TV Features

What Happened To Billy The Kid’s Father? True Story & Show Changes Explained


  • Billy the Kid season 2 takes creative liberties with his legend, introducing a number of both real-life and fictional father figures and mentors.
  • Patrick McCarty likely died when Billy was 7 or 8 years old, leaving Catherine to raise the boys alone, which heavily influenced Billy’s life.
  • The MGM series introduces fictional mentors for Billy, including Moss and John Tunstall, who played important roles in shaping his character and actions.



The MGM series Billy the Kid briefly touches on the ambiguous backstory of his father Patrick McCarty. William H. Bonney was born Henry McCarty to Irish immigrants before becoming immortalized as one of the most dangerous outlaws of the American Old West. Billy was orphaned at age 15 but he did spend a good part of his childhood with his father Patrick, particularly when they lived in New York City before his family headed West for Kansas during the post-Civil War 1860s. Throughout the course of his brief life, Billy would have a number of father figures and mentors.

As depicted in Billy the Kid season 1, Billy, Patrick, his mother Catherine, and his younger brother Joe had difficulty adjusting to life outside New York. Most of Billy the Kid season 2 portrays Billy as a reckless abandon without any family after tuberculosis or “consumption” takes the lives of his mother and brother. This is one of the ways that the MGM series takes creative liberties with the Billy the Kid legend since historical accounts indicate that Joe had actually lived longer than Billy. Patrick, however, truly died long before Billy had taken to a life of petty crimes that eventually led to his notorious murders.

RELATED: Did Billy The Kid Really Kill 21 Men? Every Confirmed Kill By The Real Western Outlaw Explained

Patrick McCarty Died When Billy Was Around 8 Years Old

Billy the Kid season 2 on a horse

As portrayed in Billy the Kid season 1, Patrick McCarty likely passed away when Billy was around 7 or 8 years old. This would have occurred in the late 1860s as Billy the Kid was born in 1859. The actual circumstances of Patrick’s death are ambiguous as there is no recorded evidence of exactly when and how he died, but it is commonly believed that Patrick died after leaving New York City with his family. There is some dispute among historians that Billy’s dad’s name was actually William Bonney, which is where he got his iconic alias from. While it’s difficult to say with certainty, the MGM series presents a plausible account of Patrick McCarty and his death during Billy’s childhood.

Patrick’s death forced Catherine to raise and support both Billy and Joe by herself which proved to be a very challenging task. She eventually got support by marrying William Antrim in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1873 and settling down with him in Kansas, making Antrim Billy and Joe’s stepfather. In the MGM series, the young Billy is immediately skeptical about Antrim, believing him to be an untrustworthy and fraudulent man. Billy’s instincts would ultimately turn out to be correct. After Catherine died of tuberculosis, Antrim abandoned both boys. This would greatly influence the rest of Billy’s life and was likely the determining factor in delivering him to a world of crime and violence.

How The Death Of Billy The Kid’s Father Is Different From Real Life

Billy the Kid season 2 epiosde 2

One intriguing creative decision found in the MGM Billy the Kid series was the implication that Patrick McCarty took his own life while traveling across the country with his family. As depicted in Billy the Kid season 1, Patrick McCarty claimed to be “sick of the mind” and would often completely shut down, finding it difficult to do much other than lie down in a state of apparent despair. The portrayal of Patrick McCarty in the MGM series indicates the possibility that Billy the Kid’s dad could have depression or other debilitating mental health issues. Sources differ on his father’s fate in real life, and it’s not widely contended by historians that Patrick died by suicide as the show suggests.

RELATED: “I’ve Looked In Your Soul”: The Real Meaning Of Billy The Kid’s Mother’s Final Words

Billy The Kid’s Father Figures & Mentors Explained

Old Moss in Billy the Kid season 2 episode 1

After Billy the Kid’s real-life fallout with Antrim, which was handled differently in the MGM series, Billy was without a father figure or mentor. The show introduces a character named Moss in season 1 who was hired by the McCarty family to bring them by carriage out of New York to live out West. Moss noticed the fragile nature of Patrick and made a point to look after Billy during their dangerous journey. Moss even taught Billy how to shoot a gun and showed up for Billy when he needed a role model and a guide. There is no historical record of Billy the Kid ever knowing a man named Moss, but the character acts as one of his key mentors in the television series.

Billy’s greatest mentor was Englishman John Tunstall, who is depicted to be much older in the series than he was in reality. The actual Billy the Kid admired Tunstall for giving him a second chance at life, claiming that he was one of the few powerful and wealthy people who had ever treated him as an equal. Despite only being about 6 years older than Billy the Kid, Tunstall’s generosity and faith in Billy is what made him one of the most influential figures in his life. Tunstall’s murder sparked a violent retaliation from the Regulators that ultimately started the Lincoln County War.


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