El Paso's history is always a fascinating topic to look at: whether it's looking back on the first Thanksgiving being held in El Paso, or it's history regarding the infamous western outlaw: Billy the Kid. Anyone's who interested in El Paso's history might be interested to know that the El Paso Jail was the sighting of one of the first break-ins into a jail in the United States.

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Just in case you don't know who Billy the Kid is

Billy was one of the most infamous outlaws that lived in the wild West whose name was never truly confirmed. He went under the name William H Bonney, but his name might have actually been Henry McCarty. He only lived to be 21 years old; but he would take the lives of 21 men.

Why would anyone break INTO a jail; let alone in El Paso?

According to legend, Billy the Kid would travel to Las Cruces (and eventually to San Elizario) to break out his friend, Melquiades Segura who was arrested for murder, out of the jail in 1876. In the early hours of 3am, Billy dressed as a Texas Ranger & tricked the guard into opening the door.

Man aiming gun
Brand X Pictures

There Billy would aim his gun, strip the guards of his guns, throw THEM in jail, and would lock the door on them. Billy & Melquiades would escape and flee to cross the river into Mexico. This would be the only time that Billy the Kid would ever break INTO a prison.

Kevin Vargas
Kevin Vargas

Is the Old El Paso Jail still in use?

The building is still standing but it's since been transformed into a museum. When you go visit the jail now, you can see historic markers talking about Billy the Kid, artwork portraying the event & the jail cells from back in the 1800s.

You might even see another prison breakout

Not a real one, but a reenactment. On occasion, people STILL do the reenactment of Billy's break-in at the old San Elizario Jail; like this reenactment during the jail's reopening back in 2013,

in 2012,

Or this reenactment as recent as 2022.

If you want to know some other crazy facts regarding Billy the Kid's history in El Paso, you can read about his buddy, Pat Garrett, being buried in Las Cruces here.

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