Jose Chavez y Chavez

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Jose Chavez y Chavez
Jose Chavez.jpg
Born 1851 (1851)
Died 1924 (aged 72–73)

Jose Chavez y Chavez (1851–1924) was an outlaw from the New Mexican Territory, present day U.S. state of New Mexico. He was said to be of Spanish ancestry.[1] Chavez y Chavez became an outlaw at a relatively young age when he joined the Lincoln County Regulators.


Lincoln County Wars[edit]

Chavez y Chavez joined the Lincoln County Regulators in his twenties, having already committed a number of small robberies and other crimes. Chavez y Chavez would prove useful to Billy the Kid's gang. Together with Billy The Kid, Doc Scurlock, Charlie Bowdre and the rest of the Regulators, Chavez y Chavez engaged in the Lincoln County War that lasted from 1878 to 1879.

Chavez y Chavez met Billy the Kid, Jim French, Fred Waite, Charlie Bowdre, John Middleton, and Tom O'Folliard after he decided to join the Tunstall-McSween group in their war against the Dolan group. Inside the Tunstall-McSween group, another group was formed, to try to give the Tunstall-McSween group an edge over the Dolans. The "Regulators", as they were known, were 45 gunfighters that included Jose Chavez y Chavez. At some point of his tenure as a member of the Regulators, Chavez became good friends with Billy the Kid and Jim French.

On February 18, 1878, John Tunstall was murdered. On April 1 of the same year, Lincoln sheriff Brady, a Dolan backer, was killed by Billy the Kid's gang, and Chavez y Chavez credited himself with this killing.

Eventually, more killings from both sides followed, leading to the burning of the McSween home on July 19, 1878. Fourteen people lived at the house, including McSween and his wife, as well as twelve cowboys. Six people died in the fire, but every member of Billy the Kid's gang was able to escape.


By March 1879, New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace began a fight against crime in that territory , and one of his priorities was to stop the ongoing war between the Dolans and the Tunstall-McSween backers. With this in mind, Wallace formed the Lincoln County Mounted Rifles, a group of which Chavez y Chavez became a member, as a private. The "Mounted Rifles" failed in their purpose, however, and the group lasted only about three months, a period during which Chavez y Chavez remained with Billy the Kid's gang.

Chavez y Chavez allegedly testified, alongside Billy the Kid, in court to try to implicate the Army in connection to the burning of the McSween house and subsequent deaths that occurred during the fires. It is believed that in 1880, Chavez y Chavez murdered a dangerous convict in a New Mexico jail.

Jose Chavez y Chavez became adrift after Billy the Kid's death in 1881, traveling across the American Southwest, sometimes without any particular destination in mind. He did arrive at Las Vegas, New Mexico, in time to meet Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James. According to legend the two had agreed to a shooting game between them. So impressed was Ford with Chavez y Chavez' gun abilities, that he fled immediately after he was asked to have a duel against Chavez y Chavez.[2]

Chavez y Chavez eventually became a deputy sheriff, but he allegedly was not able to leave his life as a desperado, becoming friends with Vicente Silva and joining Silva's two gangs, including Las Gorras Blancas ("The White Caps"), a group that was considered by many Anglos to be a bandit group, and by most Native New Mexican Hispanos to be freedom fighters. Silvas' other group, the "Bandits Society," was accused by Anglo immigrants to New Mexico Territory as operating much like a mafia, trying to make profits by forcing people out of their properties.


Vicente Silva ordered the killing of Patricio Maes, which was carried out on October 22, 1892 by Chavez y Chavez, Eugenio Alarid and Julian Trujillo. In February 1893, the group killed Silva's brother in law, Gabriel Sandoval. However, Sandoval's death backfired on Silva, when his wife became concerned about the whereabouts of her brother. When Silva ordered Chavez y Chavez, Alarid and Trujillo to kill his wife, the three gunmen became worried about Silva's mental state; they decided to kill him as well when they were digging Silva's wife's grave. Silva and his wife were both murdered by Chavez y Chavez, Alarid and Trujillo as Silva carried his wife to them.

In 1894, several men were arrested and brought to the courts of law in connection with the killing of Patricio Maes. Chavez y Chavez became a fugitive, but he was eventually arrested on May 26. A jury found him guilty, and he was given the death sentence. In a retrial, Chavez y Chavez was again given a death sentence. This decision was later overturned by a new Governor in New Mexico, who felt compelled to commute Chavez y Chavez's sentence to life in prison instead, given the publicity that this case garnered and the public's pressure towards the Government to spare Chavez y Chavez' life at the time.

20th century[edit]

During a jail riot, Chavez y Chavez helped the police. Subsequently, on January 11, 1909, New Mexico's Governor George Curry granted him a pardon in 1909.

For the remaining fifteen years of his life, Chavez y Chavez led a relatively quiet life, and he died of natural causes at his home in 1924, with a friend by his side.

Popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1988 movie, Young Guns, and its 1990 sequel, Young Guns II, Chavez y Chavez was portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips. In the sequel, and contrary to actual history, Chavez y Chavez dies as a result of a gunshot wound from an encounter with Pat Garrett and his hunting party.
  • Chavez y Chavez is also the name of a character in the video game GUN.


  1. ^ George Curry; H. B. Hening (1995). George Curry, 1861-1947: An Autobiography. University of New Mexico Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-8263-1579-3. 
  2. ^ Hurst, James W. (2003-01-10). "Jose Chavey y Chavez Hombre Muy Malo". Southern New