Billy the Kid at Gran Quivira

Historic Gran Quivira
Gran Quivira mission

SAPU Museum Collection


This being New Mexico, Salinas Pueblo Missions must have its own claim to the famous outlaw Billy the Kid. It was the spring of 1880 and the Kid and his friend John Meadows were heading south. After stopping in Punta de Agua, they continued further south. The search for water took them to Gran Quivira where they stayed overnight. There they found the remains of a great mission. After exploring the mission ruin they found what appeared to be an old irrigation ditch. Meadows guessed that a source of water must have been present, but may have been diverted due to an earthquake or other force. They also noticed a cedar cross at the top of the church ruins. After climbing up to the cross, Meadows suggested taking it down to get a closer look. Billy the Kid then said, "No, John, it has a history and we'll leave some scientific devil do that." The next day they left, heading for Red Lake.

In history and archeology, the placement of an artifact is almost as important as the artifact itself. Removing artifacts destroys the information that may be learned from the relationship to its surroundings. Billy the Kid is a lot of things; outlaw, gunfighter, New Mexico legend. To that list we suggest adding Historic Preservationist.

This story and many others on Billy the Kid can be found in the book Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid as I Knew Them by John P. Meadows and Edited by John P. Wilson.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
PO Box 517
105 South Ripley Avenue

Mountainair, NM 87036-0517


505 847-2585 x220
Headquarters Visitor Center Front Desk

Contact Us