Kid Curry, the Wildest of the Bunch

0
231
Harvey Alexander Logan (1867 – June 17, 1904), also known as Kid Curry

The 1970s television wester, “Alias Smith and Jones” portrayed Kid Curry as a carefree reformed outlaw, who only turned violent when he needed to protect himself. That was also how some contemporaries viewed the real Kid Curry. Ranch bosses Granville Stuart, Robert Coburn, and Samuel Hansen certainly respected him as a good cowhand. Women who knew him described Curry as a caring and generous man. History records yet another story. Once on the run from the law, Kid Curry was an outlaw for the rest of his life.

Kid Curry was born Harvey Alexander Logan in Iowa in 1867. When their mother died in 1876, Harvey and his three brothers Hank, Johnie, and Lonny went to live with their Aunt Lee in Dodson, Missouri. Until at least 1883, Harvey was making an honest living breaking horses for the Cross L outfit near Big Spring, Texas. Then he rode with a trail herd bound for Pueblo, Colorado. Soon after arriving in Pueblo, Harvey got into a minor saloon brawl. It was his first incident of trouble.

After a quick departure from Pueblo, Logan arrived at Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming, a place then already known as an outlaw hideout. While there, Harvey met Flat Nose George Curry. It was from George that Harvey adopted his new last name. They had called him Kid in Texas, so when he took George’s name he became Kid Curry. Lonny and Johnnie Logan, following the lead of their older brother, also adopted the last name of Curry. During the 1884 Spring roundup at Crooked Creek, John Lee hired the Kid for the Judith Basin Fall roundup. The Kid also worked for the Circle C and Circle Diamond outfit for Robert Coburn at Flat Willow Creek and for Granville Stuart. Through associated with a few unsavory characters, at this point, Kid Curry was still “legit.”

Now came the event that would change Kid Curry’s life forever. He, his brother Hank, and friend Jim Thornhill bought a ranch at Rock Creek in Chouteau County, Montana. Powell “Pike” Landusky was a local prospector who had made a rich strike near the Curry ranch and a town had built up around the site of the mine.

This event brought the turning point in Curry’s life. The generally accepted story is that Landusky got angry when he discovered that the Kid had been courting his daughter Elfie. He felt that the Kid was a ne’er-do-well and not near good enough for his daughter.

Pike Landusky filed assault charges against the Kid and he was arrested. Curry’s friends, A.S. Lohman and Frank Plunkett, paid the $500 bond for Curry’s release. The Kid got out of jail, but the charge was never dropped and he never stood trial. Elfie would later claim that it had been the Kid’s brother Lonny she had been seeing.

Kid Curry promised to give Pike a beating for the humiliation he had suffered. On the night of December 27, 1894, the Kid caught up with Landusky in a local saloon. An altercation followed, in which Harvey through the first punch. Once the Kid’s anger was aroused, there was no stopping him. He beat Landusky until the man could no longer stand. Landusky was in bad shape when he drew his gun. The Kid was unarmed, but his friend Thornhill quickly gave the Kid his gun. Landusky fired first, but he missed Curry or maybe his gun misfired. The Kid fired back, killing Landusky. At the inquest, eleven people verified that Kid Curry killed Pike Landusky in self-defense.

The Kid knew that he faced an unfriendly judge named Debois. Pike Landusky had many friends in the area and Kid Curry had started the fight. Curry felt that he didn’t stand much of a chance for a fair trial, so he hit the trail and became a fugitive from justice.

Kid Curry fled to the Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming to hide out. At first he joined the Black Jack Ketchum band. While riding with Black Jack, the Kid heard that a rancher named James Winters, who lived near the Landusky ranch, had been spying on him.

So in January 1896, the Kid and brothers Lonny and Johnnie rode to Winter’s ranch to shut him up. The adventure misfired and in the shootout, Winters killed Johnnie. Harvey and Lonny managed to escape. Afterwards, they participated in a train robbery with Black Jack’s gang. But immediately afterwards, the Kid argued with Black Jack and he and Lonny left the gang.

Making one more attempt to stay on the right side of the law, Kid Curry and his cousin Bob Lee hired on as horse breakers at Frank Lamb’s FL Bar ranch near Sand Gulch, Colorado. Lamb befriended the Kid, who he knew as Harvey Wright. Fate would not let Curry live peacefully. The cowboy job soon ended. Later, it was near the Lamb ranch that the Pinkertons lost the Kid’s trail following the Wilcox, Wyoming train robbery.

