Butch Cassidy left the Wyoming prison in January 1896 and returned to cattle rustling for a while. With the addition of Dick Maxwell and William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay to his Wild Bunch, they headed to Montpelier, Idaho, where they made off with $7,000 in cash, gold and silver from a bank robbery. Shortly after, Harry Longabaugh—aka the Sundance Kid—joined the gang. With Butch’s nemesis, a deputy sheriff from Wyoming, hot on his trail, he and his Wild Bunch headed south to Utah.
Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch became the most notorious gang in the Wild West. Yet Butch liked to think of himself as a “gentleman bandit.” In one of his more infamous “acts of kindness,” he apologized after unknowingly accosting a priest, then chaperoned him to his destination and offered to make a donation to his church. And unlike most outlaws of the day, Butch never killed anyone—at least not that anyone could prove.
Butch made his first appearance back in Utah (where Wild Bunch second-in-command Matt Warner was in prison for murder) in April of 1897. At first Butch appeared to be just another hardscrabble loner looking for ranch work in Price, but he soon made the real reason for his presence known: he’d been scoping out the Castle Gate train station and waiting for the accountants who were transporting the payroll for the Pleasant Valley Coal Company. Butch and Elzy robbed them of almost $9,000 and then fled deep into the canyons, where the gang went their separate ways. This was the Wild Bunch’s only major hold-up in Utah, yet Robbers’ Roost, with easy access to supplies from local ranches, was always their go-to hideout. Their Robbers’ Roost corral was never discovered by lawmen during the Wild Bunch’s heyday.
The Wild Bunch’s crime spree spread to South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nevada, netting as much as seventy grand a pop, and the days of “good deeds” were over. When it came to bank and train robberies, Butch Cassidy was a mastermind, often planning the crime and then sending his cronies in to do the deed. By 1899 he’d lost Elzy and Matt Warner to prison. Always ending up back in remote Robbers’ Roost, Butch tried to save his bacon by asking Utah Governor Heber Wells for amnesty in 1990. But the heat was on, and by 1902 the Wild Bunch disbanded and Butch and the Sundance Kid left the country for South America.
Rumor had it that Butch died in South America in 1908, but he likely returned to the U.S. and lived here until his death in 1937. His wild life was dramatized in the 1969 film, ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’ The original Wild Bunch corral still stands in Robbers Roost. Read more about the Butch Cassidy early years (click on his name to the left).
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