Butch Cassidy

Butch Cassidy ([[13_April]] [[1866]] – c. 1908), born Robert LeRoy Parker, was a notorious [[train]] and [[bank_robber]].

Early life

Parker was born in [[Beaver,_Utah]], to Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies, English [[Mormon]] and [[Scottish]] immigrants to the [[Utah_Territory]]. His parents were residents of Victoria Road, [[Preston,_Lancashire]]. He grew up on his parents’ ranch near [[Circleville,_Utah]], 215 miles (346 km) south of [[Salt_Lake_City,_Utah]].

Parker left home during his early teens, and while working at a dairy farm, he fell in with Mike Cassidy, a horse thief and cattle rustler. He subsequently worked several ranches in addition to a brief stint as a butcher in [[Rock_Springs,_Wyoming]], when he acquired the nickname “Butch”, to which he soon appended the surname Cassidy in honor of his old friend and mentor. (A “Butch” is also the name given to a borrowed gun.)

Life as a criminal

1880–1887 — first incidents, becoming a robber

Parker’s first brush with the law was a petty affair. Around 1880, he made a long journey to a clothier’s shop in another town only to find the shop closed. He entered the shop and removed a pair of jeans, leaving an [[IOU]] that he would pay for it upon his next visit. However, the clothier took down the details which Parker had included in the IOU and reported him. After a stubborn resistance to the resultant charges in court, he was acquitted.

He continued to do ranch work until 1884 when he briefly moved to [[Telluride,_Colorado]], ostensibly to find work but possibly to deliver stolen horses to buyers there. He then returned to ranch work, in [[Wyoming]] and in [[Montana]], before returning again to Telluride in 1887, where he then met [[Matthew_Warner]], the owner of a race horse. Together the two raced the horse at various events, dividing the profits between them. Through this line of enterprise he soon met, again in Telluride, William and Thomas McCarty, who may have been instrumental in introducing Parker to the ideas and strategies of train and bank_robbery.

Parker, Warner and Thomas McCarty may have been responsible for the robbery, on [[November_3]] [[1887]], of a train near [[Grand_Junction,_Colorado]], where the train’s safe-master had assured them that nobody aboard had the safe’s combination, and so, gathering together what other spoils they could, they had made off with a modest $150.

1889–1894 — early robberies, going to prison

However this trio, together with an unknown fourth man, was responsible for the robbery on [[June_24]] [[1889]], of the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride in which they stole approximately $21,000, after which they fled to the [[Robbers_Roost]], a remote hideout in southeastern Utah.

In 1890, Parker purchased a ranch near [[Dubois,_Wyoming]]. This location is close to the notorious [[Hole-in-the-Wall]], a natural geological formation which afforded outlaws much welcomed protection and cover, and so the suspicion has always existed that Parker’s ranching, at which he was never economically successful, was in fact a façade which operated to conceal more clandestine activities, perhaps in conjunction with Hole-in-the-Wall outlaws.

In early 1894, Parker became involved romantically with female [[Old West]] outlaw and rancher [[Ann_Bassett]]. Bassett’s father, rancher Herb Bassett, did business with Parker, supplying him with fresh horses and beef. That same year, Parker was arrested at [[Lander,_Wyoming]], for stealing horses and possibly for running a protection racket among the local ranchers there. Imprisoned in the state prison in [[Laramie,_Wyoming]], he served 18 months of a two-year sentence and was released in January 1896, having promised Governor [[William_Alford_Richards]] that he would not again offend in that state in return for a partial remission of his sentence. Upon his release, he became involved briefly with Ann_Bassett’s older sister, [[Josie]], then returned to his involvement with Ann.

1896–1897 — leaving prison, forming the Wild_Bunch

Upon his release he associated himself with a circle of criminals, most notably his closest friend [[Elzy_Lay]], [[Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan]], [[Ben_Kilpatrick]], [[Harry_Tracy]], [[Will “News” Carver]], [[Laura_Bullion]], and [[George Curry]], who together with others he formed into a gang known as the [[Wild_Bunch]], and with this his criminal activity increased considerably. Despite the Wild_Bunch often being portrayed as mostly non-violent, in reality the gang was responsible for numerous killings during their robbery reign.

