Posts Tagged ‘robert leroy parker’

Butch Cassidy – Outlaw – Later Years

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

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 - Famoun Outlaw

Butch Cassidy poses for a photograph in Texas

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.

A winter time view of the chimney from a cabin at Robbers Roost.

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).

Robber's Roost Corral

A corral that still stands at Robber's Roost - East of Capitol Reef National Park

Butch Cassidy – Outlaw – His Early Years

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

When Maximillian Parker and Anne Gillies immigrated to Utah from Britain as children, they had no idea their son Robert LeRoy Parker, born April 13, 1866, would one day become one of the Wild West’s most notorious icons. Raised in Beaver and Circleville in a devoted Mormon household with 12 siblings, Robert was a resourceful and hardworking youngster, often helping out at neighboring farms and ranches. Yet he managed to get into quite a few scrapes with the law, beginning with his first crime: taking a pair of jeans from a closed shop in town and leaving a note saying he’d pay for it later.  With an unhealthy disrespect for law enforcement from young age and an acquired love for easy money, he was soon headed down the outlaw path.

Butch Cassidy House

The boyhood home of Butch Cassidy

By 1884, angry about large cattle ranches driving smaller ranches out of business (his own dad lost property in a dispute), Butch was rustling cattle from Parowan.  Hired by the big guns to cripple smaller operations by stealing their cattle, Butch gained a Robin Hood reputation, later writing, “The best way to hurt them is through their pocket book…I steal their money just to hear them holler.  Then I pass it out among those who really need it (sic).”   He adopted part of his alias from his childhood hero, Mike Cassidy, a shady ranch hand who mentored the young teen in cattle rustling and gun slinging.  His nickname, Butch, is rumored to come from a stint as a butcher while living in Wyoming.

At 18 years old Butch left home and headed for Telluride, Colorado, where he worked hard and played even harder in the local saloons. It was there that he met three of his future partners in crime, Tom and Billy McCarty and Matt Warner.  Some historians believe Butch’s first foray into hard crime was a November 3, 1887 train robbery netting $140 in cash, in Grand Junction but most believe it was the San Miguel Valley Bank heist on June 24, 1889. After making off with more than $20,000, the bandits headed for the hills: through the canyons of the Green River of the Utah-Wyoming border to Robbers’ Roost east of what is now Capitol Reef National Park.  Butch was one of the first trailblazers of the Outlaw Trail, which ran from Mexico to Montana, linking remote hideouts in hard-to-reach mazes of canyons, like Hole-in-the-Wall in Central Wyoming and the Carlisle Ranch and Robbers’ Roost in Utah.

Robbers Roost Utah

The Henry Mountains in the distance were a likely marker used by Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch to locate their hide-out - Robbers Roost.

In spite of his criminal success, Butch Cassidy actually held legitimate ranch jobs for much of his lifetime—although the ranch he set up in Wyoming in 1890 was probably a front for his outlaw operations—and he always returned to quick cash and a life of crime.  At times his crimes caught up with him and he did 18-month stint in jail for horse thieving. Originally sentenced to two years, Butch actually managed to convince the judge he would go straight—at least in the fine state of Wyoming—and was released after serving 18 months.  He immediately began recruiting outlaws to join his Wild Bunch.   Read about the later years of Butch Cassidy (Click Link).

Read more about the history of this region – here.