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On 24th June, 1889, Butch Cassidy, Tom McCarty and Matt Warner, held up the San Miguel Valley Bank. Over the next few years Cassidy's gang robbed banks in Idaho. The gang eventually escaped to the Robbers' Roost in Utah. Cassidy now formed a new gang that became known as the Wild Bunch. This include Harry Longbaugh (the Sundance Kid), Ben Kilpatrick, Harvey Logan, William Carver, George Curry, Laura Bullion, Elza Lay and Bob Meeks.
The name Wild Bunch was misleading as Cassidy always tried to avoid his gang hurting people during robberies. His gang were also ordered to shoot at the horses, rather than the riders, when being pursued by posses. Cassidy always proudly boasted that he had never killed a man. The name actually came from the boisterous way they spent their money after a successful robbery.
On 2nd June, 1899, Cassidy, Curry, Logan and Lay took part in the highly successful Union Pacific train holdup at Wilcox, Wyoming. After stealing $30,000 the gang fled to New Mexico. On 29th August, 1900, Cassidy, with the Sundance Kid, Logan and Carver, held up the Union Pacific train at Tipton, Wyoming. This was followed by a raid on the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada (19th September, 1900) that netted $32,640. The following year the gang obtained $65,000 from the Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana.
George Curry was killed by Sheriff Jesse Tyler on 17th April, 1900. The following year William Carver and Ben Kilpatrick were ambushed by Sheriff Elijah Briant and his deputies at Sonora, Texas. Carver died from his wounds three hours later. Kilpatrick escaped but he was captured in St Louis with another gang member, Laura Bullion, on 8th November, 1901. Kilpatrick was found guilty of robbery and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Another gang member, Harvey Logan was captured on 15th December, 1901.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid began to think that being an outlaw in America was becoming too dangerous and in 1902 decided to start a new life in South America.
The Wild Bunch: The Truth About These American Outlaws
The truth about The Wild Bunch can be kind of confusing. Which, when you come to think about it, might be just the way they'd want it. Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, set in 1913, is a 1969 film about the death of the American Frontier, but it has nothing to do with history. So we'll skip ahead.
Butch Cassidy ran with a group sometimes referred to as The Wild Bunch. They were more or less centered in Wyoming in the late 1890s, though they were capable of committing crime in Idaho and Nevada and who knows where else. Cassidy's crowd wasn't really a gang more like a loose confederation, and the name was kind of assigned by newspaper reporters trying to find a catchy handle on the crimes being committed. Cassidy, along with the Sundance Kid (and that terrific 1969 film directed by George Roy Hill) and their compatriots, would hide out in a Wyoming mountain area called Hole-in-the-Wall — basically a mountain fortress, easily defensible against law enforcement, water and pasturage for the cattle they stole, a secure place to ride out the harsh Western winters. Sometimes they were Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, and sometimes they were The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.
The Wild Bunch - History
Born To Be Wild
The Original Beginnings Of The Outlaw Doorslammers Of Today
Written by Bobby Bennett Photos by Francis Butler and Brian Wood
Courtesy Of Competition Plus
They thumbed their nose at the establishment and set the stage for today's doorslammer racing
The mere notion of anchoring supercharged, alcohol burning engines within the confines of a full-bodied doorslammer was a practice described as volatile, but that didn't stop a dedicated group of thrill-seekers from pursuing the rush. Their self-appointed name, the Wild Bunch, was an accurate description of the image they conveyed. How else could you explain a group that would dare bolt a blown, alcohol burning motor into a Chevy Luv Truck, a Nissan 300 ZX or if those weren't radical enough, a Jeep CJ-5?
"We had two goals when we went to Atco. We wanted to get the first six second run and we also wanted to piss the nitrous guys off. I'd say we succeeded on both counts". Camp Stanley, former Wild Bunch member and crew chief for Tommy Howes
What started out as a group of guys choosing to be different in bracket racing, quickly evolved into a lucrative match race circuit and the inspiration for the Top Doorslammer class in Australia. Their finest hour resulted in the first six-second doorslammer pass in drag racing history.
Their unpredictable nature made them an immediate hit for the fans in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States as well as the rest of the country. Not only that, their antics also brought forth heaping amounts of publicity within the various drag racing magazines.
Those days are now a distant memory for many, but for Dave Wallace the recollections are very vivid.
"They reminded me of the old days of the Funny Cars and the Gas Supercharged," explained Wallace, former editor of Petersen's Drag Racing Magazine. "I've always like blown doorslammers and they provided an interesting evolution. The early cars such as the "Wild Bunch" were real cars with stock wheelbases and such. They were crude, overpowered and unpredictable.
There was none like Camp Stanley's blown Chevy Luv truck."Anybody who got in the show had a chance to win because the cars were so unpredictable. As more cars came into the fold, the incentive to be the first to run in the sixes led to more advanced race cars. The Wild Bunch was the closest on the East Coast to the Bob Bunker and Dave Riolo cars that we had on the West Coast. There really wasn't a class for this kind of car. Anytime a class or a circuit like the Wild Bunch comes out of popular demand from the fans is really something to take note of. There was no real television package, so the only real exposure that these guys got was in the magazines. As magazine guys, we were always looking for the angles like they provided.
"It was like every track has a set of fast heroes," Wallace continued. "Those guys organized their fast heroes. There was no place for them to run. They were bracket racers. That's a cool thing. Pro Modified came from bracket racing and so did the Wild Bunch. That's directly where it came from. These were fast bracket cars that got so fast that they started match racing."
How ironic that we should mention the term match racing, considering a scheduling snafu that led to the creation of the group. Let's rewind the hands of time back to the late-Seventies at Maryland International Raceway.
During that era, the track was under the guidance of Tod Mack, an individual once known for being the first American auto racing promoter to offer at-track Para mutual betting at Maryland International Raceway during the mid-Seventies.
Mack had managed to get himself in a bind on a Saturday evening show after booking and advertising a jet car show, only to have one of the teams cancel at the 11th hour. Knowing he needed a reasonable replacement, Mack took a stroll through the Super Pro staging lanes hoping to find a suitable replacement to match race the legendary Roger Gustin's Monza Jet-powered Funny Car. At this point in the game, Mack's goal was to find someone to save the show. He had several thousand D.C.-area fans that he had to account to that night.
