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Published on Friday, September 4, 2009

Butch Cassidy - Robert Leroy Parker

American Bank Robber and Outlaw

By Matthew Pizzolato

 

Although he started life as a small time outlaw, Butch Cassidy eventually became an American legend due to the circumstances surrounding his death.




   

Butch Cassidy was born Robert Leroy Parker in 1866 to Mormon parents in Utah. During his teenage years, he became friends with a rustler named Mike Cassidy. The young man enjoyed the outlaw life so much that he followed his mentor out of Utah and into Colorado in 1884.

For a two year period, Cassidy worked for a mining company in Telluride, Colorado. Shortly thereafter, Cassidy began participating in robberies with the McCarty gang, which operated in Colorado. The gang robbed both trains and banks, the most notable banks being the First National Bank of Denver and the San Miguel Bank at Telluride.

His nickname "Butch" came from the brief stint he worked in a butcher shop at Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1892. He added the last name of Cassidy to honor his old mentor and began rustling. He was arrested in Wyoming and served two years for rustling and was released in 1896.

Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch

After being released from prison, Cassidy migrated to Brown's Hole, a known outlaw hangout, and was also seen at the Hole in the Wall. It was at these two places that he formed what would become known as The Wild Bunch. Notable gang members include: Kid Curry, Harry Longbaugh, better known as "The Sundance Kid," and Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum.

The Wild Bunch operated across the country in states from South Dakota to New Mexico. Pinkerton agents and lawmen across the country tried to derail The Wild Bunch but to no avail. The gang became so prosperous that they even hired their own lawyer.

From 1897 to 1901, Cassidy and the Wild Bunch robbed trains and banks throughout all of the mid-West. As the long arm of the law caught up with the gang and the pressure became too great.





Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Cassidy and Sundance fled to Latin America in 1901 with a woman named Etta Place, where they passed a quiet few years. In 1906, Etta Place became ill and returned to the United States.

The two outlaws worked for a mining company in Brazil for a time, but apparently couldn't stay away from the outlaw lifestyle. After a series of bank and train robberies in Brazil, they were both reportedly killed by army troops in the village of San Vincente, Bolivia in 1908. It was at this point that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid became American legends. The real circumstances surrounding their deaths may never be known.

According to their families, both men escaped from the trap in Bolivia and returned to the United States where they lived out their lives in relative peace. Cassidy is said to have died in Spokane, Washington in 1937. And Sundance reportedly married Etta Place and lived quietly until 1957 and was supposed to have been buried in Casper, Wyoming.

However, given the lifestyle of these two men, their inability to live quietly in Brazil, it is highly unlikely they passed the remainer of their lives in the United States without a single holdup. More than likely, they were both killed in Bolivia, but recent excavations failed to confirm the identity of the men buried there.

Source:
Lamar, Howard R, ed. The New Encyclopedia of the American West. New Haven and London, Yale University Press.


Front row left to right: Harry A. Longbaugh, alias the Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick, alias the Tall Texan, Robert Leroy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy; Standing: Will Carver & Harvey Logan

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