Butch Cassidy – Robert LeRoy Parker
He died in 1908, November 7 (maybe).
He gained eternal notoriety as a train robber, a bank robber and leader of the Wild Bunch Gang. His partnership with Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid) lives on in history, legend and fiction.
After pulling a number of robberies Butch Cassidy and Sundance were being pursued by the law, the Pinkerton’s and every bounty hunter that fancied their chances.
They fled to Bolivia in a vain attempt to escape justice and enjoy their ill gotten gains. Reports from the police claim they were killed by Bolivian authorities and that neither left the country alive.
1866 – Butch Cassidy was born in Beaver, Utah. His parents were English and Scottish immigrants who came to the Utah Territory in the late 1850s. Several sources claim the family fled England to avoid religious persecution due to their Mormon faith. This appears unlikely as the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) was less than two decades old at the time and it is more likely they were converted after arriving in Utah, a growing stronghold of the church.
Butch was the eldest of 13 children and was raised on a ranch near Circlevile, Utah. There are untold references to Butch Cassidy on the internet but one of the best I have found is at http://www.prospector-utah.com/butchome.htm This site has some good photographs and the information provided appears well researched.
Butch left home sometime during his early teens. He apparently took work on a dairy farm and met up with Mike Cassidy, a notorious horse thief, cattle rustler and miscreant. Cassidy became the boy’s friend and mentor. When he later acquired the nickname Butch, he added the name Cassidy to become the “Butch Cassidy” we all know of.
1874 – Aged 8 years old, Butch Cassidy was baptized into the Mormon Church.
1880 -Sometime during 1880, aged 14, (sources differ on the exact date) Butch travelled to a nearby town and visited a clothing shop. Unfortunately the shop was closed. It was also unfortunate that he entered the shop and reportedly took a pair of jeans and ate some pie. He left a note promising to pay when next he visited but the owner still pressed charges.
Butch was acquitted but had to go through a trial by jury.
1884 – Butch travelled to Tulleride in Colorado, maybe to work but maybe with stolen horses seeking a buyer.
1885 – Butch led the cowboy’s life while travelling through Wyoming and Montana.
1887 – Butch returned to Tulleride and became acquainted with Matthew Warner, the owner of a race horse. Together, they raced the horse at various events, sharing the winnings.
1889 – June 24 – Butch joined with Warner and two other men to commit his first recorded bank robbery by alleviating the San Migual Valley Bank in Tulleride of responsibility for $21, 000. On the run following the robbery the men took refuge in Utah at the hideout known as Robbers Roost.
1890 – Butch bought a ranch in Wyoming near the town of Dubois. He appears to have never made a success of the ranch but may have been using it as a cover for criminal activities and connection to the famous “Hole in the Wall” hide out nearby. It is certainly rumoured that he was a sometime member of the Hole in the Wall gang and a full time associate.
1892 -July 15 – Butch was arrested with an Al Hainer for horse stealing. He resisted arrest and shots were exchanged before he was wounded in the arm. He was later acquitted of all charges.
1894 – During this year Butch became romantically linked with Ann Bassett. Ann was a rancher and also an outlaw in her own right. He met her after doing business with her father who was a successful rancher.
Butch was arrested that year while in Lander, Wyoming. He was charged with horse stealing and it was also claimed he was running a protection racket amongst ranchers. He was convicted and sentenced to two years, spending 18 months in the State Prison at Laramie. This was the only time he spent in prison.
Whilst in custody, his official description was recorded as:-
- Height – 5′ 9″;
- Complexion – Light;
- Hair – Dark Flaxen;
- Eyes – Blue;
- Wife – No;
- Parents – Not Known;
- Children – No;
- Religion – None;
- Habits of Life – Intemperate;
- Education – Commuity School;
- Relations Address – Not Known;
- Weight – 165 lbs;
- Marks – Scars;
- Features – regular;
- With – small deep set eyes, 2 cut scars on back of head, small red scar under left eye, red mark on left side of back, small mole on calf of left leg, good build.