The only car that caught his eyes belonged to a former NHRA class racer and record holder named Tommy "The Who" Howes. Howes piloted an early-model Camaro with a 6-71 GMC supercharger protruding through the hood.
Always the businessman, he was game to the idea if the price was right. Since neither Howes nor Mack had a clue as to what a fair price was, the question was asked as to how much money Super Pro was paying. Mack answered $300, so Howes agreed to run against the jet for that price.
Mack's gamble proved to be more than he bargained. Howes' two-second handicap was nowhere near enough of a head-start to fend off Gustin's mega-horsepower creation, but the improvisation made for quite a show and the crowd loved it.
Not long after that, Mack was booking Howes to do match races at MIR and his other track in Colonial Beach against various other supercharged entries. As the word spread about this group, now titled "The Wild Bunch", they expanded in size and booking range. By 1984, they had nearly 24 dates ranging from Canada to Georgia. Howes, along with second-year Bunch member Camp Stanley, had developed a reputation as having some of the baddest doorslammers in the country.
Denny Brightwell's Camaro was also a player in the group."I wasn't in on the original first group," explained Stanley. "We were in the middle of a Jimmy Carter type recession, almost a depression. Tommy Howes, Nelson Grimes and I were bracket racing big block, alcohol doorslammers.
I couldn't race on the scale that I wanted to, so I turned my race car into a street vehicle. In 1980 and 1981, I had that car on the street.
"The bottom line to the whole deal, to steal a line from Aussies, was to put butts in the seats," continued Stanley. "Elmer's (Wachter) Jeep and my Luv Truck were examples of what we thought it took to grab attention and to lure in sponsors. Anybody could have had a Camaro." One might wonder which was the more volatile, the cars or the drivers. Wallace pointed out that the Wild Bunch brought out the best in a driver.
"I think they were pretty darn talented," explained Wallace. "The cars by their very nature were pretty volatile. They all started out as real cars. As they evolved into tube-framed cars, they were pretty crude.
For the wheelbase, which was stock, and as high as they sat, they did wheel stands and crashed and were very exciting. The drivers were capable. There weren't any cars like that around with that high of horsepower with doors on them."
The Wild Bunch offered track promoters a bargain during an era when the superstar fuel cars commanded nearly a $10,000 price tag and that netted maybe two runs.
For the small-to-medium tracks, the "Wild Bunch" offered the bargain of the Century for nearly $4000 (depending on location) for the whole group. This group was anything but cookie cutter.
Howes had long since traded in his Camaro for a Datsun Z-car. Others joined the group including former IHRA Funny Car champion Scott Weney, behind the wheel of a AA/Altered roadster. In fact, when the comment was made that there wasn't a single Ford in the Wild Bunch Stanley took the matter into his own hands. His creation fit the persona perfectly, a blown Taurus Wagon.
"The Wagon actually goes back to Jim McGraw when he was with Super Stock and Drag Illustrated," said Stanley. "He asked the question as to why there weren't any Fords in the Wild Bunch. That conversation took place in Bob Rizzolo's RCD Performance, the one that built my cars as well as Tommy Howes' cars. Someone came up with the idea of a Taurus wagon. McGraw got in touch with Ford Motorsports and they sold me the body in white.
The original member of the Wild Bunch was Tommy Howes, who eventually drove this 300 ZX to the first-ever six-second run in doorslammer history."Then it was suggested that if it was a Ford then it should have Ford power. Billy Meyer had been experimenting with a shotgun Ford and there was a point in time that Dale Armstrong had been his crew chief. They felt there was some potential in a blown shotgun Ford with nitro. They sidelined the project and someone told me that he had it for sale. I called him up and struck a deal and then took my duallie to Indy and loaded it all up."
Shortly after that, the Wild Bunch appeal went international, and what better of a place for it to land than Australia? A visitor from Aussie land witnessed the group run and knew that potential was there for the group in his native homeland.
"Dennis Syrmis, one of the owners and operators of Willowbank Raceway in Brisbane took the idea down there," said Stanley. "He was at 75-80 Dragway in Maryland when Tommy and I were bracket racing these cars. He loved the idea. The Wild Bunch idea formulated quite a bit and they drafted a plan for blown doorslammers, except they drafted theirs with a dial-in. There was a point in time when Peter Kapiris, an Aussie Top Doorslammer legend, ran as part of this show."
Wallace remembers the concept took off in Australia, and the visit by Howes and Stanley in 1989 only fueled the fire.
"Australia only had one really fast doorslammer at the time and it was a Thunderbird called the Warlord, right-hand drive car," recalled Wallace. "They all ran brackets, so when Stanley and Howes went down there in 1989, Ray Ward's Warlord was the only one that could run with them. It was sort of a showdown. The interest led to the creation of the Top Doorslammer class." The Wild Bunch did to the Top Doorslammer class what the touring Funny Cars and Dragsters used to do the Aussie fuel classes. This experience created an avenue for advancement and new technology.
"They used to bring Funny cars down there and that sped up the development of those cars down there," Wallace said. "The same thing happened after the Wild Bunch went down there. Tommy Howes and Camp Stanley really influenced the international scene. You could actively say that it also influenced Pro Modified."
The Wild Bunch - History
More than 100 years ago in a quiet little town in the Oklahoma Territory, members of the infamous Doolin-Dalton gang squared off against a posse of deputies in one of the deadliest confrontations in the history of the U.S. marshals.
By the end of the gunfight, nine men lay dead or wounded, and the people of Ingalls had a vivid picture of Western lawlessness and the harsh means needed to restore justice.
Four members of the notorious Dalton Gang (l. to r.) - Bill Power, Bob Dalton, Grat Dalton, and Dick Broadwell - lay dead after a shootout in Coffeyville, Kansas, On October 5, 1892. When the gang attempted to rob two of the town's banks at the same time, brave townspeople took up arms against the intruders. After the smoke cleared, eight people were killed and three wounded.
Bill Doolin was born in 1858 in Johnson County, Ark. At the age of 23 he drifted west, working odd jobs until settling in as a top ranch hand along the Cimarron River in the Oklahoma Territory.
