Robert Leroy Parker (April 13, 1866 – November 7, 1908), better known as Butch Cassidy, 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.
Robert Leroy Parker was born on April 13, 1866, in Beaver, Utah, the first of 13 children born to British immigrants Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies. The Parker and Gillies families had converted in England and Scotland to the Mormon faith and emigrated to Utah. Maximilian Parker was 12 when his family arrived in Salt Lake in 1856 as Mormon pioneers; Ann Gillies arrived with her family in 1859, aged 14. The two were married in July 1865. In 2008 documented evidence highlighted, 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, where she later married Butch's father, Maximilian Parker, in Utah.
Robert grew up on their ranch near Circleville, Utah, 346 km (215 mi) south of Salt Lake City. He left home during his early teens. While working at a dairy farm, he formed a close relationship with his mentor, 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.
Butch Cassidy's first offense was minor. Around 1880, he journeyed to a clothier's shop in another town but found 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. The clothier pressed charges. Cassidy 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 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.
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 protection and cover, so it is possible that Cassidy's ranching, at which he was never economically successful, was a façade for clandestine activities, perhaps with Hole-in-the-Wall outlaws.
In early 1894, Cassidy became involved romantically with 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. He was imprisoned in the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie, Wyoming. After serving 18 months of a two-year sentence, he was released and pardoned in January 1896 by Governor William Alford Richards. He became involved briefly with Ann Bassett's older sister, Josie, before returning to Ann.
1896–97: formation of the Wild Bunch
He associated 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 became the nucleus of the Wild Bunch.
On August 13, 1896, Cassidy, Lay, Harvey Logan and Bob Meeks 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 Ann Bassett, Elzy Lay, and Lay's girlfriend Maude Davis. The four hid there until early April, when Lay and Cassidy sent the women home so that they could plan their next robbery. On April 22, 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, stealing a sack containing $7,000 in gold, with which they 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 manhunt. Many notable lawmen of the day took part in the hunt for the robbers, but they were not found.
During a shootout with lawmen following that robbery, both Kid Curry and George Curry shot and killed Sheriff Joe Hazen. Tom Horn, a killer for hire employed by the Pinkerton Agency, obtained information from explosives expert Bill Speck about the Hazen shooting, and Horn passed this information 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 using the last name Curry after allegedly becoming pregnant by Kid Curry's brother, Lonny. Through her, Siringo intended to locate the gang.
On July 11, 1899, Lay and others were involved in a Colorado and Southern Railroad train robbery near Folsom, New Mexico, which Cassidy may have planned and personally directed. A shootout ensued with local law enforcement in which Lay killed Sheriff Edward Farr and Henry Love; Lay was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at New Mexico State Penitentiary.
The Wild Bunch would separate following a robbery and flee in different directions, reuniting at a predetermined location, such as the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout, Robbers Roost, or Madame Fannie Porter's brothel in San Antonio, Texas.
1896 plea for amnesty
Cassidy appears to have approached Governor Heber Wells of Utah, which achieved statehood 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. Union Pacific Railroad chairman E. H. Harriman attempted to meet with Cassidy through his old ally Matthew Warner. On August 29, 1900, Cassidy, Longabaugh and others robbed Union Pacific train No. 3 near Tipton, Wyoming, violating Cassidy's earlier promise to the governor of Wyoming, and ending any chance for amnesty.
On February 28, 1900, lawmen attempted to arrest Kid Curry's brother, Lonny, 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 from St. Johns, Apache County, Arizona, after being identified passing currency from the Wilcox, Wyoming, robbery. The posse 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 another shootout, in retaliation for the deaths of Curry and Lonny.
Cassidy, Longabaugh, and Bill Carver traveled to Winnemucca, Nevada, where on September 19, 1900, they robbed the First National Bank of $32,640. In December, Cassidy posed in Fort Worth, Texas for the now-famous Fort Worth Five Photograph, which depicts Parker, Longabaugh, Harvey Logan, Ben Kilpatrick and William Carver. The Pinkerton Detective Agency obtained a copy of the photograph and began to use it for its wanted posters.
On July 3, 1901, Kid Curry and a group of men robbed the Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana. This time, they took over $60,000 in cash. The gang split up, and gang member Will Carver was killed by a posse led by Sheriff Elijah Briant. On December 12, 1901, gang member Ben Kilpatrick was captured in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Laura Bullion. On December 13, during another shootout, Kid Curry killed Knoxville policemen William Dinwiddle and Robert Saylor and escaped. Despite being pursued by Pinkerton agents and other law enforcement officials, Curry returned to Montana, where he shot and killed rancher James Winters in retaliation for the killing of his brother Johnny years before.
1901: South America
Cassidy and Longabaugh fled to New York City. On February 20, 1901, with Etta Place, Longabaugh's female companion, they departed to Buenos Aires, aboard the British steamer Herminius. Cassidy posed as James Ryan, Place's fictitious brother. They settled 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, Argentina near the Andes.
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 Patagonian steppes.
On May 1, fearing that law enforcement had located them, the trio sold the Cholila ranch. The Pinkerton Agency had known their location for some time, but the snow and the hard winter of Patagonia had prevented their agent, Frank Dimaio, from making an arrest. Governor Julio Lezana 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 Huapí Lake and into Chile. By the end of that year they returned to Argentina; on December 19, Cassidy, Longabaugh, Place and an unknown male associate robbed the Banco de la Nación branch 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 to reach 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. Their main duties included guarding the company payroll. Still wanting to settle down as a respectable rancher, in late 1907 Cassidy traveled with Longabaugh to Santa Cruz, a frontier town in Bolivia's eastern savannah.