1896 – January – Butch was released from prison. In the shot at the top of this page that is reportedly a mug shot taken whilst he was in prison. Other sources claim the picture was taken in different circumstances, a claim with some credence when you consider the clothing is not exactly looking like standard prison garb.
After his release he continued to surround himself with known criminals. These included but was by no means limited to:-
- Elzy Lay, reputed to have been his closest friend at this time;
- Harvey Logan, more notably referred to as Kid Curry;
- Ben Kilpatrick;
- Harry Tracey;
- Will Carver, commonly referred to by his nickname “News”;
- Laura Bullion; and
- George Curry.
This group, accompanied by several others that were part time members, one of the most famous criminal gangs in history was formed, known as the “The Wild Bunch”.
1896 – August 13 – Butch, Lay, Harvey Logan and Bob Meeks robbed the bank at Montpelier in Idaho and deprived the town of $7, 000. Shortly after this robbery seems to be when Harry Longabaugh joined the gang.
Langabaugh was born in Pennysylvania and is known world wide under his other title “The Sundance Kid”.
1897 – Very early in this year Butch corralled Ann Bassett, Elzy Lay and his girlfriend Maude Davis at Robbers Roost. In April the women went home and Butch set about planning his next robbery. It wasn’t long before they put that plan into play.
1897 – April 21 – In the Utah mining town of Castle Gate, Butch and Lay set an ambush for the payroll escort of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company. They succeeded in relieving the company of $7, 000 in gold and headed back to their hideout.
1899 – June 2 – Butch and the gang robbed a the Union Pacific near the town of Wilcox, Wyoming. They got away with something in the vicinity of $30, 000 and this robbery gained substantial interest and resulted in a huge man hunt. Following the robbery, pursuing lawman Sheriff Joe Hazen caught up with part of the gang. During the shootout that followed, he was killed.
The Sheriff was well known and highly respected. His murder caused outrage and the gang received national fame following his funeral in the town of Douglas, Wyoming.
The Pinkerton’s were on the job as well and the gang fled to the Hole in the Wall.
1899 – July 11 – Butch’s gang pulled off a train robbery near Folsom in New Mexico. It appears Butch was not actually present during this robbery but this is not certain. Sheriff Edward Farr and a member of his posse (Henry Love) were killed by the gang during the chase that followed. Lay was charged and convicted of his murder and sent down for life at the New Mexico State Penitentiary.
Later that year Butch approached the Utah Governor (Heber Wells) seeking amnesty but had no success. He was advised to contact the union Pacific Railroad to negotiate with them to have charges against him dropped. It appears the railroad tried to hold such a meeting but it never went ahead. While they were still attempting to set up the meeting, Longabaugh put paid to it.
1900 – August 29 – Longabaugh and others robbed a Union Pacific train in Wyoming, close to the town of Tipton. Any prospects of an amnesty died here.
1900 – September 19 – Butch, Sundance and Bill Carver robbed the First national bank in Winnemucca in Nevada. This time they relieved the bank of over $32, 000.
1900 – December – During this month Butch posed for a photograph at Fort Worth in Texas. The photograph has been internationally famous and is known as the “Fort Worth Five Photograph”. He features in the photograph with Sundance, Kid Curry, Ben Kilpatrick and William Carver. The photograph was later used for wanted posters.
On some of his photo and wanted posters still available to use the other men are removed but you can still see the floral background on the wall.
1900 – Kid Curry joined up with Butch and Sundance to rob another Union Pacific train near the town of Wagner in Montana. The cash this time was over $60, 000. Following the robbery Will Carver was killed by Sheriff Elijah Briant.
1901 – December 12 – Ben Kilpatrick was captured in Tennessee along with Laura Bullion.
