Butch Cassidy

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Butch Cassidy
Butchcassidy.jpg
Born Robert Leroy Parker
(1866-04-13)April 13, 1866
Beaver, Utah, United States
Died November 7, 1908(1908-11-07) (aged 42)
near San Vicente, Bolivia
Cause of death
Gunshot
Nationality American
Other names Butch Cassidy, Mike Cassidy, George Cassidy, Jim Lowe, Santiago Maxwell,
Occupation
Criminal charge
Horse thief, cattle rustling, bank and train robbery
Criminal penalty
Served 18 months of 2-year sentence; released January 1896
Parents
  • Maximillian Parker
  • Ann Campbell Gillies
Allegiance Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch
Conviction(s) Imprisoned in the state prison in Laramie, Wyoming for horse theft

Robert Leroy Parker (April 13, 1866 – November 7, 1908), better known as Butch Cassidy,[1] was a notorious American train robber, bank robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch gang in the American Old West.

After pursuing a career in crime for several years in the United States, the pressures of being pursued, notably by the Pinkerton detective agency, forced him to flee with an accomplice, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, known as the Sundance Kid, and Longabaugh's girlfriend, Etta Place. The trio fled first to Argentina and then to Bolivia, where Parker and Longabaugh were probably killed in a shootout in November 1908.

Ancestry and early life[edit]

Robert Leroy Parker was born on April 13, 1866, in Beaver, Utah, to Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies, English immigrants who came to the Utah Territory in the late 1850s.[2] Ann Gillies, the mother of Butch Cassidy, was born and lived on Tyneside, in the north east of England, before moving to America with her parents in the 1850s, where she married Butch's father, Maximilian Parker, in Utah.[3]

Maximillian Parker's parents, Robert and Ann (Hartley) Parker had lived in Victoria Road in Preston, Lancashire, England. Robert Parker's father Thomas Parker had entered into a business relationship with a cousin named John Dickens, father of the future novelist Charles Dickens. The enterprise failed, and both Dickens and Parker were committed to the Marshalsea prison in Southwark. Robert Parker grew up homeless and starving on the streets of London and Manchester, and according to family history, learned to beg and steal to support his mother. His descendants believed that Charles Dickens used Robert Parker as the model for the character Oliver Twist. Robert Parker joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while working as a master weaver in the woolen mills in the city of Manchester. In 1855 he took his wife and children to the United States, eventually joining a handcart company and arriving in Utah.[4]

Robert Leroy Parker, named for his grandfather, was the first of the 13 children of Maximillian and Ann Parker. He grew up on their ranch near Circleville, Utah, 346 km (215 mi) south of Salt Lake City, Utah. He left home during his early teens, and while working at a dairy farm, looked up to, and was mentored by a cowboy and cattle rustler who called himself Mike Cassidy (an alias for John Tolliver "J. T." McClammy). Parker subsequently worked at 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.

Life as a robber[edit]

1880–1887 — first incidents, becoming a robber[edit]

Butch Cassidy's first offense was minor. Around 1880, he journeyed to a clothier's shop in another town only to find the shop closed. He entered the shop and took a pair of jeans and some pie, leaving an IOU promising to pay on his next visit. However, the clothier pressed charges. He was acquitted at a jury trial.

He continued to work on ranches until 1884, when he moved to Telluride, Colorado, ostensibly to seek work but perhaps to deliver stolen horses to buyers. He led a cowboy's life in Wyoming and in Montana, before returning to Telluride in 1887. There he met Matt Warner, the owner of a race horse. The men raced the horse at various events, dividing the winnings between them.

1889–1895 — Early robberies, going to prison[edit]

The white building at right housed the San Miguel Valley Bank, site of Cassidy's first bank robbery in 1889.

On June 24, 1889, Cassidy, Warner and two of the McCarty Brothers robbed 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.

