Photo could be Billy the Kid

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Billy the Kid may be an outlaw to many people, but for native Los Lunas author, Ray John de Aragon, the Kid aka William H. Bonney was someone his family knew.

His late father, Maximo de Aragon, had an old picture believed to be of Billy the Kid that he passed down to Aragon.

Submitted photo: Ray John de Aragon was given this photograph, believed to be Billy the Kid, by his father, Maximo de Aragon, who was given it by his friend, Bonifacio Baca Jr. The picture was passed down through the Baca family from Saturnino Baca. It was taken in 1880.

“When he gave that to me I was not only awed, but stunned since he had always talked about that my great-grandmother had personally known and treated Billy the Kid as a curandera, or medicine woman,” de Aragon said. “Those who have seen the photo have marveled at the similarities between this picture and the famous tintype of Billy the Kid.”

The tintype, taken by an known photographer, shows Bonney in cowboy gear posing with his hat cocked, his hand wrapped around the barrel of a rifle, with it’s butt to the floor. In both pictures, the man wears a pinky ring.

The photograph Aragon owns shows a young man resembling the Kid, in a suit posed in a similar fashion, and also wearing a pinky ring. The albumen print is called a “carte de visite,” Aragon said, and was taken around 1880 by a traveling photographer named Harry W. Lucas.

Some viewers thought the two photos might have been taken by the same photographer, Aragon said.

“This and other photos were left to me including one of Paulita Maxwell, who was Billy the Kid’s girlfriend,” he said. “She eventually married a Jaramillo from Los Lunas and moved here.”

Apparently, Paulita didn’t like the picture of Billy in the tintype, Aragon pointed out.

In the book, “The Saga of Billy the Kid,” by Walter Noble Burns, Paulita is quoted as saying, “I never liked the picture. I don’t think it does Billy justice. It makes him look rough and uncouth. The expression of his face was really boyish and very pleasant. He may have worn such clothes as appear in the picture out on the range, but in Fort Sumner, he was careful of his personal appearance and dressed neatly and in good taste.”

Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo had several children, including Telesfor Jaramillo, who some historians believe was actually the Kid’s son because of a close resemblance, Aragon said.

The box of cherished keepsakes Aragon’s father gave to him, and the picture of Billy the Kid inspired de Aragon to research the photo in local museum archives.

“Billy the Kid was highly regarded in the folklore of my family, so this held a great deal of interest for me and I wanted to delve into that story more,” Aragon said.

The photo had been through a few hands before landing in Aragon’s hands. It was originally given to his father by Bonifacio Baca Jr. They grew up together and were close friends.

Bonifacio Baca Jr. got the photo from his dad, Bonifacio Baca, who was given the photograph by his father, Saturnino Baca, who established El Hispano Americano, which eventually became the Valencia County News-Bulletin.

“My dad was always very proud of having known Bonifacio Baca Jr. He used to always talk about their friendship, the history behind the photo and the people that he knew,” said Aragon. “He was a newspaper boy back in 1912, and wound up getting to meet several people that became famous in New Mexico, including Elfego Baca.”

Elfego Baca was a famous sheriff in the annals of history. He was from Socorro, and was related to Bonifacio Baca.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.