On [[August_13]] [[1896]] Parker, Lay, Kid Curry and an unknown fourth man robbed the bank at [[Montpelier,_Idaho]], escaping with approximately $7,000. Shortly thereafter he recruited Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, alias the [[Sundance_Kid]], a [[Pennsylvania]] native, into the Wild_Bunch.

In early 1897, Parker was joined at “Robbers_Roost” by his off and on girlfriend Ann_Bassett, Elzy_Lay, and Lay’s girlfriend Maude Davis. The four hid out there until early April, when Lay and Parker sent the women home so that they could plan their next robbery. On [[April_21]], [[1897]], in the mining town of [[Castle_Gate,_Utah]], Parker and Lay ambushed a small group of men carrying the payroll of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company from the railroad station to their office, liberating a sack containing $7,000 in gold, with which they again fled to the Robber’s Roost.

On [[June_2]], [[1899]], the gang robbed a [[Union_Pacific]] overland flyer near [[Wilcox,_Wyoming]], a robbery that became famous and which resulted in a massive man hunt. Many notable lawmen of the day took part in the hunt for the robbers, but they were not found.

During one shootout with lawmen following that robbery, both Kid Curry and George Curry shot and killed Sheriff Joe Hazen. Noted killer for hire and contract employee of the [[Pinkerton National Detective Agency|Pinkerton Agency]], [[Tom_Horn]], obtained information from explosives expert Bill Speck that revealed that they had shot Hazen, which Horn passed on to Pinkerton detective [[Charlie_Siringo]]. The gang escaped into the Hole-In-The-Wall. Siringo was assigned the task of bringing the outlaw gang in. He became friends with Elfie Landusky, who was by then going by the last name Curry alleging that Lonny Curry, Kid Curry’s brother, had gotten her pregnant. Through her, Siringo intended to locate the gang.

On [[July_11]] [[1899]], Lay and others were involved in a train robbery near [[Folsom,_New_Mexico]], which Parker may have planned and may have been directly involved in, which led to a shootout with local law enforcers in which Lay, arguably Parker’s best friend and closest confidante, killed Sheriff Edward Farr and [[posseman]] Henry Love, leading to his imprisonment for life in the New Mexico State Penitentiary.

As was a common trait with the Wild_Bunch gang, they would most often split up following a robbery, heading in different directions. The members of the gang would generally reunite at a set location, which was at times back at the Hole in the Wall hideout, at other times at “Robbers_Roost”, or they would meet at Madame [[Fannie_Porter]]s [[brothel]], in [[San_Antonio,_Texas]].

Failed attempt at amnesty

Perhaps in consequence of the loss of Lay, Parker appears to have approached Governor [[Heber_Wells]] of Utah, which had joined the [[Union]] in 1896, to negotiate an amnesty, but Wells appears to have recoiled from this, advising Parker to instead approach the [[Union_Pacific Railroad]] and settle matters with them in such manner as to persuade them to drop their criminal complaints against him.

However, possibly because of bad weather, this meeting never went ahead, and Parker, disillusioned with both the Union_Pacific and with the politicians with whom he had sought to deal, expressed his contempt at the whole situation. The Union_Pacific Railroad, under chairman [[E._H._Harriman]], did subsequently attempt to meet with Parker, through Parker’s old ally Matthew_Warner, who had been released from prison. But on [[August_29]], [[1900]], Parker and Harry Longabaugh and others robbed a Union_Pacific train near [[Tipton,_Wyoming]], which was a violation of Parker’s earlier promise to the governor of Wyoming not to offend again in that state. The robbery brought the proceedings to a premature conclusion, and several other factors complicated any amnesty attempts.

