Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid

Get the real story of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid - including their supposed demise in South America.

The child who would become Butch Cassidy was born as Robert Leroy Parker on April 13, 1866 in Beaver, Utah. His was a Mormon family and Robert was the first of thirteen children. At age 13, Roy was put to work as a seasonal laborer on the Ryan ranch at Hay Springs. His first run in with the law came when he rode into town to buy a pair of jeans. Finding the store closed, he let himself in, took the jeans and left a note pledging to return to pay. The storekeeper wasn't impressed and called the law. Young Roy was humiliated over the affair. Thus he got a bitter taste for the legal process.

Before long Roy was working on another farm, this time belonging to a Jim Marshall. He came into contact with a drifter named Mike Cassidy who came to work on the ranch. Cassidy was engaged in stealing cattle and horses and it wasn't long before young Roy had thrown in with Cassidy. Cassidy had a profound effect on the lad, who would borrow his name.

Soon Roy's rustling activities had come to the attention of the authorities and he had to flee the county. In 1884 he joined a gang whose members included a former member of the notorious James gang, one Bill McCarty. He participated in train hold ups and bank robberies for some time before drifting out on his own. It was around this time that he took on the name Butch Cassidy.

After drifting across Utah and Wyoming for some time, he was arrested in 1893 for stealing a horse in Rawlins, Wyoming. For this crime he spent 18 months in jail. He came out of the penitentiary aged 30. It was then that he decided to form his own gang. He gathered some rogues and minor criminals around him, including Ben Kilpatrick and Harry Longabaugh who would become known as the Sundance Kid. After robbing a bank and stealing a mining camp payroll the press christened the gang "˜The Wild Bunch.'

The Wild Bunch distinguished themselves, not by their violent actions, but rather by their daring and flair. Cassidy made a point of avoiding needless violence. He proudly proclaimed, "I have never killed a man," and would shoot at his pursuers horses rather than the men themselves. On June 2, 1899 the gang used a warning lantern to flag down a Union pacific Train near Wilcox, Wyoming. They detached the express car and placed a stick of dynamite underneath it. The safe however wasn't broken, despite the fact that the carriage was blown to bits. More dynamite finally ripped open the safe, spewing the cash into the night sky. The outlaws gathered up $30,000 in cash and took off.

A series of similar train robberies followed. The Railroad organised it's own gang of gunfighters to bring in the Wild Bunch. With this heat making life uncomfortable, Cassidy decided to transfer his operations to South America. Ditching the rest of the gang, Butch and the Sundance Kid travelled to New York in 1901, along with The Kid's wife Ethel Place. After checking out New York, and having formal photographs taken, they sailed for Buenos Aires.

For the next few years Butch and Sundance robbed banks and trains across South America. For a time they owned and operated a ranch in Chubut Province, Argentina. They soon returned to crime, however. In 1908, they were trapped by Bolivian Soldiers near San Vicente, Bolivia. In the ensuing gun battle, history records, the Sundance Kid was killed and Butch shot himself.

There has been controversy for nearly a century as to whether or not the two outlaws did, in fact, die in 1908 in Bolivia. Reports began to circulate after a few years that the pair had returned to the States. From there they are reported to have taken on various aliases. The most notable and, ostensibly, reputable account has Butch taking on the life of a machine shop owner in Spokane, Washington by the name of William Thaddeus Phillips. This man produced a manuscript during the Depression, while his adding machine business was failing, called "˜The Bandit Invincible - the story of Butch Cassidy.' It included details which have since been corroborated by history. He owned a pistol with Cassidy's brand carved into the grip, as well as a ring which Cassidy had been known to have once possessed. Besides this Phillips and Cassidy had remarkably similar facial features, as can be seen by a comparison of photographs. William Thaddeus Phillips died in a nursing home in 1937. Was he really Butch Cassidy? Many people are convinced that he was, while others are highly sceptical. We will probably never know for sure.

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