grandfather. We have a slew of interesting stories about him as well)
An other interesting connection to Mormons in the story of Billy the Kid is that Billy is also related to to Orson and Parley P. Pratt. They are first cousins once removed. (I’ll not bore you with the actual genealogy)
Anyway, I only heard parts of this story recently. My cousin, Karin Goble, has up an interesting website on all this from which I’ve borrowed liberally.