Nov 072017
 

On this date in 1908 Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, usually known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, died in San Vicente in southern Bolivia under slightly mysterious circumstances, and their deaths have sometimes been challenged by historians. I think there is little doubt, however, that this was the end of the road for the duo. While it is true that they were a bank-robbing partnership in South America their status as a duo is overblown by media, especially the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is closer to the truth to say that for several years Parker was the leader of what became known as Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, and Longabaugh was a member whom Parker recruited. When the gang split up in 1901, Parker and Longabaugh relocated to Patagonia in Argentina to escape relentless pursuit in the US by detectives from the Pinkerton agency, so their real partnership began in South America where they lived for 7 years.

In early 1894, Parker became involved romantically with outlaw and rancher Ann Bassett. Bassett’s father, rancher Herb Bassett, did business with Parker, supplying him with fresh horses and beef. That same year, Parker 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, Parker 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.

Parker associated with a broad circle of criminals, most notably his closest friend William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay, Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, Ben Kilpatrick, Harry Tracy, Will “News” Carver, Laura Bullion, and George “Flat Nose” Curry, who collectively became the nucleus of the so-called “Wild Bunch”. The gang assembled some time after Parker’s release from prison in 1896 and took its name from the Doolin–Dalton gang, also known as the “Wild Bunch.”

On August 13, 1896, Parker, Lay, Logan and Bob Meeks robbed the bank at Montpelier, Idaho, escaping with approximately $7,000. Shortly thereafter Parker recruited Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, a native of Pennsylvania also known as “The Sundance Kid,” into the Wild Bunch. In early 1897, Parker was joined at Robbers Roost in Utah by Ann Bassett, Elzy Lay, and Lay’s girlfriend Maude Davis. The four hid there until early April, when Lay and Parker sent the women home so that the men could plan their next robbery. On April 22, 1897, in the mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, Parker 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 again to Robbers Roost.

On June 2, 1899, the gang robbed a Union Pacific Overland Flyer passenger train near Wilcox, Wyoming, a robbery which earned the Wild Bunch a great deal of notoriety and 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 the train 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 then passed this information to Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo, who was assigned the task of capturing the outlaws