top of page

History of Fort Sumner, New Mexico

Named after former New Mexico military governor Edwin Vose Sumner, Fort Sumner was a military fort charged with the internment of nearby Navajo and Mescalero Apache populations from 1863 to 1868.

Ranchers Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving saw a business opportunity with the implementation of Fort Sumner and decided to sell beef to the United States Government for the reservation. This enterprise also led to the establishment of the Goodnight-Loving Trail.


The federal government closed the fort in 1868 and later sold its buildings to Lucien Maxwell, a prominent New Mexico landowner.


In the latter 1870s Maxwell’s son Pete befriended legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. It was in his house (the former "Fort Sumner" officer quarters) that Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881.


Billy the Kid is buried in the old military cemetery in Fort Sumner, located by The Fort Sumner Chamber of Commerce, as is Lucien Maxwell and many notorious characters of their day.

In 2005, the New Mexico State Monuments Division and the Museum of New Mexico, with strong support from Navajo and Mescalero, created the Bosque Redondo Memorial. It stands today to acknowledge the events of the 1860s and to allow those affected by the history to have a voice to tell their history.

bottom of page