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Published on Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Sundance Kid: Harry Longbaugh

And The Wild Bunch

By Matthew Pizzolato

 

A member of the infamous Wild Bunch, the Sundance Kid, along with fellow outlaw Butch Cassidy, robbed their way across the American West and will be forever immortalized in history.



   

Harry Longbaugh was born in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania in 1867. Not much is known about his early life until he committed his first crime in Sundance, Wyoming. The crime did not quite go according to plan, but it did earn him his nickname. He stole a horse but was later captured and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

After his release, he tried working as a cowhand but seemed better suited to a life of crime. He became associated with a group of outlaws operating out of the Hole in the Wall in Wyoming known as The Wild Bunch.

The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch began small, stealing mining camp payrolls and robbing banks. The gang held up the First National Bank in Winnemucca, Nevada in 1900 and then began robbing trains.

The Sundance Kid and the Wild Bunch became a scourge to the Union Pacific Railroad, so much so that the Union Pacific created a special posse exclusively to chase down The Wild Bunch. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was also put on the trail of the gang.

On July 3, 1901, the gang stole $40,000 from the Bank of Montana. They were chased but escaped to Texas.

In between robberies, members of The Wild Bunch went on lavish vacations, spending their loot and posing as respectable members of society. During one of these trips, five members of the gang posed for the below photograph.

It was this picture that ultimately led to their downfall because it allowed detectives to finally identify the Wild Bunch.


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





Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In 1902 with the Pinkertons and other law officers getting closer to apprehending the Wild Bunch, Cassidy and Longbaugh decided to relocate in South America.

Accompanied by Longbaugh's mistress, Etta Place, they left from New York City aboard the freighter, Soldier Prince, ultimately arriving in Argentina where they lived as peaceful farmers for four years.

Eventually, they returned to their criminal ways, robbing banks across Argentina and Bolivia until in 1908, they were cornered at a bank in San Vicente, Bolivia.

It is here that historical fact merges with popular myth. Some believe that the two men were shot down in 1908 at San Vicente, Bolivia, but police were unable to identify the bodies of the two outlaws.

Others claim that the outlaws survived and eventually returned to the United States where they lived out their lives.

Sources:

  • Lewis, Jon E., The Mammoth Book of the West. New York. Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. 1996
  • Spartacus Educational
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