Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Charlie Bowdre & His Pals by Terry McGahey

Charlie Bowdre who was well known as one of Billy the Kid's friends during the Lincoln County War and part of the group known as the Regulators was born in Wilkes County Georgia in 1848. His family moved to Mississippi in 1854 where Charlie worked on his dad's farm. After approximately 1873, in my opinion, Charlie became known as what we call today, a saddle tramp, ending up in Lincoln County, New Mexico in 1874. 

For anyone who doesn’t know the term "saddle tramp," it refers to a man who travels a lot picking up part-time jobs along the way but not staying long in any one place always on the move.

Once in Lincoln County Charlie hooked up with a man by the name of Doc Scurlock and the two opened a cheese plant along the Gila River. During this time Charlie got involved with Doc serving on posses chasing down cattle rustlers and the two were also involved in the lynchings of the ones they captured. 

Once, Charlie was involved with three others storming the Lincoln jail and taking a man by the name of Jesus Largo, a cattle rustler, to the outside of town and hung him. Even though they stormed the jail and forcibly abducted Largo no files were charged.

When the Lincoln County War began in 1878 Charlie sided with the Tunstall-McSween faction where at that time he met Billy The Kid, Jose Chavez, Richard Brewer, Jim French, George Coe, and Frank Coe. Charlie was also present when the regulators killed William Morton, Frank Baker, and William McCloskey along Blackwater Creek. 

Charlie was shot by Buckshot Roberts at Blazers Mill on April 4th, 1878, he returned fire killing Roberts and later he would be charged with Robert's death.

Later, Charlie was also involved in the July 15th-19th 1878 Battle of Lincoln. While still being involved with Billy the Kid and the regulators Charlie worked as a cowhand for Tom Yerby and Pete Maxwell. The same Pete Maxwell where Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett at Maxwell's home in Fort Sumner. Charlie married Maria Antonia Herrera only a short time before his death at Stinking Springs, New Mexico.

While some of the Regulators along with Billy the Kid were holed up in a rock house at Stinking Springs, Pat Garrett and his posse had surrounded the small house earlier that night. The next morning Charlie walked out of the small house to feed the horses when Garrett’s posse opened up on Charlie riddling him with bullets. Billy told Charlie, take a few with you, but Charlie was too weak to even pull his pistol and died on the spot.

Charlie Bowdre is buried in the old Fort Sumner Cemetary next to Tom O’Folliard, another of the Regulators. Both Tom and Charlie were later joined by Billy the Kid in 1881. They always called themselves, "Pals."

Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Old West Historian

Terry has been a working cowboy, writer, and historian. He is best known for the fight that he waged against the City of Tombstone and their historic City Ordinance Number 9. He was instrumental in getting the famous Tombstone City Ordinance Number 9 repealed while at the same time forcing the City of Tombstone to fall in line and comply with the laws of the State of Arizona.

If you care to read how he fought Tombstone's City Hall and won, check out:

The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter One)

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