PROFILE - The Life and Fate of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid

Friday the 13th, April 1866, in Beaver, Utah, a child was born - a  child that later became the last of the Western gang leaders. Named Robert LeRoy Parker, he learned the delicate skills of theft while working as a butcher, from his childhood friend, Mike Cassidy. Robert later paid tribute to this time in his life by renaming himself Butch Cassidy.

Cassidy joined a gang and began his education robbing trains, before going off on his own. In 1893, he stole a horse in Rawlins, Wyoming, and was sent to the penitentiary. Upon his release at age 30, he promptly began his own successful gang. The newspapers called them “The Wild Bunch.” The widows and children of men ruined by bankers and barons called them heroes. For it was them that Cassidy and his Bunch bestowed their generosity upon. They respected this “Robin Hood of the West,” for not only was he generous, but he lived by a moral code they could understand. A Mormon bishop’s grandson, Butch was democratic with his gang, despised heedless violence, and is often quoted proudly stating, “I have never killed a man.”
Cassidy had big plans in sight. In April 1897, The Wild Bunch committed a daring robbery. The gang did an average hold-up of a coal mining company unloading payroll from the train. They rode off with $9, broad daylight.
Two years later, on June 2nd, they performed another daring stunt at 2:30 a.m. Using a warning lantern to stop a Union Pacific train, they detached the express car using enough dynamite to be effective without injuring the guard inside. After discovering uncooperation of the guards, they turned away and merely used more dynamite to blow the safe open. As money flew through the air, The Wild Bunch scooped up $30,000 and rode off. This amazing scene later became the basis for motion picture’s first movie, “The Great Train Robbery.”
After three more similar jobs, the Union Pacific attempted to solve the problem. They offered to buy Cassidy out with a pardon and a job with a good salary. Cassidy’s response was yet another robbery. Furious, a man was sent to infiltrate The Wild Bunch. After ruining many theft attempts, Chris Carter vanished.
In 1901, after a big bank robbery in Winnemucca, Nevada, the group, along with Cassidy, had a portrait done. They then sent a copy to the bank, along with a pleasant “Thank You” note. A little later that year, Butch Cassidy ran off to New York, along with Harry Longbaugh and his dame, Etta Place. After seeing the city, Etta, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid sailed to Buenos Aires. By this time, the whole group had made off with $350,000 in 5 years. Butch knew it was time to relocate.
During the early 1900’s, the trio robbed trains and banks all over South America. Then, in 1908, while cornered by soldiers in San Vincente, Bolivia, Harry “The Sundance Kid” Longbaugh was shot, enabling the escape of Cassidy.
Cassidy was never found. Speculation is that he escaped back to America and died in 1937, under the name William T. Phillips, in Spokane, Washington. This information was tentatively confirmed by his sister, who lived until the 1970’s.
Through any speculation on the fate of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, all that is known for certain is that they both fulfilled their prophetic saying. “I will never be taken alive.”

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