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Robert Leroy Parker (April 13, 1866 – November 7, 1908), better known as Butch Cassidy,[1] was an American train robber and bank robber, and the leader of a gang of criminal outlaws known as the "Wild Bunch" in the American Old West.

Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy with bowler hat.jpg
Robert Leroy Parker

(1866-04-13)April 13, 1866
Beaver, Utah Territory, United States
DiedNovember 7, 1908(1908-11-07) (aged 42)
Cause of deathMultiple gunshots
Other namesButch Cassidy, Mike Cassidy, George Cassidy, Jim Lowe, Santiago Maxwell
OccupationFarm hand, cowboy, thief, bank robber, train robber, gang leader, outlaw
  • Maximilian Parker
  • Ann Campbell Gillies
AllegianceButch Cassidy's Wild Bunch
Conviction(s)Imprisoned in the state prison in Laramie, Wyoming, for horse theft
Criminal chargeHorse theft, cattle rustling, bank and train robbery
PenaltyServed 18 months of two-year sentence; released January 1896
Partner(s)Harry Longabaugh a.k.a. the "Sundance Kid", Elzy Lay, Matt Warner

After participating in criminal activity in the United States for more than a decade at the end of the 19th century, the pressures of being pursued by law enforcement, notably by the Pinkerton detective agency, forced Parker to flee the country with an accomplice, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, known as the "Sundance Kid", and Longabaugh's girlfriend Etta Place. The trio traveled first to Argentina and then to Bolivia, where Parker and Longabaugh are believed to have been killed in a shootout with police in November 1908; the exact circumstances of their fate continue to be disputed.

Parker's life and death have been extensively dramatized in film, television, and literature, and he remains one of the most well-known icons of the "Wild West" mythos in modern times.


Early lifeEdit

Robert Leroy Parker was born on April 13, 1866, in Beaver, Utah, the first of 13 children of British immigrants Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies.[2][3][4] The Parker and Gillies families had converted to the Mormon faith while still living in England and Ireland. Maximillian Parker was 12 years old when his family arrived in Salt Lake City in 1856 as Mormon pioneers;[5] Ann Gillies was born and lived in Tyneside, in northeast England, before immigrating to America with her family in 1859 at the age of 14.[6][7][8] The couple was married in July 1865.[9]

Robert grew up on his parents' ranch near Circleville, Utah, approximately 215 miles (346 km) south of Salt Lake City.[citation needed]

Criminal careerEdit

Butch Cassidy's first criminal 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 stole a pair of jeans and some pie, leaving an IOU promising to pay on his next visit. The clothier pressed charges, but Cassidy was acquitted by a jury. 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. Cassidy and Warner raced the horse at various events, dividing the winnings between them.


The white building at right housed the San Miguel Valley Bank, the site of Cassidy's first bank robbery in 1889
Butch Cassidy's Cattle brand of "Reverse-E, Box, E"[10]

Cassidy's first bank robbery took place on June 24, 1889, when he, Warner and two of the McCarty brothers robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, stealing approximately $21,000 (equivalent to $586,000 in 2018), after which they fled to the Robbers Roost, a remote hideout in southeastern Utah.

In 1890, Cassidy purchased a ranch on the outskirts of Dubois, Wyoming. This location is across the state from the notorious Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural geological formation and a popular hideout for outlaw gangs including Cassidy's during the era, 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.[11] In his ranching business Butch Cassidy used the "unmistakable brand" of "Reverse-E, Box, E".[12]

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, Cassidy was released and pardoned in January 1896 by Governor William Alford Richards.[13] He became involved briefly with Ann Bassett's older sister, Josie, before returning to Ann.

Formation of the Wild BunchEdit

Cassidy 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 sometime after Cassidy's release from prison in 1896 and took its name from the Doolin–Dalton gang, also known as the "Wild Bunch".[14]

Cassidy's mugshot from the Wyoming Territorial Prison in 1894

On August 13, 1896, Cassidy, Lay, Logan and Bob Meeks[15] robbed the bank at Montpelier, Idaho, escaping with approximately $7,000. Shortly thereafter Cassidy[clarification needed] recruited Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, also known as "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 the men 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 again to the 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.[16][17] 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. The gang escaped into the Hole-in-the-Wall. Siringo 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, during which Lay killed Sheriff Edward Farr and Henry Love; Lay was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at the New Mexico State Penitentiary.

The Wild Bunch would typically separate following a robbery and flee in different directions, later 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 amnestyEdit

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 Matt 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.


The Sundance KidThe Tall TexanButch CassidyNews CarverKid CurryClick for larger image 
"Fort Worth Five" photograph, December 1900. Cassidy is seated on the far right. Click a person for more information. Click elsewhere on the image for a larger image.

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 News Carver were pursued by a posse from St. Johns, Apache County, Arizona after being identified passing currency from the Wilcox, Wyoming train 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 George and Lonny.

