Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch
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|Founding location||Hole-in-the-Wall, Big Horn Mountains, Johnson County, Wyoming|
|Criminal activities||Horse and cattle theft, stagecoach and highway robbery, store and bank robbery|
Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch was one of the loosely organized outlaw gangs operating out of the Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming during the Old West era in the United States. It was popularized by the 1969 movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and took its name from the original Wild Bunch. The gang was led by Butch Cassidy, and it included his closest friend Elzy Lay, the Sundance Kid, Tall Texan, News Carver, Camila "Deaf Charlie" Hanks, Laura Bullion, Flat-Nose Curry, Kid Curry and Bob Meeks. They would become the most successful train-robbing gang in history.
This Wild Bunch gang claimed to make every attempt to abstain from killing people, and Cassidy boasted of having never killed a single man or woman in his entire career. The claims about the gang were false, however. Kid Curry, George Curry, Will Carver and other members of the gang killed numerous people during law enforcement's pursuit of them. Kid Curry alone killed 9 lawmen while with the gang, and another two civilians during shootouts, becoming the gang's most feared member. Elzy Lay killed another two lawmen following a robbery, for which he was wounded, arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. "Flat-Nose" George Curry killed at least two lawmen, before being killed himself by Grand County, Utah lawmen.
The gang was also closely associated with female outlaws Ann Bassett and Josie Bassett, whose ranch near Browns Park supplied the gang often with fresh horses and beef. Both Bassett girls would become romantically involved with several members of the gang, and both would occasionally accompany the gang to one of their hideouts, called "Robbers Roost". Associations with ranchers like these in the area allowed the gang considerable mobility, giving them an easy resupply of fresh horses and supplies, and a place to hole up for a night or two.
At 1:00 a.m on June 2, 1899, Cassidy, Sundance Kid, Harvey Logan and Lay robbed a Union Pacific train near Wilcox, Wyoming. They wore masks made from white napkins, possibly pilfered from a Harvey House restaurant. In the holdup, they stole between $30,000 and $60,000. The gang split up afterward, a common ploy to throw off pursuers, and several fled to New Mexico. On July 11, 1899, gang members robbed a train near Folsom, New Mexico, without Cassidy's presence. The pursuit by a posse led by Sheriff Ed Farr culminated in two gun battles, during which Sheriff Farr and two deputies were killed. Gang member Sam Ketchum was wounded and died in custody. Elzy Lay, one of Cassidy's closest friends and cofounder of the Wild Bunch gang, was wounded and also captured.
Cassidy and the other members regrouped in Wyoming. On August 29, 1900, Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Kid Curry and another unidentified gang member believed to have been Will Carver, held up another Union Pacific train at Tipton, Wyoming. Less than a month later, on September 19, 1900, they raided the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada, stealing $32,640. These and other lucrative robberies led to much notoriety and fame.
The end of the Wild Bunch
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In early 1901, Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Cassidy's girlfriend Etta Place relocated to Patagonia, Argentina where they spent time at La Leona 110km from El aCalafate in the Province of Santa Cruz, to escape the pursuit of Pinkerton detectives and other lawmen. That same year on April 1, Will Carver was wounded by lawmen and died in May. Ben Kilpatrick and Laura Bullion were captured in Tennessee in December 1901; he received a 20-year prison sentence and she was sentenced to five years. Kid Curry killed two lawmen in Knoxville, Tennessee; he escaped capture and traveled to Montana, where he killed the rancher who had killed his brother Johnny years before. He was captured on his return to Tennessee, but escaped again. Kid Curry killed himself in Colorado in 1904 during a shootout with lawmen, for he had said that no lawman would ever take him alive. In 1908, Cassidy and Sundance were killed in a shootout with Bolivian cavalry.
Etta Place disappeared, her last known sighting in 1909 in San Francisco. She was believed[who?] to have reinvented herself as a brothel and hotel owner named Eunice Gray, in Fort Worth, Texas; recent photographic evidence refutes this. Elzy Lay was released from prison in 1906, and after a brief visit to the Bassett ranch in Utah, he relocated to California, where he became a respected businessman; he died there in 1934. Ben Kilpatrick was released from prison in 1911, and was killed during a train robbery in Texas in 1912. Laura Bullion was released from prison in 1905 and lived the remainder of her life as a seamstress, dying in Memphis, Tennessee in 1961, the last of the Wild Bunch.
In popular culture
- The Three Outlaws (1956), starring Neville Brand as Butch Cassidy and Alan Hale Jr as the Sundance Kid, is a fictional film of the duo's exploits with Wild Bunch member William "News" Carver as the third outlaw in the title.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), was directed by George Roy Hill and written by William Goldman (who won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film).
According to a PBS special entitled "The American Experience". Butch killed Sun Dance and turned the gun on himself to keep from being captured or killed by the Bolivian's.
Bennie Lee Trinity, NC