Cassidy purchased a ranch in 1890 near Dubois, Wyoming. This location is across the state from the notorious Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural geological formation which afforded outlaws much welcomed protection and cover, so it is possible that Cassidy's ranching, at which he was never economically successful, was in fact a façade for clandestine activities, perhaps with Hole-in-the-Wall outlaws.[5]

In early 1894, Cassidy became involved romantically with Old West outlaw and rancher Ann Bassett. Bassett's father, rancher Herb Bassett, did business with Cassidy, supplying him with fresh horses and beef. That same year, Cassidy was arrested at Lander, Wyoming, for stealing horses and possibly for running a protection racket among the local ranchers there. Imprisoned in the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie, 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, and then returned to his involvement with Ann.

1896–1897 — Leaving prison and forming the Wild Bunch[edit]

Cassidy's mugshot from the Wyoming Territorial Prison in 1894.
The Sundance Kid The Tall Texan Butch Cassidy News Carver Kid Curry Click for larger image
Cassidy is seated on the far right Click a person for more information.

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, formed a gang known as the Wild Bunch, and with this his criminal activity increased considerably. Although there is some controversy as to how violent the Wild Bunch may or may not have been, there is no definitive historical record of any member of The Wild Bunch being charged with murder.[6]

On August 13, 1896, Cassidy, Lay, Harvey Logan and Bob Meeks[7] robbed the bank at Montpelier, Idaho, escaping with approximately $7,000. Shortly thereafter he recruited Harry Longabaugh, alias "The Sundance Kid", a native of Pennsylvania, into the Wild Bunch.

In early 1897, Cassidy 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 Cassidy sent the women home so that they could plan their next robbery. On April 21, 1897, in the mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, Cassidy and Lay ambushed a small group of men carrying the payroll of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company from the railroad station to their office, stealing a sack containing $7,000 in gold, with which they again fled to the Robbers 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.[8][9] 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 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 capturing the outlaw gang. 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 Cassidy may have planned and may have been directly involved in, which led to a shootout with local law enforcers in which Lay, arguably Cassidy'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.

The Wild Bunch would usually split up following a robbery, heading in different directions, and later reunite at a set location, such as the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout, "Robbers Roost", or Madame Fannie Porter's brothel, in San Antonio, Texas. The Hole-in-the-Wall hideout has been assembled at Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming. It was built in 1883 by Alexander Ghent.[10]

Failed attempt at amnesty[edit]

Perhaps as a consequence of the loss of Lay, Cassidy appears to have approached Governor Heber Wells of Utah, which had joined the Union in 1896, to negotiate an amnesty. Wells appears to have declined, advising Cassidy to instead approach the Union Pacific Railroad to persuade them to drop their criminal complaints against him. This meeting never took place, however, possibly because of bad weather. The Union Pacific Railroad, under chairman E. H. Harriman, subsequently attempted to meet with Cassidy, through his old ally Matthew Warner, who had been released from prison. On August 29, 1900, however, Cassidy, Longabaugh and others robbed a Union Pacific train near Tipton, Wyoming, violating Cassidy's earlier promise to the governor of Wyoming not to offend again in that state, and effectively ending the prospects for amnesty.

Meanwhile, on February 28, 1900, lawmen 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, Apache County, Arizona, after being identified as passing notes possibly from the Wilcox, Wyoming, robbery. The posse caught up with them and engaged them in a shootout, during which Deputy Andrew Gibbons and Deputy Frank LeSueur 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 their killing of George Curry, and for the death of his brother Lonny.

Cassidy, Longabaugh, and Bill Carver traveled to Winnemucca, Nevada, where on September 19, 1900, they robbed the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada of $32,640. In December, Cassidy posed in Fort Worth, Texas for the now-famous Fort Worth Five Photograph,[11] 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.

On, July 3, 1901, Kid Curry and a group of men he had gathered robbed the Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana.[12] 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 William 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.[13]

1901 — travel to South America[edit]

Cassidy and Longabaugh then fled east to New York City, and on February 20, 1901, with Ethel "Etta" Place, Longabaugh's female companion, they departed to Buenos Aires, Argentina, aboard the British steamer Herminius, Cassidy posing as James Ryan, Place's fictional brother. There he settled with Longabaugh and Place in a four-room log cabin on a 15,000-acre (61 km2) ranch that they purchased on the east bank of the Rio Blanco near Cholila, Chubut province in west-central Argentina, near the Andes.