While working as a cowboy. he met most of the men who would later form his own gang, a group of colorful outlaws known as the Wild Bunch.
One story recounts that the gang hit the ground running in 1891, when it celebrated the Fourth of July holiday in Coffeyville, Kan., by tapping a keg of beer.
Problem was, Kansas was a dry state. When lawmen entered the scene to confiscate the alcohol, they were met with bullets. From that day forward, Doolin and his cohorts were on the run, and larceny provided their means of support.
By September 1891, the Wild Bunch had teamed up with the Dalton Brothers Gang to rob several banks throughout the region. A year later, however, Doolin took control after most of the Daltons were killed in a raid on two banks in Coffeyville.
A string of heists followed for the newly consolidated Doolin- Dalton Gang, whose members were quite good at alluding capture. But in the fall of 1893, deputy marshals zeroed in when they discovered that the marauders were using the town of Ingalls as a hideout between raids.
The stage was set for a fateful battle.
The afternoon of September 1, 1893, found the gang inside George Ransom's saloon. Present along with Doolin and Bill Dalton were Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, George "Red Buck" Weightman, George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, "Arkansas Tom" Jones [Roy Daugherty] and Bill "Tulsa Jack" Blake.
The lawmen moving in for the arrests were headed by Deputy Marshal John Hixon, who brought four other deputies with him - Lafe Shadley, Tom Hueston, Dick Speed and Jim Masterson. An additional eight men joined the ranks as posse members.
In the gruesome confrontation that afternoon, Hueston was fired on as he dove for cover. Doolin shot Speed dead as the deputy tried in vain to join Shadley, who was concealed behind the body of a horse.
Then, when Shadley saw one of outlaws fall wounded, he moved in. But Dalton shot him in his tracks. Masterson later threw dynamite into the outlaws' hiding place and captured Jones, but the others fled southeast out of town.
The escaping outlaws halted at the top of a nearby ridge long enough to fire some final shots at the lawmen, and one of those bullets killed Frank Briggs, an innocent bystander.
All told, men on both sides of the law met their destiny that afternoon. Deputy Speed was killed during the actual fighting Deputies Hueston and Shadley died of their wounds the following day.
There was talk of Arkansas Tom Jones being lynched, but instead he was sent to the federal prison in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, about 35 miles away.
In the marshal's own words
E.D. Nix was the marshal for the Oklahoma Territory at the time. In his book, "Oklahombres," published in 1929, he specified this fight as one of the more critical of his entire career. It, of course, was also one of the most devastating, with three deputies losing their lives. (Nix, shown on right, was appointed U.S. Marshal over the Oklahoma territory by President Grover Cleveland. He supervised the work of over 150 deputies, including the famous Three Guardsmen.)
Nearly two years after the Ingalls confrontation, the marshal pieced together the details of the fight in a letter he wrote to Attorney General Judson Harmon. The letter came about as a response to a man named Murray, who was tending bar of the fight.
Murray was arrested that day for harboring the criminals. Having been shot by deputy marshals during the battle, he was now complaining of damages and seeking redress.
Nix's letter to Harmon, dated July 30, 1895, is housed in the National Archives. the transcript, containing all of the original spelling and punctuation follows.
One George Ransom owned a saloon in the town of Ingalls and this man Murray worked for him as bar tender. The outlaws Bill Doolan, "Bitter Creek," "Tulsa lack," "Dynamite Dick," "Red Buck," Tom ]ones and numerous others made this saloon their headquarters, and Ransom, Murray and other citizens catered to their trade, carried them news of the movements of the deputy Marshals, furnished them with ammunition, cared for their horses, permitted them to eat at their tables and sleep in their beds. These facts were well known to the community, although a conviction on the charge of harboring or aiding and abetting criminals against the laws of the United States could never be sustained, by reason of the fact that the entire community was under duress and would not testify for fear of losing their lives and property.
On the 1st day of September 1893, a party of deputy marshals who had been sent after these outlaws by me, arrived in the vicinity of Ingalls, and the outlaws mentioned herein were at the time in the town and in the saloon of Rensom, where this man Murray worked. As usual the outlaws had received notice of the proximity of the deputies and they sent a messenger to the deputies inviting them to come into the town if they thought they, the deputies, could take them. The deputies accepted the invitation and after posting their forces, sent a messenger to the outlaws with a request to surrender and were answered with Winchester shots. "Bitter Creek" ran out of the saloon in question and fired one shot towards the north where some of the deputies were stationed, and turning, received the fire of the deputies which burst the magazine of his winchester and wounded him in the thigh. In the meantime, a heavy fire was directed at the deputies by the balance of the outlaws from the saloon building and the fire was returned by the deputies which literally riddled the saloon. A horse was killed by the deputies which was tied in front of the saloon . The fire of the deputies becoming too hot for the outlaws, they escaped out of a side door and took refuge in a large stable mentioned. This man Murray came to the front door of the saloon either just before the outlaws left the building or just after, it is known which. However, when he first appeared in the door-way, he had the door open just a short distance and had his winchester to his shoulder in the act of firing. This was previous to the deputies becoming aware of the fact of the outlaws having left the building. Three of the deputies seeing him in the position he was in, fired at him simultaneously. Two shots struck him in the ribs and one broke his arm in two places.
Eight or ten horses were killed and nine persons killed and wounded. One deputy was killed outright at the first fire and two more died the next day. Three outlaws were wounded and one captured. The one captured was afterwards sentenced to fifty years in the penitentiary and is now serving his time.
Very respectfully, E.D. Nix U.S. Marshal
Evitt Dumas Nix
United States Marshal 1893-1896
The Action Scenes Were Painstakingly Filmed
In order to capture the multi-angled and hectic action sequences such as the film’s opening and its climactic battle, Peckinpah used the cutting edge technique of filming with multiple cameras to capture as much of the scene as possible in order to keep from resetting. According to wardrobe supervisor Gordon Dawson, even though the multi-cam set up helped cut down on the amount of takes Peckinpah used, it still took weeks to film these massive scenes. He explained:
[There were] five or six cameras side by side, shooting the whole master shot, with various lenses, but shooting the whole thing. And moving the entire setup five feet. And then shooting it all again. And then moving it five feet, and shooting it all again…
All the blood hits on the wall had to be cleaned up every time. All those people who just ran in and got shot, now we’re going to shoot it again, and they’re going to get shot again. They’ve got to come back in, in clean clothes. I don’t know. It was like five or six days this way. And then they say, ‘OK, boys, turn it around, we’re going back the other way.’