On [[February_28]], [[1900]], lawmen had attempted to arrest Kid Curry’s brother Lonny Curry at his aunt’s home. Lonny was killed in the shootout that followed, and his cousin Bob Lee was arrested for [[rustling]] and sent to [[prison]] in Wyoming. On [[March_28]], Kid Curry and Bill Carver were pursued by a posse out of [[St._Johns,_Arizona]], after being identified as passing notes possibly from the Wilcox,_Wyoming, robbery. The posse caught up to them and engaged them in a shootout, during which Deputy Andrew Gibbons and Deputy Frank Leseuer were killed. Carver and Curry escaped. On [[April_17]], George Curry was killed in a shootout with [[Grand_County,_Utah]], Sheriff John Tyler and Deputy Sam Jenkins. On [[May_26]], Kid Curry rode into [[Moab,_Utah]], and killed both Tyler and Jenkins in a brazen shootout, in retaliation for them having killed outlaw George Curry, and for other lawmen having killed his brother Lonny.

Parker, Longabaugh and Bill Carver traveled to [[Winnemucca,_Nevada]], where on [[September_19]] [[1900]], they robbed the [[First_National_Bank]] of $32,640. In December, Parker posed in [[Fort_Worth,_Texas]] for the now-famous Fort Worth Five Photograph which depicts Parker, Longabaugh, Harvey Logan (alias Kid Curry), Ben_Kilpatrick and William Carver. The [[Pinkerton Detective Agency] obtained a copy of the photograph and began to use it for its latest wanted posters.

Siringo, still working the case for the Pinkerton’s, was by 1901 in Circleville,_Utah, where Parker had been raised. Kid Curry rejoined the gang, and together with Parker and Longabaugh they hit another Union_Pacific train near [[Wagner,_Montana]]. This time, they took over $60,000 in cash. Again the gang split up, and gang member Will Carver was killed by one pursuing posse led by Sheriff Elijah Briant. On [[December_12]], [[1901]], gang member Ben_Kilpatrick was captured in [[Knoxville,_Tennessee]], along with Laura_Bullion. On [[December_13]], during a shootout with lawmen, Kid Curry killed Knoxville policemen Willian Dinwiddle and Robert Saylor, and escaped. Curry, despite being pursued by Pinkerton agents and other [[law_enforcement]] officials, returned to Montana, where he shot and killed rancher James Winters, responsible for the killing of his brother Johnny years before. http://hometown.aol.com/Gibson0817/KidCurry.htm

1901 — media exposure, travel to South America

Parker and Longabaugh then fled east to [[New_York_City]], and on [[February_20]] [[1901]], together with [[Ethel “Etta” Place]], Longabaugh’s female companion, they departed to [[Buenos_Aires]], [[Argentina]], aboard the British steamer Herminius, Parker posing as James Ryan, Place’s fictional brother.

There he settled with Longabaugh and Place on a small ranch which they purchased near [[Cholila]], [[Chubut]] province in west-central Argentina near the [[Andes]], which comprised of a four-room log cabin and 15,000 [[acre]]s (61 km²) of land on the east bank of the Rio Blanco.

1905 and his last years — his biggest robbery, evading the law

On [[February_14]] [[1905]], two English-speaking bandits, who may have been Parker and Longabaugh, held up the Banco de Tarapacá y Argentino in [[Río_Gallegos]], 700 miles (1,130 km) south of Cholila, near the [[Strait_of_Magellan]]. Escaping with a sum that would be worth at least US $100,000 today, the pair vanished north across the bleak Patagonian steppes.

On [[May_1]], the trio sold the Cholila ranch because the law was beginning to catch up with them. The Pinkerton Agency had known their location for some time, but the rainy season had prevented their assigned agent, Frank Dimaio, from traveling there and making an arrest. Governor Julio Lezana had then issued an arrest warrant, but before it could be executed Sheriff Edward Humphreys, a Welsh Argentine who was friendly with Parker and enamored of Etta Place, tipped them off.

The trio fled north to [[San_Carlos_de_Bariloche]] where they embarked on the steamer Condor across [[Lake_Nahuel_Huapi]] and into [[Chile]]. However by the end of that year they were again back in Argentina; on [[December_19]], Parker, Longabaugh, Place and an unknown male took part in the robbery of the Banco de la Nacion in Villa Mercedes, 400 miles (650 km) west of Buenos_Aires, taking 12,000 pesos. Pursued by armed lawmen, they crossed the [[Pampas]] and the [[Andes]] and again into the safety of Chile.