So in June 1897, the Kid and his gang decided to hold up the Butte County Bank at Belle Fourche, South Dakota. He and his friends got the money with little resistance, but the townspeople captured Tom O’Day. His horse had run away without him.

The others got away, but while planning another robbery a posse caught up with Curry in Fergus County, Montana. While packing his horse, the Kid was shot in the wrist. Then his horse was shot out from under him. Finally the posse captured the Kid, Flat Nose George Curry, and Walt Putney. The jail at Deadwood, South Dakota became home, until they broke out by overpowering the jailer.

After the escape, the men headed back to Montana, stealing horses and supplies along the way. Lawmen found them in the Bearpaw Mountains and there was a gunfight. The posse recovered the stolen goods and horses, but the gang got away on foot. They robbed two post offices on their way to the Hole-in-the-Wall.

Later that winter a posse went to the Hole and instigated a shootout with the outlaws when they caught up with the Curry gang. But the 30 or 40 outlaws who were at the hideout were well protected by the terrain and the structures they had built, so the posse finally gave up the right.

The robbers from the Belle Fourche Bank holdup were never punished. This lawless effort by the Kid Curry gang brought them instant recognition and a “bonafide” admittance into the Wild Bunch.

The Kid was riding with the Wild Bunch when, on June 2, 1899, they robbed the Union Pacific Overland Flyer train near Wilcox, Wyoming. Two robbers ordered the engineer and fireman to uncouple the express car and move it across a bridge a few yards ahead of the halted engine. Then the other robbers blew up the railroad bridge.

When the outlaws ordered the attendant, a man named Woodcock, to open the express car he refused, so the bandits were forced to blow the door open. Woodcock was knocked out by the force of the blast, so he was too dazed to remember the combination to the safe. So the outlaws blew the safe door open. The Kid was all for shooting the attendant for his obstinance, but Butch Cassidy held him back. From that point on, Cassidy was constantly having to hold back the Kid’s more violent nature. Butch himself was only interested in stealing money and not in hurting anybody they robbed.

The train robber’s descriptions, provided by the train crew, helped the local sheriff to identify some of the robbers as Harvey Logan, Flat Nose George Curry, and Elza Lay. Posses were formed immediately.

During the escape attempt, the Kid shot Sheriff Joe Hazen. This stopped the posse long enough for the Wild Bunch to wade down a stream to throw the posse off their trail. While the outlaws were completing this maneuver, the posse captured their horses. This left the gang in a vulnerable position and forced them to walk to a sheep ranch at Castle Creek to rest up. Next the gang walked to the Tisdale Mountains on the north fork of the Powder River, where they resupplied themselves and got some horses.

The race was on again. More lawmen joined the hunt. This time the bad guys won by reaching the Hole-in-the-Wall before the new posse could catch them. Once they were at the Hole-in-the-Wall, they were in “bad men’s” land and among friends.

Charles Siringo, a Pinkerton detective, was now assigned the task of bringing Kid Curry to justice. He made friends with Elfie Landusky Curry; she called herself Curry after acknowledging that Lonny Curry had got her pregnant, to get close to the Kid. He used the names of Charles L. Carter and passed himself off as an outlaw so he could get in with the bad element. Siringo also became friends with Jim Thornhill, because he believed Jim had been keeping regular correspondence with the Kid. Siringo told his superiors that he was now on the right track.

While Siringo was snooping out Curry’s whereabouts, Curry was laying low at Robber’s Roost in Utah. After awhile he got restless and rode to Alma, New Mexico, with Butch Cassidy and some other outlaws. There the men worked as ranch hands on the WS ranch. The foreman and manager were very happy with the Wild Bunch’s work since the rustling stopped while they were employed at the ranch.

On July 11, 1899, while still working at the WS ranch, Kid Curry, Elza Lay, and Sam Ketchum robbed a train near Folsom, New Mexico. Lay and Ketchum were later captured, but the wounded Ketchum died, of blood poisoning, before he could stand trial. Lay was sentenced to life for the murder of the pursuing sheriff.

Kid Curry escaped the posse, but the Folsom incident required the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the other outlaws to leave the Alma area. The law was getting too close. Their employers were reluctant to see them go, since the WS had enjoyed the most rustler-free era in the ranch’s history.

In January, 1900, following the Folsom train robbery, Lonny Curry went to his aunt’s house in Missouri. Soon afterwards some marked bills from the Wilcox train robbery were spent in town.