One of the most successful train robbing gang’s during the Old West era was Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch Gang. They were just one of a few loosely organized gangs operating in Wyoming. Butch Cassidy (Robert Leroy Parker) was the leader and other members included Cassidy’s closest friend Elzy Lay, the Sundance Kid (Harry Alonzo Longabaugh), Tall Texan (Ben Kilpatrick), News Carver (William Carver), Camila “Deaf Charlie” Hanks, Laura Bullion, Flat-Nose Curry (George Sutherland Curry), Kid Curry (Harvey Alexander Logan) and Bob Meeks.
They claimed to make every attempt to avoid killing anyone, and Cassidy would boast that he never killed a man. Unfortunately, that proved to be false because Kid Curry alone killed 9 lawmen while with the gang, and another two civilians during shootouts, becoming the gang’s most feared member. Elzy Lay killed another two lawmen following a robbery, for which he was wounded, arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. “Flat-Nose” George Curry killed at least two lawmen, before being killed himself by Grand County, Utah lawmen.
The gang was also closely associated with female outlaws Ann Bassett and Josie Bassett, whose ranch near Browns Park supplied the gang often with fresh horses and beef. Both Bassett girls would become romantically involved with several members of the gang, and both would occasionally accompany the gang to one of their hideouts, called “Robbers Roost”.
June 2, 1899, Cassidy, Sundance Kid, Harvey Logan and Lay robbed a Union Pacific train near Wilcox, Wyoming. They wore masks made from white napkins, and during the holdup, they stole between $30,000 and $60,000. The gang split up and several fled to New Mexico. On July 11, 1899, gang members robbed a train near Folsom, New Mexico (without Cassidy’s presence). The pursuit by a posse led by Sheriff Ed Farr ended in two gun battles, during which Sheriff Farr and two deputies were killed.Elzy Lay was wounded and captured during this gunfight.
Cassidy and the other members regrouped in Wyoming. On August 29, 1900, Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Kid Curry and another unidentified gang member believed to have been Will Carver, held up another Union Pacific train at Tipton, Wyoming. Less than a month later, on September 19, 1900, they raided the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada, stealing $32,640.
In early 1901, Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Cassidy’s girlfriend Etta Place relocated to Patagonia, Argentina where they spent time at La Leona located outside a Province of Santa Cruz, to escape the pursuit of Pinkerton detectives and other lawmen. That same year on April 1, Will Carver was wounded by lawmen and died in May. Ben Kilpatrick and Laura Bullion were captured in Tennessee in December 1901 he received a 20-year prison sentence and she was sentenced to five years. Kid Curry killed two lawmen in Knoxville, Tennessee he escaped capture and traveled to Montana, where he killed the rancher who had killed his brother Johnny years before. He was captured on his return to Tennessee, but escaped again. Kid Curry killed himself in Colorado in 1904 during a shootout with lawmen, for he had said that no lawman would ever take him alive. In 1908, Cassidy and Sundance were killed in a shootout with Bolivian cavalry. Etta Place disappeared without a trace.
Elzy Lay was released from prison in 1906, and after a brief visit to the Bassett ranch in Utah, he relocated to California, where he became a respected businessman he died there in 1934. Ben Kilpatrick was released from prison in 1911, and was killed during a train robbery in Texas in 1912. Laura Bullion was released from prison in 1905 and lived the remainder of her life as a seamstress, dying in Memphis, Tennessee in 1961, the last of the Wild Bunch. Their notoriety led to many films and books about their escapades which led to their popularity. Their legend still lives on today.
6. The details of his death remain a mystery.
A marker near San Vicente, Bolivia, which claims to be the final resting place of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Tyler Bridges/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service/Getty Images
Some accounts hold that on November 4, 1908, near the town of Tupiza in southern Bolivia, two men thought to be Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed a payroll as it was being transported to the Aramayo mine. Three days later the supposed bandits arrived in San Vicente, Bolivia, but after villagers became suspicious that the strangers were connected to the robbery, Bolivian soldiers were called in and a shootout ensued. During the shootout, the Bolivians reportedly gunned down the suspects, or one of the outlaws killed his partner then turned the gun on himself. Afterward, the bodies were buried in unmarked graves in a San Vicente cemetery.
Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch
George Leroy Parker was born in 1867 to Maximilian and Ann Parker, the oldest of seven children. The family lived in Circleville, Utah. His father bought a ranch there and kept on some of the original staff. Mike Cassidy was one of the cowboys who worked there. Cassidy and some of his friends were involved in rustling. He taught young George everything he knew about riding, shooting, roping, and branding cattle, all tricks of the trade of rustling. Over the years, Cassidy amassed a large herd for himself. He hired Parker to help him move them to the Henry Mountains in southeast Utah. By then, Parker was known to be loyal to his friends and to keep his word. He was well liked by everyone. These traits carried with him throughout his outlaw career.
A short time later Cassidy got into trouble with the law and fled to Mexico. This was when Parker adopted the name Cassidy, in memory of his mentor. Butch was a nickname later bestowed on him. Shortly afterward, he got into a scrape of his own. He got caught stealing some horses. While being taken in by two deputies, he overpowered them and escaped. After that he figured he better leave the area.
Cassidy and two friends went to Telluride, Colorado, where a mining boom was going on. They got a job at one of the mines. While there, Cassidy met Matt Warner, who was running some horses in a local horse race. He was also on the run from prior criminal activity. He was related by marriage to the infamous McCarty gang, who terrorized Oregon banks. The McCartys had once held a prosperous cattle ranch in the La Sal Mountains of Utah. They sold it off and became rustlers. Tom McCarty was also hiding from the law when Cassidy showed up.
Cassidy, Warner, and McCarty conspired to hold up the Telluride bank. On June 24, 1889, they slipped into the bank and relieved it of $10,500. The outlaws, and another man named Bert Maddern, who held their horses, easily got away before anyone noticed. They hid at Brown’s Hole for awhile.
