Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in this country from the 1880s until the 1940s. Prior to the advent of antibiotics the medical community prescribed “Climate Therapy” for their patients suffering from the respiratory illness. New Mexico’s arid and sunny climate provided an ideal environment for those who had consumption. Through the early part of the 20th century thousands of people stricken with the dreadful lung disease sought treatment in New Mexico. In fact, by 1910 the state’s population had increased by ten percent with the “lungers” who decided to stay.
Marriage, Death & Infamy
On March 1, 1873 the Rev. David F. McFarland performed a marriage ceremony for Catherine McCarty and William Antrim in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe. It was a second marriage for Catherine, who had been widowed nine years earlier. Her two sons, Henry and Joe stood witness at the ceremony. After her first husband died in New York City she took the boys west where she met William Antrim. Catherine suffered from advanced tuberculosis and hoped new husband would love and care for her boys if anything happened to her. After the wedding they moved to the drier climate in Silver City where she hoped that her sons would lead a Christian life. Catherine died the following year when her eldest son turned fourteen. Henry was close to his mother and was devastated by death.
Without a Moral Compass
The boy’s stepfather ended up abusing the two teenagers and without a moral compass Henry began a life of petty crime. His first offense was stealing clothes from a Chinese laundry, when he was arrested he escaped through the jailhouse chimney. That was the beginning of his life as a criminal in New Mexico and Arizona where he became known as Billy the Kid. In the seven years that followed Billy the Kid created a larger-than-life persona that continues today. After killing eight men by the age of twenty-one, Billy the Kid was captured and sentenced to death by hanging. At his trial the judge reportedly said at his sentencing “That you will hang until your dead, dead, dead.” Billy the Kid retorted back at the judge, “And you can go to hell, hell, hell.”