New Mexico’s “Regulators”
New Mexico, USA**—Being a New Mexican, we’ve all heard the tale about Billy the Kid and the “Regulators”. Through pop culture, movies and television, modern times fiction and non-fiction writers have glamorized them even further, sometimes changing the story to fit their plotline to achieve the hook they need to sway consumers to watch their tv shows and films. Having a strong interest in the subject, most New Mexicans have seen the films and media created on the subject. I myself, am guilty of it as well, without truly digging deeper to find out the real story. Despite Young Guns being one of my favorite western movies, the real story couldn’t be any different, although I praise the production value on the film. Good cast, good acting, and being an NM film, as well as being filmed in New Mexico, made it that much more real. And, to be honest, whether the story was real or not, they did a good enough job to make it seem so. Having found out at a later age that the story was a little different than it had been portrayed, I thought I’d finally dig deeper and share with you, the real story, or at least the most well-documented story about the main members that composed the group of “Regulators”, that I can find. Enjoy!
The Known Members
First of all, there were far more than six members. There were actually twenty-four known members. We’ll go into better detail to what part each one played in the “Regulators” (if there’s enough known information). Listed below, in alphabetical order, are the names of those who have been known to have been part of the group.
- Billy the Kid
- Charlie Bowdre
- Richard M. Brewer – the first leader
- Henry Newton Brown
- Jose Chavez y Chavez
- Frank Coe
- George Coe
- Jim French
- William McCloskey – traitor against the group according to the Kid and McNab.
- Frank McNab – second leader
- John Middleton
- Tom O’Folliard
- Tom Peterson
- Vicente Romero
- Yginio Salazar
- Ab Saunders
- John Scroggins – present at the Blazer’s Mills gunfight
- Doc Scurlock – 3rd and final leader
- “Tiger Sam” Smith – present at the Blackwater shootings, later killed by Indians.
- Matt “Steiny” Steinmueller
- “Dirty” Steve” Stephens – present at the Blazer’s Mills gunfight
- Fred Waite
- Robert Widenmann (Bob) – present at the murders of John Tunstall and Sheriff Brady
- Francisco Zamora
Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty; aka William H. Bonney (September 17, 1859 – July 14, 1881), was named as the leader of the infamous “Regulators”. A group of self-appointed lawmen, in New Mexico. Although Billy the Kid was credited for doing most of the dirty work for the Regulators, he was said to have killed 8 men. It was later found out that due to an 1880 press release in the Las Vegas Gazette (Las Vegas, New Mexico) and the New York Sun, that he was the leader, when in fact, he was not.
Despite his credentials with the Regulators, Billy the Kid was also known to have taken part in the Lincoln County War, a conflict over the control of dry goods, land, and cattle. The Lincoln County War was made famous because of the public figures that were involved at the time. Including the likes of Sheriff William Brady, lawyer Alexander McSween, rancher John Chisum, James Dolan, and Lawrence Murphy. This led to the Battle of Lincoln, a gunfight that lasted for 5 days, and also the cause of the disassembly of the Regulators. After the standoff, Pat Garrett was named Lincoln County Sherriff.
He was later apprehended by Pat Garrett, and eventually tracked down and killed by him in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881.
Charles “Charlie” Bowdre
Born Charles Meriwether Bowdre in 1848, in Wilkes County, Georgia, also known as “Charlie” to the Regulators, came from a wealthy Wilkes County, Georgia family and raised in Mississippi. In 1874, Charlie Bowdre began farming in Lincoln, New Mexico, where he eventually met Billy the Kid and the Regulators.
In the following years, he was known to have also become part of the group who helped defend Alexander McSween in the Lincoln County War, which also led to the dismantling of the Regulators. Losing the war, he and Billy the kid fled off to Fort Sumner, where he began working on a ranch. He was still friends with Billy the Kid, although he kept his job on the ranch.