Lawmen came to Mrs. Lee’s cabin on February 28,1 900 to arrest Lonny, but he wasn’t going to be arrested without a fight. An officer killed Lonny in the resulting shootout. Once more fate was at work. Mrs. Lee’s son, Bob, had been arrested for rustling and was sentenced to the Wyoming State Prison. Kid Curry was now the last of the wild Logan brothers still alive. Hank Logan was not known to have ever been in any trouble with the law.

While hiding out, the Kid heard of the death of his brother Lonny and v owed to get revenge. He had also heard of the killing of Flat Nose George Curry by lawmen in Moab County, Utah, in April 1900. The Kid rode to Utah, from New Mexico, and killed Sheriff John Tyler and Deputy Sheriff Sam Jenkins in a shootout.

This time, Kid Curry didn’t even bother staying out of sight. The Wild Bunch was already planning their next big robbery. A Union Pacific train was robbed near Tipton, Wyoming on August 29, 1900. The robbery was done in the trademark Wild Bunch style. While the train was getting up steam, the Kid climbed into the engineer’s cab by crawling over the coal tender. He held two six-guns on the engineer and ordered him to stop. Fortuitously, Woodcock was the attendant on duty in the express car. He had learned his lesson from the Wilcox robbery and did not stand in the way of the robbers getting to the safe.

However, the bandits still had to blow the safe. The first newspaper stories said the holdup men got $55,000, but later reports said only $50.40 was in the express safe. The train crew identified Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Kid Curry as part of the gang.

To elude the law, the Bunch split up. Kid Curry and Ben Kilpatrick hid out at Hell’s Half Acre in Fort Worth, Texas, while Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and Bill Carver went out immediately and pulled another job at Winnemucca, Nevada. By then Butch and Sundance were planning to go to South America and still needed some extra money to get them there.

After the Winnemucca job, Kid Curry and Ben Kilpatrick joined other gang members at Fannie Porter’s Sporting House in Fort Worth. While there, the Kid started a long term relationship with a prostitute named Annie Rogers. In his usual daring fashion, Curry had his picture taken with Annie, although his positive identification in a photograph would only help law enforcement officials.

After the Tipton holdup, Siringo was back on the Kid’s trail and he was not surprised to learn that Kid Curry, the Sundance Kid, and Bill Cruzan were his prime suspects. Charley rode to Circleville, Utah, where Butch Cassidy was born, to see if he could get any fresh leads. From there he went to the Navajo Reservation to see if any of the Wild Bunch had been seen there. From the local trading post’s managers Charley learned that four Wild Bunch members had recently been seen in the area.

Siringo rode through many New Mexico towns hoping to pick up the Wild Bunch’s trail. He stopped at Alma, where bank notes from the Wilcox robbery had turned up. He posed as an outlaw while in the area to see if he could discover anything. It was here that he first heard about the Robber’s Roost hide-out. But by the time he arrived there, the Wild Bunch was already gone. He always seemed to be two steps behind them.

Siringo got a tip that “Jim F.”, in Grand Junction, Colorado, had ridden with Butch Cassidy so he befriended Jim, using the assumed name of Lee Roy Davis. Jim took Siringo to his Black Mountain ranch, where the Kid and his gang had stocked up on supplies and horses just before the Tipton, Wyoming train robbery. The Kid had also used this ranch as a hideout when the sheriff was looking for them. Jim confirmed that the three suspects had robbed the Tipton train.

While in Rawlins, Wyoming, Siringo learned that many Wild Bunch members spent a lot of time at Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming. He immediately set out to look for the area, but didn’t catch anyone home. Siringo trailed the Kid back to Rawlins, where he had stashed some money from the Tipton robbery. The Kid used the money to pay a lawyer to defend Annie Rogers, who had been passing some of the stolen bills in St. Louis. This was as far as Siringo got with his investigation when he was called back east for another assignment. He was reluctant to let the case drop, but he had accumulated much helpful information for future use.

It would still be another year, before lawmen could catch up with the Kid or any of the Wild Bunch. On July 3, 1901, near Wagner, Montana, members of the Wild Bunch hit the Great Northern train in their trademark style. This time, they got $65,000. T his was a huge haul and it was the last job the Wild Bunch committed together. Lawmen had become smarter. Rather than sending out posses and having someone get hurt or killed, the peace officers just waited for the bandits to start spending the stolen money.