Brown’s Hole, was located at the junction of the boundaries of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. The area was named after Baptiste Brown, an early fur trapper who once lived there. The trappers used the area since the surrounding mountains sheltered it from marsh winters. Also, there was abundant game that sought the warmer valley in the winters. When the railroad began building it began to serve as a place to herd cattle for the railroad crews. This naturally brought in the rustlers and it was a born outlaw hideout.
After their stay, McCarty and Warner went to Star Valley, Wyoming, while Cassidy went to Lander, Wyoming. The next summer Warner and McCarty went to Oregon, where the McCarty family owned a ranch. The McCartys proceeded to terrorize the northwest with bank robberies. They hid out on a ranch east of Spokane, Washington. After being nearly convicted of a robbery at Roslyn Washington, they returned to hide at Robber’s Roost. The McCarty’s later held up the bank at Delta, Colorado. Bill and Fred McCarty were shot during the event and Tom rode away. After this, the McCartys were never again associated with Butch Cassidy or the Wild Bunch.
In the meantime, Cassidy was working as a cowboy at various Wyoming ranches. Eventually he scraped enough together to buy his own ranch near Lander. At one point he was accused of robbing a drunk. He was later freed due to lack of evidence. The incident made Cassidy very bitter against the town of Rock Springs, county of Sweetwater, state of Wyoming, for believing that he could stoop that low. He never harmed or stole from individuals, only from banks and other large companies. He swore vengeance for the insult to his name.
In 1893, Cassidy found a new partner named Al Haines. They hid out in Star Valley, Wyoming. They were captured by the law when they were found to have stolen horses in their possession. Cassidy was found guilty and was sentenced to two years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. It would be the only time he served behind bars. He entered the prison on July 15, 1894, when he was 27 years old. He received an early release pardon by the Wyoming governor on January 19, 1896. He had to promise the governor he would never commit crimes in Wyoming in order to receive the pardon.
He returned to Brown’s Hole directly after being released. But he had decided that rustling wasn’t big enough. He started picking some men to be part of his gang. He chose Ellsworth “Elza” Lay as his right hand man. He also chose Bob Meeks, a friend of Lay’s, and three or four others. He established a hideout on the face of Diamond Mountain that was protected on three sides by a cliff so it was easily defensible.
Soon after, Matt Warner got into a bit of a scrape when he agreed to “scare off” some men from a prospecting area. When two of the men ended up dead, Warner found himself locked up in the Vernal, Utah jail. Cassidy promised he’d get a lawyer for him, but he had no cash. He had promised not to commit crimes in Wyoming, so he picked the bank in Montpelier, Idaho as his target. On August 13, 1896, Cassidy, Lay, and Meeks held up in the bank. They got $7,165 in cash and gold and silver. They got away easily and hired Warner’s attorney. Unfortunately for him, Warner was convicted and served the next 3 ½ years at the Utah State Penitentiary. After his release, he stayed a law-abiding citizen.
Cassidy returned to Hole in the Wall, where he planned his next job. Cassidy and Elza Lay and Bob Meeks would rob the mining payroll at Castle Gate, Utah. The payroll arrived via train from Salt Lake City. Cassidy patiently watched the trains every day to watch the railroad employees’ routine. On the appointed day, April 21, 1987, he made his move. The outlaws jumped the officials just as they were carrying the money into their office. The outlaws got away with $8,800 in gold and silver. They hid at Robber’s Roost until the excitement died down. They got bored, though, and rode north to Wyoming. They shot up the small towns of Dixon and Baggs.
Their next big job was on June 2, 1899. The picked a train near Wilcox, Wyoming. They blew up a bridge as the train was crossing. They blew out the door of the express car and then blew the door off the safe. They got about $30,000 in unsigned bank notes. Flat Nose George Curry, Harvey Logan (Kid Curry), and Elza Lay, and three others pulled the job. Because of Cassidy’s promise to the Wyoming governor, it is thought that he didn’t directly participate in this robbery, but did direct how it should be carried out. Several posses chased the robbers but their efforts were futile. The gang split up the money and hid out at Robber’s Roost.
After resting, Cassidy, Lay, and Kid Curry fled to New Mexico. Cassidy hired on as a ranch hand at the WS Ranch. One by one, several other members of the Wild Bunch also hid out by hiring on as hands. The owner may or may not have known who they were, but he did know that rustling came to a halt while they were there. On July 11, 1899, a train was robbed near Folsom, New Mexico. The robbery was executed in the same manner as the robbery at Wilcox. It was pulled off by Lay, Kid Curry, and Sam Ketchum. The law got the last laugh on this one–the express car had no money. A posse chased them down and Ketchum and Lay were both injured. Ketchum later died from his wound. Lay was later given up by the man at whose ranch he was recuperating. He was tried for murder of Sheriff Farr, who was killed in the shootout after the holdup. He was sentenced to life in the New Mexico penitentiary. Cassidy was probably not part of this holdup either, but he came under scrutiny because he was known to be their leader. He decided to leave the WS ranch before the law could take him in.
Cassidy was starting to get nervous. Several of his friends had been sent to prison or killed. He figured it was only a matter of time before it was his turn. He tried to make a deal with the Union Pacific–they would excuse his past crimes and he would hire on as their express rider, guaranteed to keep the outlaws away. When the Union Pacific men didn’t keep the appointment, due to unexpected bad weather, Cassidy thought he’d been double-crossed. In anger, he targeted a Union Pacific trail for another job.
On August 29, 1900, he and three others held up a train near Tipton, Wyoming. They did it with their usual method and blew up the express car. Unfortunately, there was only $50.40 to be stolen. Cassidy had intended this robbery to help finance his departure for South America, where he hoped to evade the law forever. He would need to try again.
He chose the bank at Winnemucca, Nevada. It was September 19, 1900. This time he was accompanied by Harry Longabaugh (Sundance Kid) and Bill Carver. They completed the robber in five minutes and got $32,640. A posse formed almost immediately, but it never quite caught up to the outlaws. The three men rode to Fort Worth, Texas to hide at “Hell’s Half Acre.” They split up the money and went out on the town. They were joined by Kid Curry and Ben Kilpatrick. While in Texas, the five men posed for a picture in a studio that has been often reprinted. An alert Pinkerton detective used it to try to track the men down.
