Archive for July, 2016

Ole Miss & Charlie Bowdre from Young Guns

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

One of my favorite movies in my youth was “Young Guns” featuring Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid. This week I learned about a connection between one of the Regulators portrayed in that movie and the University of Mississippi.

Last year while on business in DeSoto County, I took the opportunity to swing by the county archives to do a little digging on an extended branch of my family tree for an interested distant cousin. The ladies at the archives were extremely helpful and when leaving, they asked me if I’d like to become a member of the Genealogical Society of DeSoto County. I did and I now receive their quarterly newsletter “DeSoto Descendants.” This week’s edition included an article: “The Life and Times of Mississippi’s Charles Meriwether Bowdre” by Ralph C. Kennedy.

If you saw Young Guns, you might remember Charlie as “the pugilist” member of John Tunstall’s Lincoln County Regulators. He married a young Mexican girl but died near the end of the movie during the Battle of Lincoln when the Regulators fought their way out of a house under siege by L.G. Murphy’s men and federal troops. Billy (Estevez), Josiah “Doc” Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) escaped and appeared in the sequel, Young Guns 2.

"Did you know pigs is as smart as dogs? It's true. I knew this guy in El Capitan who taught his pig to bark at strangers." -Charlie in Young Guns

"Did you know pigs is as smart as dogs? It's true. I knew this guy in El Capitan who taught his pig to bark at strangers." -Charlie in Young Guns

It turns out, Charlie Bowdre was born in Georgia and moved to DeSoto County, Mississippi when he was three years old. The Bowdre family became one of the most prominent families in the area. Per the article:

On February 5, 1866, Charlie Bowdre and his first cousin, Stephen Pettus Bowdre (1848-1930), applied and were admitted to the freshman class at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). They were two of nine Bowdres to attend the University between the classes of 1859 and 1879. University of Mississippi records for the 1867 Sophomore Class indicated the Bowdre cousins took basic courses in Greek, Latin, Math, Logic, Rhetoric, Composition, and Declamation (theatrical style speech). The boys did reasonably well in all their classes; although, Stephen was a slightly better student. Both Charlie and Stephen were listed in the Class of 1870 as “not graduating.” “Not graduating” was a rather common status for young men studying at the University during this time period. Many young men only attended the university for a year or two. A later University of Mississippi survey listed both young men as “cotton factors” (brokers) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Charlie went west and opened a cheese factory in Arizona with his new business partner, Doc Scurlock. One of their employees was Henry “Kid” Antrium, an alias of who would later be known as Billy the Kid. The cheese factory failed and eventually the three made their way to Lincoln County, New Mexico and the events of the movie.

Unlike the movie, Doc also married a young Mexican girl, the half-sister of Charlie’s bride. And Charlie lived on into the events of Young Guns 2. In YG2, Doc is captured out east where he had become a teacher and was brought back to Lincoln for trial. He eventually died in an ambush by gunmen under leadership of Sheriff Pat Garrett. In reality, Doc moved to Texas where he lived until he was 80 and died a prominent member of the community. It was Charlie who died in the ambush, not Doc.

According to Wikipedia (sourced to Robert M. Utley’s “Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life”) “In the last seconds of his life he stumbled and fell towards Pat Garrett repeating the phrase, ‘I wish…I wish…’”

Charlie is buried in the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery along with Tom O’Folliard (also a character in YG2) and Billy the Kid. While the exact locations of the bodies is disputed, the three share a headstone and as told in the epilogue of Young Guns, above their names is chiseled “Pals.” But, according to an article by Mental Floss, it turns out this wasn’t an old Regulator inscribing a tribute. The headstone was likely devised by the local Chamber of Commerce in 1932 to take advantage of tourism following a 1930 movie about Billy the Kid.

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