As soon as the robbers started spending the money, the lawmen knew where they were and went after them. The first was Ben Kilpatrick. He was caught in Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 12, 1901, and at his trial he was given 15 years in prison.

Even though the Kid knew the law was close on his heels, he returned to Montana. It had taken five years, but now Curry avenged his brother Johnie’s death. He shot rancher Jim Winters.

The end of the trail was near in 1902. The Kid was captured in a pool room in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the arrest a billy club was broken over his head. The wound left a three-inch scar on Curry’s lower head and upper neck. When local officers filed their report they described the various marks on the Kid’s body. They noted that there were buckshot scars on his back, a knife scar, teeth missing from both upper and lower jaws, and scars on his leg, right wrist, and left forearm.

Kid Curry stood trial for the Wagner, Montana train robbery and was found guilty. On November 30, 1902, he was sentenced to twenty years of hard labor and a $5,000 fine. The Kid, however, was soon planning an escape.

On June 27, 1903, Curry escaped from the Knoxville jail. There were rumors that the deputy sheriff on duty had accepted an $8,000 bribe to let the Kid escape. Curry fled back west to Wagner, Montana. Here the Kid walked to his old hideout in the Thornhill Buttes and picked up some supplies. Curry had made a clean getaway. He could have started a new life, but he couldn’t resist pulling one more robbery.

The Kid made plans to rob the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad train near Parachute, Colorado. The same robbery had been considered earlier by Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. But now Curry’s choice of partners was limited. The former Wild Bunch was disbanded. Butch and Sundance were in South America, and the other members were either killed or were already in prison.

Curry got George Kilpatrick and Charlie Howland from the Lamb ranch. Kid, George, and Charlie worked for the railroad as hands for a week while learning the terrain and the train schedules. The target date was June 17, 1904, but the train carrying the money didn’t stop as planned.

The bandit just stopped the next train. For their efforts, they only got $50. Unfortunately for them, that is enough to get the railroad detectives and the local lawmen on their tail. The Kid and his gang were able to elude the posse for two days, but finally the posse trapped the three train robbers.

At first the posse didn’t realize who they had cornered. They thought the Kid and his gang might be sheep rustlers. Over 200 shots were fired in the gun battle between the outlaws and the lawmen. The Kid was shot in the arm and both lungs. The Kid knew his time had come, so he held off the posse so that Ben and Charlie could get away. The end came on June 9, 1904, in a field near Rifle, Colorado. Harvey Logan, Kid Curry, simply shot himself with his Colt .45.

At first, the posse wasn’t sure whose body they had. Tap Duncan had been reported in Green River, Utah, so lawmen thought it might be him. The coroner examined the body at Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It was discovered that the coat on the body contained the same type of label was the coat that Kid Curry had worn when he was captured in Knoxville. When lawmen compared the scars on the Colorado body to those noted in the Knoxville arrest report, they found that they were the same. Pinkerton Detective Lowell Spence brought his own doctor to Colorado to examine the body. He was sure it was Kid Curry. The suspect’s body was exhumed from the Glenwood Springs cemetery on July 6, 1904. The examination was just long enough to prove to Spence that he had found the body of Kid Curry. Then it was reburied.

The railroad companies did not want to pay their $30,000 posted reward, so they still continued to label the body as Tap Duncan. The railroad never did pay the Parachute robbery posse their $100 reward for the capture either. T his lack of positive identification resulted in the rumor that Kid Curry had made it to South America. Newspaper reports fueled the rumors, which said that three American outlaws had been seen in South America. Some of these rumors concerned a reserved man who drank heavily. This seemed to describe the Kid.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency, however, was sure that Kid Curry, the most ruthless member of the Wild Bunch, was dead.

SOURCES:

“Kid Currey, Montana Cowboy,” Kenneth Jesse Cole, The Montana Journal, Inner-Mountain Marketing, Missoula, MT, July-August 1990, p. 12.

“The Gunfighters,” James D. Horan, Gramercy Books, Avenel, NJ, 1976.

“The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch,” Charles Kelly, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1996

“Wild and Woolly: An Encyclopedia of the Old West,” Denis McLoughlin, Barnes & Noble, 1975.

“A Cowboy Detective, A True Story of Twenty-Two Years with a World-Famous Detective Agency,” Charles Siringo, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1988 (originally published 1912).

Published by:

WOLA Journal
Official Publication of the Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association, Inc.
Hamilton, Montana
Spring 1999

SHARE