On [[June_30]] [[1906]], Etta Place, having lamented the loss of their ranch, decided that she had had enough of life on the run and was escorted back to [[San_Francisco]] by Longabaugh. Parker, under the alias James “Santiago” Maxwell, obtained work at the Concordia Tin Mine in the Santa Vela Cruz range of the central [[Bolivia]]n Andes, where he was joined by Longabaugh upon his return. Their main duties included guarding the company payroll. Still wanting to settle down as a respectable rancher, Parker, late in 1907, made an excursion with Longabaugh to [[Santa Cruz]], a frontier town in Bolivia’s eastern savannah, and from here Parker wrote to friends at Concordia, saying that he had found “just the place I’ve been looking for 20 years”.

At 41, he seemed to be burdened with regret. In the same document he laments, “Oh God, if I could call back 20 years … I would be happy”. He marveled at the affordability of good land with plenty of water and grazing, and made a prediction: “If I don’t fall down I will be living here before long”.


The facts surrounding Parker’s death are uncertain. On [[November_3]] [[1908]], near [[San_Vicente]] in southern Bolivia, a courier for the Aramayo Franke y Cia Silver Mine was conveying his company’s payroll by mule when he was attacked and robbed by two American bandits. The bandits then proceeded to San_Vicente where they lodged. Three nights later, on [[November_6]], their lodging house was surrounded by a small group comprising the local mayor and some of his officials, and two soldiers. A gunfight then ensued, during which, in a lull in the firing, a single shot inside the house was heard, followed by a man screaming, which in turn was followed by another single shot. The locals kept the place surrounded until the next morning when, cautiously entering, they found two dead bodies, both with numerous wounds to the arms and legs, one with a bullet hole in the forehead and the other with a hole in the temple. Both bodies, apparently suicides, were removed to the local San_Vicente cemetery where they were buried close to the grave of a German miner named Gustav Zimmer. Although their unmarked grave has been sought in the 1990s, notably by the American forensic anthropologist [[Clyde_Snow]] and his researchers in 1991, no remains with [[DNA]] matching them to the living relatives of Parker and Longabaugh have yet been discovered.

However, there were claims, such as by Parker’s sister [[Lula_Parker_Betenson]], that he returned alive to the U.S. and lived in anonymity for years.

In her biography of her brother, Butch Cassidy, My Brother, Betenson cites several instances of people familiar with Parker who encountered him long after 1908, and she relates a detailed impromptu “family reunion” which included Parker, their brother Mark, their father, and Lula, in 1925. There is anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that Longabaugh also returned to the U.S. and died in 1936. http://www.sundancekidhenrylong.com/

[[John_McPhee]] in Annals of the Former World repeats a story told to geologist David Love (1913-2002) by Love’s family doctor, Francis Smith, M.D., when Love was a doctoral student (thus dating the incident to approximately 1935). Smith had just seen Parker. Parker told Smith that his face had been altered by a surgeon in [[Paris]], but he showed Smith a repaired bullet wound that Smith recognized as work he had previously done on Parker. (McPhee, pg 358)

Western historian [[Charles_Kelly]] closed the chapter “Is Butch Cassidy Dead?” in his 1938 book, Outlaw Trail, by observing that if Parker “is still alive, as these rumors claim, it seems exceedingly strange that he has not returned to Circleville,_Utah, to visit his old father, Maximillian Parker, who died on July 28, 1938, at the age of 94 years”. Kelly is thought to have interviewed Parker’s father, but no known transcript of such an interview exists.

All correspondence from both Parker and Longabaugh ceased after the San_Vicente incident.


Alleged friends

  • [[William_T._Phillips]] claimed to have known Butch Cassidy since childhood.http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/pbb&CISOPTR=203&REC=13 Some have speculated that Phillips was Butch Cassidy, but no evidence supports the claims.
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