They had one last trick up their sleeves. Cassidy, Sundance, Kid Curry, and Camilla Hanks, headed to Montana. Kid Curry and Sundance got on the train at Malta. Some distance down the track near Wagner, they ordered the engineer to stop. As usual, Cassidy blew up the safe. This time they got $65,000 in paper money. They split up afterwards and rode away. Kilpatrick was eventually caught and sentenced to 15 years in Atlanta. Hanks was later killed while resisting arrest in San Antonio on April 16, 1902. Kid Curry was caught but he escaped from a Knoxville jail. He later shot himself after being wounded in a shootout following a train robbery at Parachute, Colorado, on July 7, 1903.
Cassidy and Sundance met up in New York City on February 1, 1902. Sundance brought along Etta Place. On February 20, they left for South America on the U.S.S. Soldier Prince. They lived there peaceably on a ranch until 1906. For some reason they returned to their old ways, perhaps after hearing rumors that the law was on their tail. In March 1906, they robbed the bank at Mercedes and got $20,000. The banker was shot in the process. A few months later they held up the bank at Bahia Blanca and got another $20,000. They also held up a pay train in Eucalyptus, Bolivia.
On December 7, 1907, they held up a bank in Rio Gallegos, Argentina. They got away with $10,000. Their last job was holding up the pack train with the mine payroll at the Aramayo mines near Quechisla, Bolivia. Afterward, they stopped at San Vicente to stay for the night and get something to eat. A constable recognized that one of their mules belonged to a friend of his. He challenged them, and a shootout commenced. Sundance was mortally wounded first. In his attempt to drag him away, Cassidy was wounded. Ultimately, he saved the last two shots to shoot his friend and then himself. No one knows what happened to Etta Place.
These days, Butch Cassidy might have trouble recognizing his hometown of Circleville. While the Butch Cassidy Hotel and Restaurant still serves up rooms and a meal, and the Butch Cassidy Museum and Antique Store offers up a rather predictable palette, the town these days is perhaps better known as the main staging point for the Paiute Trail, the serpentine all-terrain vehicle trail that winds up and down the mountains surrounding this small town. Indeed, there are more all-terrain vehicles on Main Street during the summer than there are horses. Butch would be perplexed.
Sorting Facts from Fiction
Maybe. In 1969, when 20th Century Fox released its box office smash 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' reporters came to Cassidy's childhood home, looking for his family. They found Mrs. Lula Parker Betenson, 86, Butch's youngest sister. Among other things, she told reporters that Cassidy had not died in South America in 1909, as was widely believed, but had come back to visit some 16 years later, in 1925. Lula said that Butch instead died in Spokane, Wash., in 1937, and spent his last years as a trapper and prospector. Could it be true?
Recently, diligent scholars like Larry Pointer, who wrote In Search of Butch Cassidy, have dug up evidence showing that in all likelihood Butch Cassidy did fake his death in San Vicente, Bolivia. They suggest that after making it big in Bolivian train, payroll and bank robberies, Cassidy sailed to Europe, got a facelift, moved back to America, married, then became an entrepreneur in Washington. Some of the evidence is convincing, especially a detailed manuscript about Cassidy which actually appears to have been authored by Cassidy.
The Early Years
Born Robert LeRoy Parker in Beaver, Utah on April 13, 1866, Cassidy was the first of 13 children. His Mormon parents had come to Utah from England in 1856. His parents moved over the mountains to Circleville in 1879 and young Roy, as he was known about the house, worked in ranches across western Utah, including at Hay Springs, near Milford. On one of these early jobs Roy had his first run-in with the law - he let himself into a closed shop, took a pair of jeans, and left a note promising to return later to pay his debt. But things did not go well in Circleville for the Parker family - Roy's dad, Maximilian, lost land to another homesteader in a property rights dispute - and Roy ended up looking to a shady local rancher, Mike Cassidy, in admiration. By 1884, Roy was rustling cattle from Parowan (just over the Markagunt Plateau) and his life on the lam had begun. He soon took on the name Butch Cassidy, perhaps in honor of his childhood hero.
Roy Parker has been called a sort of Robin Hood of the Western frontier, a man who bristled at the notion that large cattle outfits were squeezing the smaller rancher out of business. In the years following 1884, Roy drifted west to Telluride, Colo., stopping along the way in the back of beyond territory known as the Robber's Roost, which is in the rough foothills of the Henry Mountains. He also worked in Green River.
Life as an Outlaw & Telluride
The first major crime attributed to Cassidy is the robbery of the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, on June 24, 1889. He and three cowboys got away with $20,000 by thoroughly casing the joint first. The bandits then made their way over a choice hideout, Brown's Park, along the Green River at the Utah-Wyoming border. They made forays to Green River and Vernal before moving north to Lander, Wyo.
Cassidy was one of the first to break ground on the Outlaw Trail, a meandering ghostlike path that began in Mexico, ran through Utah, and ended in Montana. The unofficial trail linked together a series of hideouts and ranches, like the Carlisle Ranch near Monticello, where ranch owners seemed willing to give jobs to outlaw cowboys. The Carlisle, actually, was close to Robber's Roost, and it was here where Butch camped out for a night or two before and after the Telluride holdup.
After Telluride, Butch's notoriety as an outlaw grew - an outlaw fighting for 'settlers rights, as citizens of the united States of America against the old time cattle baron (sic)' as written in a mysterious manuscript now believed to be Roy Parker's memoir. After the cruel winter of 1886-87, these resentments were ripe. Small cattle operations were crippled by the loss of stock, and larger operations paid a premium for rustled cattle. During this time, Cassidy and his gang established what would become their greatest hideout, the Hole-In-The-Wall, in central Wyoming. After spending a few years in a gloomy prison in Wyoming, Cassidy returned to rustling, this time along the Utah-Arizona border. During this period he began to assemble a sort of elite corps of outlaw cowboys, the Wild Bunch, which included Dick Maxwell, Elzy Lay, and Harry Longabaugh, who was perhaps better known as the Sundance Kid. Later the group was joined by Henry Wilbur 'Bub' Meeks, another Utah Mormon escapee, and George Currie.
