Home History Where Is the Body of Billy the Kid’s Most Famous Victim?

Where Is the Body of Billy the Kid’s Most Famous Victim?

by Enochadmin

Bob Olinger is the bully all of us like to hate. A favourite recurring scene in big-screen Hollywood Westerns depicts the contemptible deputy getting his simply desserts from the muzzle of a shotgun wielded by Billy the Child in Lincoln, New Mexico Territory, in 1881.

Such depictions invariably concentrate on the lawman’s character flaws. It’s price noting, nonetheless, he had managed to win the timeless love of 1 Lily Casey, to whom he was reportedly engaged on the time of his homicide. An early resident of Lincoln, Casey (married identify Lily Klasner) fondly recalled their romance in her posthumously revealed 1972 memoir My Girlhood Amongst Outlaws, a veritable trove of details about Lincoln County Battle figures she knew personally.

The Child’s life story had one other chapter after he killed Deputies Olinger and James W. Bell whereas escaping from the Lincoln County Courthouse on April 28, 1881. Not so Olinger. His physique was reportedly taken to Fort Stanton and there interred with out ceremony. Well-liked perception, previous photographs, journal articles and native legend all counsel he’s buried behind the previous Fort Stanton Cemetery. If there ever was a marker on the slain deputy’s grave, it has lengthy since disappeared.

Who Was Bob Olinger?

Ameredith Robert B. Olinger was in all probability born in 1850 (different sources say 1841) in Carroll County, Indiana. By 1856 his household had migrated west to Delaware, Polk County, Iowa, transferring once more in 1858 to Mound Metropolis, Linn County, Kansas Territory. After that got here strikes to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), Texas and, in 1876, New Mexico Territory.

Whereas serving a stint as marshal of the rough-and-tumble Lincoln County city of Seven Rivers, Bob killed two males in playing disputes on separate events. Olinger participated within the 1878 Lincoln County Battle as a member of the Lawrence Murphy–James Dolan faction. (Billy fought for the opposing faction headed by John Tunstall, Alexander McSween and John Chisum.) Months later, Olinger gunned down one Bob Jones amid a rivalry stemming from one other playing dispute, although county authorities dismissed a homicide cost in opposition to him in October 1879. That very same month Pat Garrett was elected Lincoln County sheriff and appointed Bob one in all his deputies.

Olinger’s popularity as a “bully with a badge” largely stems from his nasty remedy of the Child whereas Billy was Garrett’s prisoner in Lincoln. Billy bought his revenge that fateful day in April 1881 when he blasted Bob together with his personal shotgun, killing him immediately. The deputy light into historical past, as did the whereabouts of his grave. His finish is the place my curiosity started.

This slab marks the spot exterior the Lincoln County Courthouse, in Lincoln, N.M., the place Olinger (misspelled on
the marker) fell after the Child shot the deputy together with his personal shotgun. (Daniel Mayer, CC BY-Sa 3.0)

What About Bob?

After studying about Olinger’s possible burial location, I went on a hunt in Fort Stanton. Alert to my previous enemies, snakes, I examined present headstones within the previous publish cemetery. Whereas nothing definitive popped up, two distinctly totally different graves towards the again of the burial floor stood out. They matched the scant out there data, so I assumed it will be a simple search. Little did I think about it will flip right into a monthslong investigation.

Alongside the way in which I crossed paths with a number of attention-grabbing folks. At present-day Fort Stanton Historic Website, managed by the state, I spoke with Ranger Javier Trost about Olinger’s grave. He in flip put me involved with Kenneth Walter of the New Mexico Division of Cultural Affairs, whose data of Fort Stanton historical past is unmatched. Walter has researched burial data, post-mortem data, maps, surveys, affected person rolls, soldier deaths, navy burial removals, cemetery data and nearly every little thing else on paper in regards to the website and its historical past. He’s additionally mapped and photographed nearly each inch of the fort and surrounding grounds.

Whereas taking part in telephone tag with Walter, I bought a textual content from Steve Sederwall, a former federal officer and onetime mayor of Capitan, New Mexico, who has lengthy been within the Billy the Child story. (He as soon as tried to show the Child had not been killed in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, on July 14, 1881.) It turned out Sederwall was additionally enthusiastic about pinpointing Olinger’s grave. Agreeing that any lawman killed within the line of obligation deserves a grave marker and shouldn’t be forgotten, we organized to fulfill with Walter collectively.

Mapping It Out

To that assembly Walter introduced not solely books, surveys, letters and reviews with burial particulars but additionally paperwork specifying who was buried the place within the cemetery. Complicating issues was the truth that in 1896 the Military had moved troopers’ graves from not too long ago deactivated Fort Stanton to Santa Fe Nationwide Cemetery, and data of that reinterment effort are spotty or nonexistent. Sederwall and I had famous widespread disturbance on the grounds of the publish cemetery, however had Olinger’s stays additionally been moved?

Whereas it has lengthy been thought Olinger is buried within the previous Fort Stanton Cemetery, a half mile from the fort is that this deserted cemetery. Would possibly Olinger be buried right here as an alternative? (Brandon Dickson)

In keeping with a map of the previous Fort Stanton Cemetery, Olinger rests in Plot No. 69. However interval data point out an Military colonel was buried in that plot till reinterred in Santa Fe. Neighboring Plot No. 71 holds the stays of Murphy-Dolan gunman Charlie “Lallacooler” Crawford, who was shot on July 17, 1878, amid the five-day Battle of Lincoln (the climactic occasion of the warfare) and died every week later on the Fort Stanton hospital. However his grave, too, lacks a marker. Different data are contradictory and incomplete, and distances between graves don’t match these proven on maps. Most probably the Military didn’t disturb Bob’s grave, and he stays buried at Fort Stanton. However the place if not in Plot No. 69? Walter supplied one other chance.

Inside a half mile of Fort Stanton are a number of long-forgotten historic websites Walter has since rediscovered and documented. Amongst them is a cemetery in use across the time Olinger was buried in spring 1881. At this time solely scattered stones stay to mark its boundaries. It’s a lonesome place, with a ravishing view of the distant Sierra Blanca. Although data are missing, it’s doable Olinger was as an alternative buried there. If that’s the case, his physique lies alongside dozens of others in unmarked, untended graves. Looking for and establish his stays in that ghost cemetery would take way more intensive analysis and loads of luck. Maybe someplace (in somebody’s attic or a storage bin at Fort Stanton) there’s a report ebook, report or survey that lists the internees and their respective areas.

In the meantime, the thriller of the place Bob Olinger lies stays unsolved. Irrespective of the place previous Bob rests— the previous Fort Stanton Cemetery, the deserted cemetery found by Walter or one other location — it’s undoubtedly an unmarked grave. I hope to in the future uncover and mark the spot, for regardless of his faults, the slain deputy deserves greater than his legacy of meanness. 

this text first appeared in wild west journal

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