The last of the great western train robbers was Butch Cassidy, who was born on April 13, 1866, in Beaver in the Utah Territory.
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He was born as Robert Leroy Parker to parents who were Mormons and responded to the urging of Brigham Young (leader of the Latter Day Saint movement) for young couples to help in the building of communities for the faith on the Utah frontier. Cassidy was the firstborn of 13 children. When he was 13 the family relocated to a ranch near Circleville, a small Mormon community. There Cassidy admired a local bully Mike Cassidy who taught the boy how to shoot a gun and ride in a saddle.
Once Cassidy started becoming like a bully himself he was forced to leave his home in his mid-teens. He committed his first serious crime on June 24, 1889, when he participated in a bank robbery in Telluride, Colorado stealing over $20,000. Having become a fugitive he started calling himself George Cassidy. To avoid capture he worked as a butcher in Rock Springs, Wyoming where he earned his well-known nickname of Butch Cassidy.
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Cassidy was arrested for horse theft in Wyoming and spent two years in the Wyoming Territorial Prison at Laramie and was later pardoned. This did not teach him a lesson and he returned to a life of crime. He chose to spend company with a local band of outlaws who became known as the Wild Bunch. Cassidy’s most famous partner became Henry Longbaugh or as he was better known the Sundance Kid.
By 1897, Cassidy was in control of a complex criminal operation that was active in states and territories from South Dakota to New Mexico. The specialty of the Wild Bunch was holding up railroad express cars and at times they were referred to as The Train Robber Syndicate. When he was not performing his horrendous deeds Cassidy began playing around with different lovers and took his gang on wild vacations to Denver, San Antonio, and Fort Worth.
Unfortunately for this band by the turn of the century, the wild days of the West were fast becoming history. Now deserted lands were becoming settled and western states and territories began enforcing the law. When railroad executives grew tired of Cassidy and his band they hired detectives to catch him. Soon mounted guards were placed in railcars to try to get the Wild Bunch.
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This forced Cassidy, his lover, Etta Place and buddy, the Sundance Kid to flee to Argentina in 1901. They homesteaded a ranch at Cholita but after several years Place returned to the U.S. Then in 1904 Cassidy and the Sundance Kid found out that detectives had tracked them to South America. They fled from the ranch and began a spree of robberies in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. There are no actual records of the incident but supposedly Bolivian troops killed Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the village of San Vincente in 1908. The families of both men, however, insisted that they both or at least one of them had survived and returned to the U.S to live until a ripe old age. From what is written online it is not certain and no proof one way or another has been found.
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Many will remember that in 1969 Hollywood made a movie of these two famous outlaws titled “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. As much as outlaws do not deserve to be admired I still like to remember the scene in the movie played to the song “Raindrops Are Falling On My Head”. Also, it is an interesting fantasy to imagine such handsome outlaws as in the movie with Butch Cassidy played by Paul Newman and the Sundance Kid by Robert Redford.