Despite escaping an attack by Pat Garrett and his posse late December of 1880, one of his accomplices, Thomas O’Folliard, did not, and was killed. Less than a week later, Pat Garrett and his men caught up to Billy and Charlie, which indefinitely led to him being shot and killed, on December 23rd, 1880. He is buried next to Thomas O’Folliard and William H. Bonney, with an inscription above their names that reads, “Pals”.
These guys went through a lot together, in a short period of time. No wonder they wanted to be buried by one another. That’s true comradery right there!
Richard M. “Dick” Brewer
Born Richard M. Brewer, in St. Albans, Vermont in 1850. When Brewer first moved to New Mexico, he began farming, and with very little luck, he later began working for Lawrence Murphy, the famed Irish, Union Army Veteran, and also, the main instigator in the Lincoln County War. He soon left working for Murphy and began working for John Tunstall, a local rancher, and businessman. Brewer is well-known as the as the original leader of the “Regulators”, the famed self-appointed lawmen of Lincoln, New Mexico, also employees of John Tunstall, the one who brought them together on the Rio Feliz Ranch.
Despite being the founding leader of the “Regulators”, on April 4th, 1878, Brewer was shot down and killed during a standoff with Bounty Hunter Buckshot Roberts in Blazer’s Mills, New Mexico, where he was laid to rest at the Blazer Cemetery, in Mescalero, New Mexico, at the age of 28.
Jose Chavez y Chavez
Jose Chavez y Chavez was said to have been of Spanish-Native American descent, is well know for his association with the Regulators, led by the famed outlaw, Billy the Kid. Jose Chavez y Chavez was also given credit for the killing of Sherrif Brady, a famed crooked lawman, which gave way to the rise of the Lincoln County War. Chavez y Chavez and the rest of the Regulators were able to escape Murphy and his posse of men, despite the killing of Alexander McSween and the burning of his home. And as the result of McSween’s death, it caused the Lincoln County Cattle War to end.
After the war, Chavez y Chavez became a lawman, then a freedom-fighter, and then sentenced to death, all before getting pardoned and dying of natural causes in 1924.
Born Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock, January 11, 1849, in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, Doc and was said to have studied medicine in New Orleans before heading west and opening a cheese factory with Charlie Bowdre, somewhere along the Gila River. Billy the Kid is said to have also been employed at the cheese factory for a time. Doc and Charlie eventually moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where they bought a ranch from Lawrence Murphy, which would lead to becoming victims of LG Murphy and Company’s Monopoly which was said to be connected to the infamous Santa Fe Ring. He soon met John Tunstall, Billy the Kid, Brewer, and the Regulators. After Tunstall was murdered, Doc became one of the founding members of the Regulators and was deputized by Sherriff Copeland, along with the rest of the Regulators. Through the works of Catron and the Santa Fe Ring, Sherriff Copeland was removed and the Regulators lost their ranking as deputies and became wanted for the murder of Buckshot Roberts. After cattle-thieving with Billy for a short time, Scurlock left the group and moved to Potter County Texas, where he became a respected citizen and lived the remainder of his life. He died on July 25th, 1929, in Eastland, Texas, at age 80.
- February 18, 1878—Tunstall was killed
- March 1—The Regulators get deputized
- March 6—The Regulators kill Morton, Baker and Regulator William McCloskey, who was believed to be a traitor
- March 9—The Regulators lose their authority and become wanted men.
- April 1—The Regulators kill Sherriff Brady
- April 4—Brewer is killed by Buckshot Roberts, Buckshot Roberts in killed.
- April 18—The Regulators are indicted for the murder of Sheriff Brady.
- April 29—McNab is killed by the Seven Rivers Warriors
- April 30—The Regulators are blamed for the killings of Seven Rivers members.
- May 15—The Regulators capture and kill Manuel Segovia, who killed Frank McNab.
- July 15—the Regulators barricade themselves inside the McSween house, while surrounded by Dolan, Murphy, and the Seven Rivers Warriors.
- July 19— Alexander McSween’s home was set fire to. McSween was killed. The Lincoln County War was over.