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.
Casasola became suspicious of his two foreign lodgers. A mule they had in their possession was from the Aramayo Mine, identifiable from the mine company brand 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, 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 the 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 survival
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.
In a 1960 interview, Josie Bassett claimed 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." Locals of Cassidy's hometown of Circleville, Utah, claimed in an interview that Cassidy worked in Nevada until his death.
Western historian Charles Kelly closed the chapter "Is Butch Cassidy Dead?" in his 1938 book, The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, 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.
A second-season episode of the television series In Search Of... (1978) examines the claims and possible evidence for Butch Cassidy's return to North America during the 1920s.
- George Parker
- George Cassidy
- Lowe Maxwell
- James "Santiago" Maxwell
- James Ryan
- Butch Casady
- Santiago Lowe
- Patterson, Richard. Butch Cassidy's Surrender Offer. HistoryNet.com. February 2006. Accessed 13 June 2008.
- ^ "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid." The Mythical West: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Lore, and Popular Culture. 2001. reprinted at OurworldCompuserv.com.
- William T. Phillips claimed to have known Butch Cassidy since childhood. In his book, In Search of Butch Cassidy, Larry Pointer speculated that Phillips was actually Butch Cassidy, based upon stories in Phillip's unpublished manuscript, The Bandit Invincible, and a resemblance between Phillips and Cassidy. However, in 2012, Pointer obtained a copy of the Wyoming Territorial Prison mugshot of William T. Wilcox, a previously unknown associate of Butch Cassidy. Observing the similarities between the two men, he revised his previous theory and concluded that Phillips was in fact Wilcox, and not Butch Cassidy.
- 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.
- Pointer, Larry (1977). In Search of Butch Cassidy. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0806121437.
- Kershner, Jim (July 22, 2012). "Man who wrote Butch Cassidy died in Spokane changes story". www.spokesman.com. Spokesman Review. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
In popular culture
- 1967: Alias Butch Cassidy is a novel written by Henry Wilson Allen under the pseudonym Will Henry.
- 1990: The Mystery novel Coyote Waits by Tony Hillerman is about a fictional 'lost treasure' hidden by Butch Cassidy.
- 2009: He appears as in Kouta Hirano's Drifters, alongside Sundance Kid, as a Drifter that is sent to unknown realm to battle against the Ends.
- 1969: In the Death Valley Days episode "Drop Out," a young Butch Cassidy is played by Michael Margotta.
- 2005: In The Office episode "Office Olympics", Dwight says that he would be the Butch Cassidy to Michael's Mozart saying he would resort to Butch Cassidy tactics to protect his boss.
- 2013: In Parks and Recreation episode "The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic," Chris and Ben say their nicknames are Butch Count-sidy and the Sum-dance Kid, because accounting is part of their job. Another reason for the joke could be that Ben's last name is Wyatt, like outlaw wrangler Sheriff Wyatt Earp.
- 2014: In the special "Patagonia Special" episode of BBC Two motoring show Top Gear, the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is discussed and referenced. The show's presenters also visit Cassidy's final resting place.
- 2015: In the PBS series Globe Trekker, the episode "Globe Trekker Road Trip: Patagonia" shows Zay Harding interviewing a historian near Cholila, Argentina, in the Patagonia region. Butch Cassidy had lived in the area.
- 1951: The Texas Rangers is a film where Cassidy is played by John Doucette and the Sundance Kid is played by Ian MacDonald. They square off against two convicts recruited by John B. Jones to bring them to justice.
- 1956: The Three Outlaws, starring Neville Brand as Butch Cassidy and Alan Hale Jr as the Sundance Kid, is a film about the famed outlaws' lives with Wild Bunch member William "News" Carver.
- 1956: Butch and Sundance appear as supporting characters in the film The Maverick Queen.
- 1965: Cat Ballou is a Comedy Western where a fictionalized version of Butch Cassidy is played by Arthur Hunnicutt.
- 1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a film where Butch Cassidy is played by Paul Newman and Sundance is played by Robert Redford.
- 1969: The Wild Bunch is a film, directed by Sam Peckinpah, that is loosely based on Butch Cassidy's exploits. Butch Cassidy is played by William Holden.
- 1979: Butch and Sundance: The Early Days is a film that is a prequel to the 1969 Paul Newman film. Butch Cassidy is played by Tom Berenger and Sundance is played by William Katt.
- 1994: The Gambler V: Playing for Keeps is a film about a fictionalized adventure where the main character finds out his son is running with the Wild Bunch. Butch Cassidy is played by Scott Paulin.
- 1999: The Secret of Giving is a Family movie that has a fictionalized version of Butch Cassidy under the alias Harry Withers. He is played by Thomas Ian Griffith.
- 2006: Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy is an Adventure film about a ficitonal 'lost treasure' hidden by Butch Cassidy.
- 2006: The Legend of Butch & Sundance] is a film that has David Clayton Rogers as Butch, Ryan Browning as Sundance, and Rachelle Lefevre as Etta Place.
- 2011: Blackthorn is a film that stars Sam Shepard as a fictionalized version of Butch who is going by the alias James Blackthorn.
- 2013: Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts is a film that has a fictionalized version of Butch, played by Kerry James.
- "Drop Out on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. April 25, 1969. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
- Clarkson, Jeremy; Hammond, Richard; May, James (27–28 December 2014). "Patagonia Special". Top Gear. BBC Two.
- The Three Outlaws at the Internet Movie Database
- The Secret of Giving at the Internet Movie Database
- The Legend of Butch & Sundance at the Internet Movie Database