Montpelier Bank Robbery
The first robbery credited the Wild Bunch was the August 13, 1896 holdup of a bank in Montpelier, Idaho. This robbery showed the trappings of what would become the Wild Bunch signature holdup: a well-planned attack. The bandits made off with over $7,000, and Cassidy, in part of an elaborate escape attempt, fled to Iowa, then Michigan, where he came face to face with an old foe - a deputy sheriff from western Wyoming who was on the lookout for him. Narrowly escaping (Cassidy even claimed to have shared a hotel room with a sheriff who was hunting for him but apparently never got a good look at him) Cassidy headed south then west again, where he met the gang and planned perhaps their greatest robbery, the $8,800 heist of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company payroll.
In and Out of Utah
Here, in narrow Price Canyon a few miles from Helper, Cassidy and his gang stole the payroll simply by shoving a revolver into the gut of the paymaster, who forked over the loot. Then, using an ingenious scheme, Cassidy and his gang rode hard for several days, employing a series of cached top-quality horses that could ride for hours at high speeds without tiring. The gang split up, and Butch fled to northern Wyoming, where he persuaded a rancher to hire him temporarily.
Castle Gate was the Wild Bunch's one and only major holdup in Utah. After that, the outlaws held up banks and trains in South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nevada, and managed to bring home increasingly large sums of money - like an estimated $70,000 for the holdup of a Rio Grande train near Folsom, New Mexico. But by then, the good old days seemed to be over. By this time, the Wild Bunch had an extensive ally of law officers hunting them wherever they went, and Butch had an impressive folio compiled by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, whose operatives seemed to follow his every move, waiting for a slip-up. The Gang often came back to Utah, either for protection or transportation, and once to ask Gov. Heber Wells in 1900 for amnesty in exchange for the promise to shape up. Abandoning that idea, the group later traveled across the Great Salt Lake Desert en route to Nevada, where they robbed the bank in Winnemucca.
Death in South America?
The heat was on in a serious way, and by 1902 the group had disbanded, and Butch had gone to England, then Argentina, where Butch, Harry Longabaugh and his girlfriend Etta bought a small ranch. All was well until a stock buyer and former Wyoming deputy came through the country, ending the gang's seclusion. From here, Cassidy went back to robbing trains and payrolls up until his supposed death in 1908.
The Legend Lives
After a trip back to Europe, Cassidy returned to the United States, this time with the name William Phillips. Phillips went to Michigan, where he met and fell in love with Gertrude Livesay. The two were married in May, 1908. The happy couple moved to Arizona, where Phillips apparently made a little cash on the side by fighting with Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution, then north to Spokane, where he founded the Phillips Manufacturing Company and later worked for Riblet, who made chairlifts and tramways. But things went downhill, and Phillips was close to bankrupt. He embarked on a few desperate trips back to Utah and Wyoming in hopes of finding some buried caches, but he apparently was unsuccessful. He was diagnosed with cancer, and died on July 20, 1937.
The Essence of Butch Cassidy
In a way, Cassidy captured the essence of a land that, in many respects, is still wild. Back in Circleville, his old home is frail and weathered. Back in 1976, in a story for National Geographic, Robert Redford followed the Outlaw Trail. In his story, Redford wrote: 'As technology thrusts us relentlessly into the future, I find myself, perversely, more interested in the past. We seem to have lost something - something vital, something of individuality and passion. That may be why we tend to view the western outlaw, rightly or not, as a romantic figure.'
Maybe. Cassidy had his own reasons, though. He wrote: 'The best way to hurt them is through their pocket book. They will Holler louder than if you cut off both legs. I steal their money just to hear them holler. Then I pass it out among those who really need it.'
The Wild Bunch Showed the Mexican Revolution as it Really Was
A little more than 50 years ago, director Sam Peckinpah was looking forward to making a western, The Diamond Story, with Lee Marvin who was a huge box office star at the time.
Then, Marvin abruptly changed his mind and went off to make the musical western Paint Your Wagon with Clint Eastwood instead.
Peckinpah was left without a project, and that’s when he heard about a script written not by a professional screenwriter but by a movie stuntman, Roy Sickner.
The director sets up the climactic gun battle sequences at “Agua Verde” (the Hacienda Ciénaga del Carmen).
Peckinpah read the script, liked it and set out to make what has been called “one of the great masterpieces of modern cinema.” It also happens to be among the best action movies you’re ever likely to see.
Professionally, Peckinpah wasn’t in a good place in the late 1960s. In 1965, he had completed what he believed was his best film to date, Major Dundee, a story set in Mexico about an obsessed, driven cavalry commander, wonderfully played by Charlton Heston.
The studio took a look at the 160-minute long final cut and disagreed. They didn’t even bother with previews – instead they brutally cut the film before release, removing most of the violence which Peckinpah believed was intrinsic to the story. Peckinpah was actually barred from the editing room during this process and then abruptly fired.
After that, Peckinpah was effectively blacklisted in Hollywood, and he worked in television for a time before Warner studios relented and offered him the opportunity to direct the Lee Marvin western. When that fell through, Peckinpah persuaded them to back a new project based on the screenplay by Roy Sickner. The movie was to be called The Wild Bunch.
Like many movies that had gone before, The Wild Bunch was about a group of outlaws. But that was where the similarities ended.
Mexican Revolution: Northern leaders of the revolt against Díaz pose for a photo after the First Battle of Juárez.
The film was set during the Mexican Revolution, and Peckinpah was determined that it should be as authentic as possible. It was to be filmed on location in Mexico and should reflect the casual brutality of the revolution.
The script included lots of Mexican characters and Peckinpah insisted that these should be played by Mexican actors. That may not seem strange now, but in 1969 it was a radical approach for a Hollywood movie.
When Orson Wells had made A Touch Of Evil just ten years earlier, no-one would countenance the main character, a Mexican policeman, being played by a Mexican actor. So the role was given to Charlton Heston who was provided with laughable “blackface“ make-up.
The other thing that Peckinpah was concerned about was guns. He was a keen shooter and an ex-Marine, so he knew his way around firearms. He was disgusted with the way that guns and shooting were portrayed in the films of the mid-sixties.
