Butch Cassidy (real name Robert Leroy Parker) was a notorious outlaw and bandit of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born in 1866 in Beaver, Utah and raised in a family who were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (sometimes referred to as Mormons). When Butch Cassidy (then known as Bob Parker) was 12 years old his family moved to Circleville, Utah.
At the age of 17, he left Circleville and made his way to Telluride, Colorado where he worked as a mule-skinner for one of the local silver mines. While in Telluride Butch met a young man, just slightly older than himself, by the name of Matt Warner.
For various personal reasons both Matt Warner and Bob Parker determined they would rob one of the local banks in Telluride. The robbery occurred on June 24, 1889, when Bob Park (soon to take the alias of Butch Cassidy) and Matt Warner, along with several other associates, entered the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride and held up the tellers at gunpoint. They made off with a reported $23,000 in cash and coins. The robbery was not a particularly violent one, and no one was injured. The robbery was notable for its audacity, as Telluride was a bustling mining town at the time, and the bank was located in the middle of the main street. The men made a quick escape from the scene, though a posse soon formed to pursue them. They were chased into the mountains but the posse lost their trail and the bandits escaped.
At some point after this robbery in Telluride, Robert Leroy Parker began to be known as Butch Cassidy. It is said that the alias Butch came from a brief stint of working in a butcher shop in Green River Wyoming, and that the Cassidy alias came from the last name of one of his early friends, Mike Cassidy.
In subsequent years Butch Cassidy formed a gang known as the "Wild Bunch," which was responsible for numerous robberies of banks, trains throughout the western United States.
Some of the most notable members of the Wild Bunch gang included:
Butch Cassidy (real name Robert Leroy Parker) - the leader of the gang. Butch was known for his charismatic personality and Robin Hood-like behavior. Numerous stories recount his sharing his ill-gotten gains with many needy individuals or families throughout the west.
The Sundance Kid (real name Harry Longabaugh) - Cassidy's closest partner and a skilled marksman.
Longabaugh was born in 1867 in Pennsylvania, and he got his nickname "Sundance" after being sentenced to serve time in Sundance, Wyoming. He was said to be an expert marksman and skilled horseman. He also had a penchant for fancy suits, and was known to be charming and charismatic.
Both men were known for their ability to evade capture of the lawmen who tried to bring them to justice who were never able to do so.
Other members included:
Ben Kilpatrick - also known as the Tall Texan, he was known for his sharp shooting and quick thinking. He was released from a prison sentence in 1911 and was killed while robbing a train in Texas in 1912.
Will (News) Carver - a member of the gang who was given his nickname because he liked seeing his name in the news. Will Carver was killed in a shootout in Texas in 1901.
Tom O'Day - a member of the gang who was killed in a shootout in Montana in 1892.
Harvey Logan - also known as "Kid Curry," he was known for his violent temper and was involved in several killings. He is said to have ended his own life in Colorado, in 1903, when he had been wounded in a remote canyon shootout and apparently did not want to be captured alive.
Elzy Lay - a member of the gang who was rumored to be killed in a shootout in Colorado in 1892, but other records show he lived until 1934 and died in Los Angeles, California.
George Curry (Flat Nose) - a member of the gang who was killed in a shootout in Grand County, Utah in 1900.
Bob Meeks - a member of the gang who died in 1912 in an insane asylum.
It's important to note that the Wild Bunch, like most outlaw gangs of the time, was composed of constantly changing number of members and not everyone that got associated with the gang was in all of its activities, some joined and left early on, some were killed or captured.
In 1894, Cassidy and several members of the Wild Bunch were accused of stealing horses in Wyoming, and he was subsequently arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. He served his time in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Laramie. After being released from prison, Cassidy left Wyoming and resumed his criminal activities, which included robbing banks and trains.
The Castle Gate payroll robbery took place soon after Butch's release from prison on April 21, 1896. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, created and carried out a plan to steal the payroll from the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Castle Gate, Utah. Acting casually as bystanders waiting for their payroll to arrive, they held up the individuals responsible for transporting the money and made off with $7,000 in cash, and escape the area before any authorities could arrive. It was one of the biggest payroll robberies in the American Old West history and the gang became quite notorious due to the robbery. These and other robberies brought greater notoriety to Butch and Sundance for their audacity and also for not harming anyone during the robbery.
In 1901, Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were rumored to have been involved in a series of additional train robberies in Wyoming and other western states. Train companies, and the government launched a massive manhunt for the outlaws, even employing the Pinkerton Detective Agency of Chicago, but the two men were never caught. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid determined it the west was changing and it was no longer a place where they could ply their trade. They fled to South America, along with Sundance’s girlfriend, Etta Place. In Bolivia and perhaps Chile and other South American countries they operated under various aliases and continued to conduct robberies, particularly of mines and banks. Though some accounts say they were killed in a shootout in Bolivia, there are also many other sources that say Cassidy and Sundance used this shootout as a ruse to fake their deaths, and then returned to the United States where they each lived under new identities, until their ultimate deaths of natural causes. Butch's youngest sister, Lula, published a book in 1975 that details a week-long visit from Butch (Robert Parker) to his family in the 1920's.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have become legendary figures in American folklore and have been the subject of numerous books, movies, and TV shows. The 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford popularized the tale of the outlaws to a new generation and it has become widely recognized as one of the best produced Western films of all time.