In December, Cassidy posed alongside Longabaugh, Logan, Carver, and Ben Kilpatrick in Fort Worth, Texas for the now-famous "Fort Worth Five" photograph. The Pinkerton Detective Agency obtained a copy of the photograph and began to use it for wanted posters.

On July 3, 1901, Kid Curry and a group of men robbed a Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana.[18] This time, they took over $60,000 in cash (equivalent to $1,810,000 in 2018). The gang split up, and News Carver was killed by a posse led by Sheriff Elijah Briant. On December 12, 1901, 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 then 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.[19]

Escape to South AmericaEdit

Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) and Etta Place, just before they sailed for South America

With the gang breaking up, and feeling continuous pressure from the numerous law enforcement agencies pursuing them, Cassidy and Longabaugh fled to New York City. On February 20, 1901,[20][21][22][23] along with Etta Place, Longabaugh's female companion, they departed to Buenos Aires, Argentina 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, just east of the Andes in the Argentine province of Chubut.


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,[citation needed] 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 the year they had 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 believed to be Cassidy and Longabaugh. Three days later, a pair of Americans suspected of being the bandits were seen in the small mining town of San Vicente, where they lodged in a small boarding house owned by a local resident miner named Bonifacio Casasola.[24]

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's brand on the mule's left flank. Casasola left his house and notified a nearby telegraph officer, who in turn 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 soldiers, the police chief, the local mayor, and some of his officials, with the intent to arrest the Aramayo robbers.

When the soldiers approached the house, the bandits opened fire, killing one of the soldiers and wounding another. A gunfight then ensued. The mayor heard a man inside the house scream three times. Soon afterward, two successive shots were fired from inside the house.[24]

The authorities cautiously entered the house the next morning, whereupon they found two bodies, both with numerous bullet wounds to the arms and legs. The man assumed to be Longabaugh had a bullet wound in the forehead and the man thought to be Cassidy had a bullet hole in the temple. The local police report speculated that, judging from the positions of the bodies, Cassidy had probably shot the fatally wounded Longabaugh to put him out of his misery, just before killing himself. 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.[24]

The bodies were buried at the small San Vicente cemetery, near 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.[24]

In 2017 a new search was launched for the grave of Cassidy. It zeroed in on a mine outside Goodsprings, NV. DNA was taken from a nephew of his (via birth by Cassidy's Sister). The dig managed to find human remains, but did not match the DNA provided.[25]

Rumors of survivalEdit

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 an old bullet wound that Smith recognized as work he had previously done on Cassidy.[26]

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,[27] about 15 years ago."[28] Locals of Cassidy's hometown of Circleville, Utah claimed in an interview that Cassidy worked in Nevada until his death.[29]

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.[30]

A second-season episode of the television series In Search of... (1978) casts doubts on Kelly's conclusions, examining the claims and possible evidence for Butch Cassidy's return to North America during the 1920s. In a series of interviews with residents of Baggs, Wyoming, a popular destination for the Wild Bunch during their raiding years, Cassidy was said to have visited for several days in 1924, driving a Ford Model T. Among the residents interviewed is the town sheriff, Ross Moore, who claims it was common knowledge locally that Cassidy did not die in South America, stating that his own grandmother saw Cassidy in 1924. In the episode, author John Rolfe Burroughs[31] recounts several interviews he reportedly conducted in the 1950s that support the claims of a 1924 visit by Parker to Baggs, Wyoming.

This episode also interviews Cassidy's sister, Lula Parker Betenson (d. 1980),[32] who states that Cassidy returned to the family home in Circleville, Utah during this same period. Betenson states that Cassidy picked up his brother Mark Parker in a Ford automobile, then drove to the home of their father Maximillian Parker,[33] where Betenson also lived. She reports the elder Parker having said to her "I'll bet you don't know who this is. This is your brother Robert Leroy." Betenson observes that her brother's life was full of regrets, particularly at having disappointed his mother so terribly, with Cassidy having reportedly stated "[A]ll I done is make a wreck of my life." Betenson claims that Cassidy lived out his years in "the Northwest" and died in 1937, and that the family had agreed not to disclose his final resting place since "[T]hey had chased him all his life, and now he's going to rest in peace." This story is also recounted by W. C. Jameson in Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave,[34] referencing the 1975 book Betenson co-authored with Dora Flack, Butch Cassidy, My Brother.[14]


  • George Parker[35]
  • George Cassidy[1]
  • Lowe Maxwell[1]
  • James "Santiago" Maxwell[36]
  • James Ryan[36]
  • Butch Casady[1]
  • Santiago Lowe

Alleged friendsEdit

William T. Phillips claimed to have known Butch Cassidy since childhood.[37] In his book In Search of Butch Cassidy,[38] 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.[39]

