Fort Sumner is located in eastern New Mexico at the junction of Hwy 60 and 84. You can reach it easily by coming north out of Roswell, west from Clovis, or turning south in Santa Rosa off of I-40. The original fort was built in the 1860’s to help contain Navajo and Apache Indians but after the end of the Civil War the fort and it’s buildings were sold to private citizens and the town began springing up.
If you’re a fan of the Old West, then Fort Sumner is definitely a place you’ll want to visit. Once of the first true cattle drive trails (The Loving-Goodnight Trail) ended at Ft Sumner when the cattlemen drove beef there to feed the Navajos who’d been moved there by Kit Carson, thus being right at the beginning of the cowboy era of the American West.
Needless to say though, Fort Sumner’s main claim to fame is as the sight of the death of Billy The Kid. Pat Garret surprised Billy The Kid at night while Billy was cutting a piece of meat for a snack. Billy famously asked, “Quien es?” (Who is it?) before being gunned down by Garret. Naturally, the legend was born in that moment as well. Many people are divided on whether or not Garret gunned down the right man that evening, or if Billy survived and lived to a ripe old age in Texas. If you think Billy died in Pete Maxwell’s place, his gravestone is nearby and can be visited.
Another interesting fact about Fort Sumner is that the Air Corps had a training base there during WWII which was used post-war by NASA as a launching spot for their high altitude balloon program. If you traveled to Fort Sumner through Roswell, you may recognize the significance of the balloons in the story of the UFO landing in Roswell back in 1947.