Whether it was war films or westerns, all the guns sounded the same, and when someone got shot, they generally just collapsed bloodlessly to the ground or tied a handkerchief round the afflicted part and carried on. Peckinpah wanted the guns and the effects of being shot to look real in this movie. He said:
“We wanted to show violence in real terms. Dying is not fun and games. Movies make it look so detached.”
Mexican Revolution: Northern Revolutionary Gen. Francisco “Pancho” Villa with his staff in 1913.
The Wild Bunch was accused of many things, but never detachment. Stunt arrangers showed Peckinpah “squibs,” small capsules of blood which could be exploded to simulate the effect of a gunshot wound to the human body. They detonated several of these on card cut-outs propped against a fence.
Peckinpah wasn’t impressed. He produced a large-caliber handgun and blasted holes in the targets. “That’s what I want!” he told those nervously watching.
The special effects crew went off and designed bigger squibs, loaded with fake blood and meat and coupled these to a larger explosive charge. They tried that. It was better, but Peckinpah still wasn’t entirely satisfied – the blood, he said, was too red and unrealistic.
Mexican Revolution: Rebel camp.
The blood was darkened, but the director still wasn’t happy – the guns didn’t sound right because they were firing blanks loaded with small charges. The amount of powder in the blanks was increased until Peckinpah finally seemed to be content.
Then the crew prepared the blank ammunition for the actual filming. It amounted to 90,000 rounds in all, which is more ammunition than was expended during the actual Mexican Revolution.
Five Members of the Wild Bunch.
The guns used in this movie were carefully chosen by Peckinpah to be in keeping with the period. It’s set in around 1912/13 and the outlaws, who spend some time disguised as US soldiers, carry the new (at the time) Colt M1911 in addition to revolvers.
However, in some shots it’s obvious that they are using Astra Star Model B pistols, a later Spanish copy of the Colt 1911 which is recognizable by its external extractor and apparently works better with blanks.
There are also Colt Single Action revolvers, Winchester Model 1892s, Springfield M1903A3 rifles, and even a couple of Lugers. All were completely in keeping with the time in which the movie is set.
M1903 Springfield with loading clips. Photo: Curiosandrelics – CC BY-SA 3.0
In fact, there is only one real firearm anachronism in the whole film, and that’s the water-cooled, tripod-mounted machine gun which appears in the final shootout. It’s clearly a Browning M1917 which wasn’t around until several years later.
The outcome of all this care and attention was a film which scandalized and horrified many people when it was released in 1969 – “pure wasted insanity” was the comment of one viewer at an early screening. Cinema-goers just weren’t prepared for this level of violence. The final shootout alone involves more than 100 screen deaths in a little over four minutes.
Mexican Revolution: Uprising soldiers in action. 1913.
But audiences also weren’t prepared for protagonists who were really, deeply unpleasant. The members of the outlaw gang in this film have a Samurai-like code of personal honor, but this applies only to themselves.
Near the beginning of the story, the gang takes hostages, including a woman, during a bank robbery. William Holden tells one of the gang, who is covering the hostages with a shotgun, “If they move, kill ’em!” They move. They are brutally executed.
Peckinpah’s conception of Pike Bishop was strongly influenced by actor William Holden
To audiences of the time, this just wasn’t how cowboys were supposed to behave.
The film isn’t just about violence. There are long stretches when the main characters do little but talk to one another, mainly ruminating on the fact that growing old means that they find themselves in a world in which they have no place, a world in which honor and self-respect seem to have been abandoned.
However, it is the violence which remains in the memory long after the final credits have rolled.
The real Mexican Revolution was a bloody affair. It wasn’t so much a single revolution as a series of coups and counter-coups which ravaged Mexico from 1910-1920 and left up to 2,000,000 people dead.
Mexican Revolution: Insurrectos & their women.
Real violent death is seldom pretty or bloodless, and Peckinpah’s insistence on realism means that The Wild Bunch portrays this as accurately as 1960s special effects allow. We feel for the protagonists, despite some of the evil things that they do, partly because the potential violent death they face looks so painful and unpleasant. Just as it really is.
It wasn’t just moviegoers who were horrified by this film. In 1969, 20 th Century Fox were also planning to release a big-budget movie, but something very different to the gritty realism of The Wild Bunch.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a feel-good western about a pair of men who were, despite being outlaws, all round nice guys.
Butch Cassidy as part of the Wild Bunch at Fort Worth, Texas.
In real life, Butch Cassidy’s outlaw band was called the Wild Bunch. But no-one at 20 th Century Fox wanted to risk audiences making a connection between the wholesome family entertainment of Butch and Sundance and the nastiness of Peckinpah’s movie. So Butch’s gang was hastily re-named the Hole-in-the-Wall gang.
It’s difficult to classify The Wild Bunch. It certainly isn’t a traditional Western, but then it isn’t entirely a war film either. Calling it an action movie probably does it a disservice – it’s much, much more thoughtful, intelligent, and melancholy than the vast majority of action movies.
I suppose that it’s unique, and perhaps that what makes it so significant. The Wild Bunch certainly changed the way that audiences thought about violent on-screen death.
Posse organized to give chase to the Wild Bunch. From left to right: standing, unidentified on horse, George Hiatt, Timothy Keliher, Joe Lefors, H. Davis, S. Funk, Thomas Jefferson Carr.
The sanitized deaths that had been a staple of war movies and westerns up to that point suddenly weren’t satisfying. Most movies which followed began to switch to a more realistic portrayal of violent death.
Even today, there are still arguments about whether this approach ends up glorifying violence or whether portraying it accurately prevents people from acting out violently.
The one thing The Wild Bunch is short on is laughs, but if you look carefully, the title sequence does include one shot that may make you smile.
Peckinpah famously fell out during filming with actor Robert Ryan, who demanded top billing. Ryan was certainly the most experienced actor on set and a former Hollywood leading man, but Peckinpah insisted that top billing went to William Holden and Ernest Borgnine.
In the opening sequence, as the outlaws ride into town, the screen freezes on a shot of William Holden’s face, and his name appears on the screen. Then, it does the same with Ernest Borgnine. Immediately after, the screen freezes on a shot of the rear ends of horses, and Robert Ryan’s name appears on the screen.