Brushy Bill Roberts

December 24, 2011 by staff 

Brushy Bill RobertsBrushy Bill Roberts, Brushy Bill Roberts (allegedly December 31, 1859 – December 27, 1950, possibly 1879 – December 27, 1950), a.k.a. Ollie P. Roberts or Ollie L. Roberts, attracted attention by claiming to be the infamous western outlaw Billy the Kid. Although Roberts’ claim has been rejected by almost all historians (and even some of his relatives), his argument was not entirely bereft of supporting evidence. Brushy Bill’s claim is promoted by the “Billy the Kid Museum” in his hometown of Hico in Hamilton County, Texas. His story was further promoted by the 1990 film Young Guns II. Robert Stack did a segment on Brushy Bill in early 1990 on the NBC television series Unsolved Mysteries.

In 1949, a paralegal named William Morrison located a man in Central Texas named Ollie P. Roberts (nicknamed “Brushy Bill”), who claimed to be Billy the Kid and who challenged the popular account of McCarty as shot to death by Pat Garrett in 1881. Allegedly, Brushy Bill Roberts never confirmed or denied his claim to be Billy the Kid until a few years before his own death. He told Morrison that he would agree to tell the “whole truth” in exchange for the full pardon he had been promised by the governor of New Mexico following the Lincoln County War, Lew Wallace. Roberts claimed that he had survived that historic day in 1881 when Pat Garrett had shot and killed the Kid. His sudden appearance and request for a pardon had a profound effect on Garrett’s descendents: Did their ancestor, in the line of duty, kill a notorious outlaw? Or did he gun down an innocent man and let Billy get away?

Brushy Bill claimed to have been born on December 31, 1859, by the name of William Henry Roberts in Buffalo Gap, Texas near Abilene. Others[who?] claim that he was actually born in 1868, while United States Census records indicate that Roberts was born in 1879. Oliver P. Roberts’ niece, Geneva Pittmon, was able to show that her uncle’s (Oliver P., not Oliver L.) date of birth had been recorded in the Family Bible. However, the problem with her statement regarding the unknown birth date of Ollie L. Roberts is that Brushy Bill had disclosed that Oliver P. Roberts had been his distant cousin. After Oliver P. Roberts died, Brushy Bill had assumed his identity.

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