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

On February 14, 1905, two English-speaking bandits, who may have been Cassidy and Longabaugh, held up the Banco de Tarapacá y Argentino in Río Gallegos, 700 miles (1,100 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 Cassidy 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 Nahuel Huapi Lake and into Chile. However by the end of that year they were again back in Argentina; on December 19, Cassidy, Longabaugh, Place and an unknown male (possibly Harvey Logan) took part in the robbery of the Banco de la Nacion in Villa Mercedes, 400 miles (640 km) west of Buenos Aires, taking 12,000 pesos. Pursued by armed lawmen, they crossed the Pampas and the Andes and again reached the safety of Chile.

On June 30, 1906, Etta Place decided that she had had enough of life on the run and was escorted back to San Francisco by Longabaugh. Cassidy, under the alias James "Santiago" Maxwell, obtained work at the Concordia Tin Mine in the Santa Vera Cruz range of the central Bolivian Andes, where he was joined by Longabaugh upon his return. Ironically, their main duties included guarding the company payroll. Still wanting to settle down as a respectable rancher, Cassidy, late in 1907, made an excursion with Longabaugh to Santa Cruz, a frontier town in Bolivia's eastern savannah.

Death[edit]

The facts surrounding Butch Cassidy's death are uncertain. On November 3, 1908, near San Vicente in southern Bolivia, a courier for the Aramayo Franke and Cia Silver Mine was conveying his company's payroll, worth about 15,000 Bolivian pesos, by mule when he was attacked and robbed by two masked American bandits who were believed to be Cassidy and Longabaugh. The bandits then proceeded to the small mining town of San Vicente where they lodged in a small boarding house owned by a local resident miner named Bonifacio Casasola. When Casasola became suspicious of his two foreign lodgers, as well as a mule they had in their possession which was from the Aramayo Mine, identifiable from the mine company logo on the mule's left flank, Casasola left his house and notified a nearby telegraph officer who notified a small Bolivian Army cavalry unit stationed nearby, which was the Abaroa Regiment. The unit dispatched three soldiers, under the command of Captain Justo Concha, to San Vicente where they notified the local authorities. On the evening of November 6, the lodging house was surrounded by three soldiers, the police chief, the local mayor and some of his officials, who intended to arrest the Aramayo robbers.

When the three soldiers approached the house the bandits opened fire, killing one of the soldiers and wounding another. A gunfight then ensued. At around 2 a.m., during a lull in the firing, the police and soldiers heard a man screaming from inside the house. Soon, a single shot was heard from inside the house, whereupon the screaming stopped. Minutes later, another shot was heard.

The standoff continued as locals kept the place surrounded until the next morning when, cautiously entering, they found two dead bodies, both with numerous bullet wounds to the arms and legs. One of the men had a bullet wound in the forehead and the other had a bullet hole in the temple. The local police report speculated that, judging from the positions of the bodies, one bandit had probably shot his fatally wounded partner-in-crime to put him out of his misery, just before killing himself with his final bullet.

In the following investigation by the Tupiza police, the bandits were identified as the men who robbed the Aramayo payroll transport, but the Bolivian authorities didn't know their real names, nor could they positively identify them. The bodies were buried at the small San Vicente cemetery, where they were buried close to the grave of a German miner named Gustav Zimmer. Although attempts have been made to find their unmarked graves, notably by the American forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow and his researchers in 1991, no remains with DNA matching the living relatives of Cassidy and Longabaugh have yet been discovered.

Claims of post-1908 survival[edit]

However, there were claims, such as by Cassidy's sister Lula Parker Betenson, that he returned alive to the United States and lived in anonymity for years. In her biography Butch Cassidy, My Brother, Betenson cites several instances of people familiar with Cassidy who encountered him long after 1908, and she relates a detailed impromptu "family reunion" of Butch, their brother Mark, their father Maxi, and Lula, in 1925. In 1974 or 1975, Red Fenwick, a columnist at The Denver Post, told writer Ivan Goldman, then a reporter at the Post, that he was acquainted with Cassidy's physician. Fenwick said she was a person of absolute integrity. She told Fenwick that she had continued to treat Cassidy for many years after he supposedly was killed in Bolivia.

