Circleville, Utah Butch Cassidy's Cabin
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Butch Cassidy

          Of all Western outlaws, none are more fondly remembered in story and folklore than the "Robin Hood of the West," Butch Cassidy - the alias of Robert LeRoy Parker. Parker was born 13 April 1866 in Beaver, Utah, and was raised by Mormon pioneer parents on a ranch near Circleville, Utah. While a teenager, Parker fell under the influence of an old rustler named Mike Cassidy. Parker soon left home to ride the outlaw trail.

Robert Leroy Parker AKA Butch Cassidy          For the first several years after leaving home, Parker rode the fringe between being an outlaw and a migrant cowboy. He worked several ranches as well as one time in a butcher shop at Rock Springs, Wyoming, from which he took the name "Butch"; and to not bring shame upon honest parents, he added the name Cassidy, most likely in respect for his old mentor. Moving from rustler, for which he served a two-year stint in a Wyoming jail from 1894 to 1896, to master planner of the robbery of trains, banks, and mine payrolls came naturally for Cassidy. With his quick wit and native charm, coupled with his fearlessness and bravery, he never lacked for willing companions to assist in his plans. By 1896 his gang dubbed themselves the "Wild Bunch." This gang consisted of several notorious Western outlaws including Harry Longabaugh, known as the Sundance Kid; Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry; Ben Kilpatrick, the Tall Texan; Harry Tracy, Elzy Lay, who was Butch's best friend, and several others. Operating around the turn of the century, Cassidy and his partners put together the longest sequence of successful bank and train robberies in the history of the American West.

          So many myths and legends surround the life of Butch Cassidy that it is difficult to sort fact from fiction. One popular story tells of the time when sixteen-year-old Harry Ogden from Escalante spent his savings to purchase a good horse and a sixty-dollar saddle. Young Ogden went out riding along the border of Robbers Roost in 1898, an outlaw on a jaded mount forced young Ogden off his horse, gave the boy a quick kick in the pants, then rode off on Ogden's animal. About three weeks later, Ogden received visitors at his home in Escalante. One of the men was Butch Cassidy, another was the outlaw who had stolen Ogden's horse and was still riding it. When Cassidy asked Ogden if he had lost a horse, the boy quickly identified it. Butch Cassidy then ordered the outlaw off the horse and told him "to start walking." He then said, "We don't have any room in this country for a man who will mistreat a young boy."

          One of the first major crimes attributed to Cassidy is the robbery of the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, on June 24, 1889. Matt Warner, Tom McCarty and Butch Cassidy got away with $20,750 by thoroughly casing the joint first. The bandits then made their way to a Hideout in Brown's Hole, along the Green River at the Utah-Wyoming border.

          The first robbery credited to the Wild Bunch was the August 13, 1896 holdup of a bank in Montpelier, Idaho. This robbery showed the trappings of what would become the Wild Bunch signature holdup: a well-planned attack. The bandits made off with $7,165.

          The gang next executed perhaps their most spectacular robbery when they stole the $8,800 payroll from the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Castle Gate. This was the gangs one and only major holdup in Utah. On April 21st, 1897 the train from Salt Lake City entered Castle Gate carrying the payroll for the Pleasant Valley Coal Company. Men carrying the money were making their way through town towards the company office when they were robbed of the $8,800 they were carrying and then fled to Robbers Roost, cutting telegraph wires along the trail to prevent the news of the robbery from spreading to lawmen along their escape route.

          Their next target was the Overland Flyer train near Wilcox, Wyoming. The gang pulled the job on June 2, 1899 and pilfered $60,000. There was a shootout, but the Wild Bunch got away. Next to experience the wrath of the Wild Bunch was a Rio Grande train near Folsom, New Mexico. On July 11, 1899 the gang hit what would become their ultimate prize when they made off with $70,000. The gang next robbed the Union Pacific train at Tipton, Wyoming on August 29, 1900. The gang made off with $55,000. The robbers were identified by passengers on the train as Butch, Sundance, Kid Curry, Tall Texan, and Bill Cruzan. By this time Butch had begun to formula a plan of going to South America. To finance the plan, he took the Wild Bunch to Winnemucca, Nevada to rob the bank. On September 9, 1900, they stole $32,640. The last holdup attributed to the Wild Bunch was the $65,000 robbery of the Northern Pacific Train on July 3, 1901 near Wagner, Montana. After that, the Wild Bunch scattered.

          Successfully eluding the law became difficult as the west grew more populated and law enforcement became better organized. When the railroads hired the Pinkerton Agency to chase down Cassidy, he and Harry Longabaugh, along with Etta Place, went to South America and purchased a ranch in Argentina. After a few short years of trying to make it as honest ranchers, the pair returned to easier methods of obtaining money. After robbing banks in several South American countries the trail of the pair grows mystical.

          What happened next is the mystery surrounding Butch Cassidy. Some claim he and Sundance were killed when trapped by Bolivian soldiers, others emphatically believe that another pair of outlaws were killed by the troops and that Cassidy and Longabaugh purposefully let it be known they had been killed. The oft-told stories relate that the pair returned to the West and lived out their lives under alias names and identities. Like many other Western figures, Butch Cassidy has become larger than life. His name still generates fond recollections from many Utah old-timers who love to tell stories about him. Whether he died in South America or died of old age under one of the several identities that are attributed to him may never be fully proven.

Article courtesy of Shane Burrows from Climb-Utah.com