This page will convey some basic information about one of Carbon County's most famous personalities, Cattle Kate. I hope you learns something about this interesting character.
Robert Leroy Parker was the eldest of 13 children born to Mormon parents in Beaver, Utah on April 13, 1866. He became a cowboy at the age of 13 when his parents moved to a ranch located near Circleville, Utah. It was at this time that his father hired a young man named Michael Cassidy who turned out to be truly bad influence on the young Parker. Mike taught the very impressionable young man how to shoot, rope and rustle cattle and Leroy subsequently took on the last name Cassidy, probably because of these early influences.
Shortly after the two left the ranch they put together a gang because they had sided with ranchers in a range war which had broken out, Mike subsequently shot a Wyoming rancher and disappeared. Since Butch (he would not be nicknamed this for several years) was a natural leader, he took over the gang. The gang headquartered out of Robbers Roost, a natural fortress located in the southwest corner of Utah. Butch had a certain knack for locating such areas as he would later do in Wyoming at the Hole-In-The-Wall. He and his fellow outlaws would hide out from the law in these natural strongholds.
In early 1887, at the age of 21, he met Bill and Tom McCarty and they asked him to join them and their gang in a train robbery. On November 3, 1887 the new gang stopped the Denver & Rio Grande express near Grand Junction, Colorado and when the guard refused to open the safe, Bill McCarty put a gun to his head and asked if he should kill the guard. The gang took a vote and voted not to end his life and the train went on it's way. After this failed attempt, Butch tried to make an honest living working as a cowboy and miner in Colorado and Utah, something he would try to do many times during his life of crime but which he was never really successful at. During one of his attempts at being a law abiding citizen, he worked at a butcher shop in Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was at this time that he got the nickname 'Butch' which he would carry always.
Butch and a man named Al Hainer, who he got tied up with began an extortion racket in Colorado. they would sell local ranchers protection from rustlers but what the ranchers soon found out is that if they didn't pay the fee, it was Cassidy and Hainer who would rustle their cattle. Ranchers turned to John Chapman and Bob Calverly to track down the pair. When they caught up to the outlaws, Hainer was captured outside their cabin and tied to a tree and when Calverly entered the cabin where Butch was relaxing, guns began blazing and Cassidy was grazed with a bullet and knocked unconscious. Both men were subsequently found guilty and sentenced to two years in the Territorial Prison at Laramie, Wyoming. After a year and a half of Butch's sentence, he applied for and got a hearing with Governor William Richards. As the story goes, he told the governor a tale about how he intended to go to Colorado to 'tend' some land he had there. The Governor asked Cassidy to promise that if he were pardoned, he would quit rustling but Cassidy said: 'Can't do that governor because if I gave you my word I'd only have to break it'. He did promise the governor that if he were given a pardon, he would not commit any crimes in Wyoming. Unbelievably, the governor signed the order and on January 19, 1896, Butch Cassidy walked out of prison a free man. It has been reported that Butch Cassidy spent time at the penitentiary in Rawlins and although I would like to be able to say he did, it just wasn't so. Butch only spent time behind bars the one time and it was before the penitentiary was built and housing prisoners here in Rawlins.
Butch promptly rode to the Hole-in-the-Wall. Here he met and joined up with the 'Wild Bunch' a group of some of the meanest outlaws in the west. In his attempt to live up to the promise he had made, the gang robbed the Montpelier Bank on August 13, 1896. This was a success because Butch had scouted out the town and the bank for weeks in advance and they netted $7,165. They next hit a mining camp at Castle Gate, Utah and since they had made so much money, the allure of 'going straight' once again got very strong and Butch and Elzy Lay rode to New Mexico and got jobs as cowboys. It was not long, though, and their money ran out and they were back at Hole-in-the-Wall planning their next job and it wasn't an honest one.
On June 2, 1899, the gang stopped the Union Pacific's Overland Flyer and the engineer was ordered to uncouple the express car and move the rest of the train across a small trestle. When the engineer refused, he was pistol whipped and Lay moved the train across himself and the trestle was then blown up, leaving the vulnerable express car by itself. Inside the car was a guard named Woodcock. When he was ordered to open the door, the prompt answer was 'Come in and get me!'. The gang then placed another charge against the rail car door. As you can see from the photo, the car was blown to pieces and it sent a badly injured Woodcock flying to the ground. When one of the members of the gang was preparing to send this guard 'to Hell', Cassidy interferred, telling the others that a man with that much nerve deserved to live. They spared Woodcock's life and began picking up the scattered $30,000 in bank notes.
The Union Pacific hired the Pinkerton Agency to hunt down and bring in these outlaws and so it was decided that the best thing to do was to break the gang up. Butch and his now best buddy, Harry Longbaugh, know as the Sundance Kid headed back to the Hole. Most of the member of the gang were hunted down and either killed or placed in prison but the remaining members again decided to rob a Union Pacific train (perhaps in retaliation for the suffering the Pinkertons had put them through) at Tipton, Wyoming on August 29, 1900. Once again, they ordered the guard to open the door to the express car and much to their amazement, it was Woodcock and he again refused to open the door. Butch instructed the engineer to tell that 'iron-headed Woodcock that if he doesn't open the door, we'll blow him and the car sky-high'. After the engineer pleaded with Woodcock, he relented and opened the door. The take on this robbery was $50,000 the largest haul they had ever gotten. Butch and Sundance and the remainder of the Wild Bunch were once again on the run. Once again the Union Pacific hired the most aggressive lawman they could find, Joe Lefors to track them down. After many months of running and chasing the lawman lost them at their favorite hideout, the Hole-in-the-Wall. There were several other robberies in the couple years that followed but finally the heat got to be too much for Butch and Sundance.
The two outlaws and close friends rode to Ft. Worth, Texas to relax in Fannie Porter's brothel. It is here that Sundance ran into Etta (Ethel) Place, an attractive brunette who longed for adventure. The three of them left for New York to have some fun, stay in the nicest hotels and enjoy the good life for a while. In late 1901, They moved on to Buenos Aires and settled in southern Argentina where they took the names James Ryan and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Place. They built a cabin in the Cholila Valley and began a peaceful life as ranchers. For the next three years, they lived the quiet, restful life raising cattle, horses and sheep. They made many friends and were well thought of and if anybody knew of their past, they kept it to themselves.
This life was not to last forever as in 1905 and 1906, several robberies took place that were blamed on Butch and Sundance. They were pursued into Chile with several posses chasing them. It was about this time that Etta seems to have returned to the United States and into oblivion. The two split up for some time with Butch working at a mine in Bolivia and Sundance joining him some time later. On November 6, 1908, Butch and Sundance arrived in the town of San Vicente and found a place to stay. Someone notified the soldiers that two American strangers had arrived and the soldiers prepared a trap. A huge gunbattle ensued between Butch and Sundance and the military which raged, off and on, all night long. The next morning, after the shooting had died down for some time, the soldiers entered the house where the outlaws had been hold up and found Butch and Sundance sitting inside, both with bullet wounds in their heads. It is speculated that when it was obvious that escape was not a possibility, one man killed the other and then turned the gun on himself. They were buried later that day but dug up two weeks later to be positively identified by Carlos Pero.
The legend of Butch and Sundance does not die here, in Bolivia. It is believed by many and told as fact by several members of Butch's family that Butch escaped the firefight that night and returned to his birthplace of Circleville, Utah. They say he changed his name and lived out his life in the United States, dying in 1929. There is no proof to support this story but it certainly makes for a wonderful legend for generations to speculate about.