In his Annals of the Former World, John McPhee repeats a story told to geologist David Love in the 1930s by Love's family doctor, Francis Smith, M.D., when Love was a doctoral student. Smith stated that he had just seen Cassidy who told him that his face had been altered by a surgeon in Paris, and that he showed Smith a repaired bullet wound that Smith recognized as work he had previously done on Cassidy.[14]

In an interview with Josie Bassett, sister to Ann Bassett, in 1960, she claims that Cassidy came to visit her in the 1920s "after returning from South America" and that "Butch died in Johnnie, Nevada, about 15 years ago."[15] Another interview with locals of Cassidy's hometown of Circleville, Utah also finds claims of Cassidy working in Nevada until his death.[16]

Western historian Charles Kelly closed the chapter "Is Butch Cassidy Dead?" in his 1938 book, Outlaw Trail, by observing that if Cassidy "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.

In popular culture[edit]

Aliases[edit]

  • Butch Cassidy
  • George Parker[18]
  • George Cassidy[1]
  • Lowe Maxwell[1]
  • James "Santiago" Maxwell[19]
  • James Ryan[19]
  • Butch Casady[1]
  • Santiago Lowe

Alleged friends[edit]

  • William T. Phillips claimed to have known Butch Cassidy since childhood.[20] Some have speculated that Phillips was Butch Cassidy, but no evidence supports the claims.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d What's Up With All These Names? Bureau of Land Management. 18 January 2008. Accessed 13 June 2008.
  2. ^ U.S. Federal census, 1920, shows Maximilian Parker's family arrived in the USA in 1856; U.S. census for 1860 shows the Parker family already in Beaver, Utah.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Jeremy (2008-12-10). "Outlaw's mum born & bred on Tyneside". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2008-12-10. "Geordie lass Ann Sinclair Gillies who was born and bred on Tyneside..." 
  4. ^ Gene Halvorsen, "Gene's Family Tree": "Parker History of Robert Parker by Boren & Lee." http://www.eugenehalvorsen.blogspot.com/2011/07/parker-history-of-robert-parker-by.html Accessed March 19, 2014
  5. ^ The Outlaw Trail. Bureau of Land Management. 18 January 2008. Accessed 13 June 2008.
  6. ^ Betenson, Lula and Flack, Dora, Butch Cassidy, My Brother, Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah, 1975.
  7. ^ Idaho State Historical Society: Public Archives and Research Library, inmate files: Henry "Bob" Meeks, #574
  8. ^ "Alleged Train Robber Taken" (PDF). The New York Times. October 23, 1899. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  9. ^ "Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid: The Monpelier, Castle Gate, Wilcox and Winnemucca Robberies". Wyoming Tales and Trails. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  10. ^ Cody Wyoming: Old West Trail Town, History
  11. ^ The Wild Bunch photo.
  12. ^ http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85058130/1901-07-05/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1901&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=robbery+train&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=17&state=Utah&date2=1901&proxtext=Train+Robbery&y=8&x=14&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1
  13. ^ Gibson, Elizabeth. "Kid Curry, the Wildest of the Bunch." WOLA Journal. Spring, 1999. reprinted at HometownAOL.com.
  14. ^ McPhee, John. Annals of the Former World. 1998. ISBN 0-374-10520-0. p. 358.
  15. ^ http://www.prospector-utah.com/bassett.htm
  16. ^ "Little left of Butch's life in Circleville". Deseret News. July 24, 2006. 
  17. ^ "The Three Outlaws" (1956) at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ Patterson, Richard. Butch Cassidy's Surrender Offer. HistoryNet.com. February 2006. Accessed 13 June 2008.
  19. ^ a b "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid." The Mythical West: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Lore, and Popular Culture. 2001. reprinted at OurworldCompuserv.com.
  20. ^ Phillips, William T. The Bandit Invincible: The Story of the Outlaw Butch Cassidy. J. Willard Marriott Library. University of Utah. January 1986. Accessed 13 June 2008.

External links[edit]