1901 – December 13 – The law caught up with Kid Curry near Knoxville. He killed policemen William Dinwiddle and Robert Saylor before escaping. He was chased by lawmen and Pinkerton’s but still managed to shoot and kill James Winters in Montana, in retribution for his earlier killing of Kid Curry’s brother Johnny.
1901 – February 20 – Butch and Sundance were on the run. They headed for New York City with Sundance’s girlfriend Ethel Place. They boarded a British steamboat (Herminius) and left for Buenos Aires in Argentina. This was probably an attempt to elude the law and enjoy the substantial resources accumulated through their criminal efforts. They bought 15, 000 acre ranch on the bank of the Rio Blanco River.
1901 – May 1 – Butch and company sold the Cholila ranch, probably because they were suspects now and the law appears to have been hounding them. The Pinkerton’s were also on their trail. Governor Julio Lezana issued a warrant for the arrest of all three but Sheriff Edward Humphreys appears to have alerted them. This was another example of a lawman seeming to have an outlaw friend that did not fit with the rest of their personality and life, just like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and Wild Bill Hickok’s friendship with John Wesley Hardin.
During the flight they headed for Chile but returned to Argentina within the year.
1901 – December 19 – Butch, Sundance and one other robbed Banco de la Nacion in Villa Mercedes, 400 miles west of Buenos Aires and escaped with 12,000 pesos. They were pursued by the law but once more headed for Chile and reached the relative safety of that country.
1905 – February 1905 – Butch and Sundance held up the banco De Tarapaca y Argentino in Rio Gallegos. The pair were never identified for certain however, the style of the robbery and description of two English speaking white men fit them well.
1906 – June 30 – Etta Place, Butch and Sundance returned to the USA, San Francisco. Butch travelled under the name James Santiago Maxwell. He returned to Bolivia and he secured a job in a tin mine in Santa Vera Cruz. Sundance joined him and in a strange quirk, they were given the job of guarding the company payroll.
1908 – November 3 – The facts surrounding his death are shrouded in mystery, uncertainty and gossip. On this day the courier for the Aramayo Franke and Cia Silver Mine was taking a 15, 000 peso payroll the mine when he was attacked by two masked bandits said to be American. It is claimed they were Butch and Sundance.
The two thieves then went to San Vicente, another small mining town. They took a room in a boarding house and the owner recognised the mule they travelling with as belonging to the mine (it carried the mine logo on its flank). Three soldiers of the Bolivian Army Cavalry and were joined by local authorities.
1908 – November 6 – The local police chief, aided by town officials and the Army, surrounded the boarding house. When an arrest was attempted a shoot out ensued and one soldier was killed at the outset.
1908 – November 7 – Butch Cassidy met his death on this day, MAYBE. In the early hours of the morning, as the siege continued, screaming was heard from inside the building. A shot was heard inside and the screaming abruptly stopped. Shortly after, and second shot was heard and all went quiet.
After sun up, the Police Chief approached the building and found two dead bodies inside. Police reported that one man had killed his fatally wounded partner to put him out of his misery and then suicided to avoid capture. The bodies are interned in the San Vicente cemetery. Later attempts to locate their bodies have been unsuccessful.
1925 – Butch’s sister, Lula Parker-Betenson, claimed that Butch visited a family get together in 1925 after living in hiding for nearly two decades. Many other claims have been made that he was seen alive in the USA after his supposed death in 1908 but no proof psotive is available.
1991 – An expedition to match DNA of bodies in the cemetery to living relatives was conducted. No bodies were found to match and this has fuelled the speculation that these men were not Butch and Sundance.
There are many sources that relate tales of his survival. I have not related them here as they add nothing to life of Butch Cassidy as an old west outlaw.
Butch Cassidy is known to have used many aliases throughout his life. Some of them include:-
- Butch Cassidy (of course);
- Butch Casady;
- George Cassidy;
- James Santiago Maxwell;
- Low Maxwell;
- Santiago Lowe;
- George Parker; and
- James Ryan.