In popular cultureEdit




See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d What's Up With All These Names? Bureau of Land Management, January 18, 2008. Accessed June 13, 2008.
  2. ^ "Butch Cassidy". Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  3. ^ "Butch Cassidy: Facts Summary". Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  4. ^ "History of Butch Cassidy – Leroy Parker". Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  5. ^ "Daniel D. McArthur Company". Pioneer Overland Travel. LDS Church. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  6. ^ "Ann Campbell Gillies". Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel. LDS Church. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  7. ^ Armstrong, Jeremy (December 10, 2008). "Outlaw's mum born & bred on Tyneside". Daily Mirror. Retrieved December 10, 2008. Geordie lass Ann Sinclair Gillies who was born and bred on Tyneside...
  8. ^ Knapton, Sarah (December 9, 2008). "Outlaw Butch Cassidy had Geordie roots". Retrieved April 10, 2015. American outlaw Butch Cassidy may be a US hero but newly discovered records show he had Geordie heritage.
  9. ^ Hatch, Thom (2013). The Last Outlaws: The Lives and Legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. New American Library (Penguin).
  10. ^ Pointer, Larry, In Search of Butch Cassidy, p.22[1]
  11. ^ The Outlaw Trail. Archived October 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Bureau of Land Management. January 18, 2008. Accessed June 13, 2008.
  12. ^ Pointer, Larry, In Search of Butch Cassidy, p.22[2]
  13. ^ "On This Day in Wyoming History... Butch Cassidy is Pardoned, 1896". Wyoming Postscripts. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Betenson, Lula, and Dora Flack, Butch Cassidy, My Brother, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0-84251-222-0.
  15. ^ Idaho State Historical Society: Public Archives and Research Library, inmate files: Henry "Bob" Meeks, #574.
  16. ^ "Alleged Train Robber Taken" (PDF). The New York Times. October 23, 1899. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
  17. ^ "Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid: The Monpelier, Castle Gate, Wilcox and Winnemucca Robberies". Wyoming Tales and Trails. Archived from the original on June 10, 2009. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
  18. ^ "The Salt Lake Herald. (Salt Lake City, Utah) 1870–1909, July 05, 1901, Image 1".
  19. ^ Gibson, Elizabeth. "Kid Curry, the Wildest of the Bunch." Archived December 19, 2003, at the Wayback Machine WOLA Journal. Spring 1999. reprinted at
  20. ^ Richard M. Patterson, Butch Cassidy: A Biography (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), p. 316.
  21. ^ Beau Riffenburgh, Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Rough-and-Tumble Career of James McParland, America's Sherlock Holmes (Penguin, 2013), p. 17.
  22. ^ Leon Claire Metz, "Longabaugh, Harry", in The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters (Infobase Publishing, 2014) p. 159.
  23. ^ W. C. Jameson, Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave (Taylor Trade Publications, 2012, ISBN 978-1-58979-739-0), p. 88.
  24. ^ a b c d Klein, Christopher (April 13, 2016). "The Mysterious Deaths of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". HISTORY. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  25. ^ Expedition Unknown season 4 episode 5 Butch Cassidy's Lost Loot
  26. ^ McPhee, John. Annals of the Former World. 1998. ISBN 0-374-10520-0. p. 358.
  27. ^ "Johnnie – Nevada Ghost Town".
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 19, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Little left of Butch's life in Circleville". Deseret News. July 24, 2006.
  30. ^ "Did Butch Cassidy Return? - WOLA Journal Archive Vol. VI, no. 3 by Daniel Buck & Anne Meadows (1998)" (PDF).
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Jameson, Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave. 2012, p. 138.
  34. ^ Jameson, Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave. 2012. ISBN 978-1-58979-739-0.
  35. ^ Patterson, Richard. Butch Cassidy's Surrender Offer. February 2006. Accessed 13 June 2008.
  36. ^ a b "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid." Archived 2005-09-20 at the Wayback Machine The Mythical West: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Lore, and Popular Culture. 2001, reprinted at
  37. ^ Phillips, William T. The Bandit Invincible: The Story of the Outlaw Butch Cassidy Archived January 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. J. Willard Marriott Library. University of Utah. January 1986. Accessed June 13, 2008.
  38. ^ Pointer, Larry (1977). In Search of Butch Cassidy. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2143-7.
  39. ^ Kershner, Jim (July 22, 2012). "Man who wrote Butch Cassidy died in Spokane changes story". Spokesman Review. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  40. ^ "Drop Out on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. April 25, 1969. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  41. ^ "PBS American Experience: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Internet Movie Data Base. February 11, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  42. ^ "Glory Days". Internet Movie Data Base. October 20, 2014. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  43. ^ The Three Outlaws on IMDb
  44. ^ The Secret of Giving on IMDb
  45. ^ The Legend of Butch & Sundance on IMDb

External linksEdit