George Leroy Parker was born in 1867 to Maximilian and Ann Parker, the oldest of seven children. The family lived in Circleville, Utah. His father bought a ranch there and kept on some of the original staff. Mike Cassidy was one of the cowboys who worked there. Cassidy and some of his friends were involved in rustling. He taught young George everything he knew about riding, shooting, roping, and branding cattle, all tricks of the trade of rustling. Over the years, Cassidy amassed a large herd for himself. He hired Parker to help him move them to the Henry Mountains in southeast Utah. By then, Parker was known to be loyal to his friends and to keep his word. He was well liked by everyone. These traits carried with him throughout his outlaw career.
A short time later Cassidy got into trouble with the law and fled to Mexico. This was when Parker adopted the name Cassidy, in memory of his mentor. Butch was a nickname later bestowed on him. Shortly afterward, he got into a scrape of his own. He got caught stealing some horses. While being taken in by two deputies, he overpowered them and escaped. After that he figured he better leave the area.
Cassidy and two friends went to Telluride, Colorado, where a mining boom was going on. They got a job at one of the mines. While there, Cassidy met Matt Warner, who was running some horses in a local horse race. He was also on the run from prior criminal activity. He was related by marriage to the infamous McCarty gang, who terrorized Oregon banks. The McCartys had once held a prosperous cattle ranch in the La Sal Mountains of Utah. They sold it off and became rustlers. Tom McCarty was also hiding from the law when Cassidy showed up.
Cassidy, Warner, and McCarty conspired to hold up the Telluride bank. On June 24, 1889, they slipped into the bank and relieved it of $10,500. The outlaws, and another man named Bert Maddern, who held their horses, easily got away before anyone noticed. They hid at Brown’s Hole for awhile.
Brown’s Hole, was located at the junction of the boundaries of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. The area was named after Baptiste Brown, an early fur trapper who once lived there. The trappers used the area since the surrounding mountains sheltered it from marsh winters. Also, there was abundant game that sought the warmer valley in the winters. When the railroad began building it began to serve as a place to herd cattle for the railroad crews. This naturally brought in the rustlers and it was a born outlaw hideout.
After their stay, McCarty and Warner went to Star Valley, Wyoming, while Cassidy went to Lander, Wyoming. The next summer Warner and McCarty went to Oregon, where the McCarty family owned a ranch. The McCartys proceeded to terrorize the northwest with bank robberies. They hid out on a ranch east of Spokane, Washington. After being nearly convicted of a robbery at Roslyn Washington, they returned to hide at Robber’s Roost. The McCarty’s later held up the bank at Delta, Colorado. Bill and Fred McCarty were shot during the event and Tom rode away. After this, the McCartys were never again associated with Butch Cassidy or the Wild Bunch.
In the meantime, Cassidy was working as a cowboy at various Wyoming ranches. Eventually he scraped enough together to buy his own ranch near Lander. At one point he was accused of robbing a drunk. He was later freed due to lack of evidence. The incident made Cassidy very bitter against the town of Rock Springs, county of Sweetwater, state of Wyoming, for believing that he could stoop that low. He never harmed or stole from individuals, only from banks and other large companies. He swore vengeance for the insult to his name.
In 1893, Cassidy found a new partner named Al Haines. They hid out in Star Valley, Wyoming. They were captured by the law when they were found to have stolen horses in their possession. Cassidy was found guilty and was sentenced to two years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. It would be the only time he served behind bars. He entered the prison on July 15, 1894, when he was 27 years old. He received an early release pardon by the Wyoming governor on January 19, 1896. He had to promise the governor he would never commit crimes in Wyoming in order to receive the pardon.
He returned to Brown’s Hole directly after being released. But he had decided that rustling wasn’t big enough. He started picking some men to be part of his gang. He chose Ellsworth “Elza” Lay as his right hand man. He also chose Bob Meeks, a friend of Lay’s, and three or four others. He established a hideout on the face of Diamond Mountain that was protected on three sides by a cliff so it was easily defensible.
Soon after, Matt Warner got into a bit of a scrape when he agreed to “scare off” some men from a prospecting area. When two of the men ended up dead, Warner found himself locked up in the Vernal, Utah jail. Cassidy promised he’d get a lawyer for him, but he had no cash. He had promised not to commit crimes in Wyoming, so he picked the bank in Montpelier, Idaho as his target. On August 13, 1896, Cassidy, Lay, and Meeks held up in the bank. They got $7,165 in cash and gold and silver. They got away easily and hired Warner’s attorney. Unfortunately for him, Warner was convicted and served the next 3 ½ years at the Utah State Penitentiary. After his release, he stayed a law-abiding citizen.
Cassidy returned to Hole in the Wall, where he planned his next job. Cassidy and Elza Lay and Bob Meeks would rob the mining payroll at Castle Gate, Utah. The payroll arrived via train from Salt Lake City. Cassidy patiently watched the trains every day to watch the railroad employees’ routine. On the appointed day, April 21, 1987, he made his move. The outlaws jumped the officials just as they were carrying the money into their office. The outlaws got away with $8,800 in gold and silver. They hid at Robber’s Roost until the excitement died down. They got bored, though, and rode north to Wyoming. They shot up the small towns of Dixon and Baggs.
Their next big job was on June 2, 1899. The picked a train near Wilcox, Wyoming. They blew up a bridge as the train was crossing. They blew out the door of the express car and then blew the door off the safe. They got about $30,000 in unsigned bank notes. Flat Nose George Curry, Harvey Logan (Kid Curry), and Elza Lay, and three others pulled the job. Because of Cassidy’s promise to the Wyoming governor, it is thought that he didn’t directly participate in this robbery, but did direct how it should be carried out. Several posses chased the robbers but their efforts were futile. The gang split up the money and hid out at Robber’s Roost.
After resting, Cassidy, Lay, and Kid Curry fled to New Mexico. Cassidy hired on as a ranch hand at the WS Ranch. One by one, several other members of the Wild Bunch also hid out by hiring on as hands. The owner may or may not have known who they were, but he did know that rustling came to a halt while they were there. On July 11, 1899, a train was robbed near Folsom, New Mexico. The robbery was executed in the same manner as the robbery at Wilcox. It was pulled off by Lay, Kid Curry, and Sam Ketchum. The law got the last laugh on this one–the express car had no money. A posse chased them down and Ketchum and Lay were both injured. Ketchum later died from his wound. Lay was later given up by the man at whose ranch he was recuperating. He was tried for murder of Sheriff Farr, who was killed in the shootout after the holdup. He was sentenced to life in the New Mexico penitentiary. Cassidy was probably not part of this holdup either, but he came under scrutiny because he was known to be their leader. He decided to leave the WS ranch before the law could take him in.
Cassidy was starting to get nervous. Several of his friends had been sent to prison or killed. He figured it was only a matter of time before it was his turn. He tried to make a deal with the Union Pacific–they would excuse his past crimes and he would hire on as their express rider, guaranteed to keep the outlaws away. When the Union Pacific men didn’t keep the appointment, due to unexpected bad weather, Cassidy thought he’d been double-crossed. In anger, he targeted a Union Pacific trail for another job.
On August 29, 1900, he and three others held up a train near Tipton, Wyoming. They did it with their usual method and blew up the express car. Unfortunately, there was only $50.40 to be stolen. Cassidy had intended this robbery to help finance his departure for South America, where he hoped to evade the law forever. He would need to try again.
He chose the bank at Winnemucca, Nevada. It was September 19, 1900. This time he was accompanied by Harry Longabaugh (Sundance Kid) and Bill Carver. They completed the robber in five minutes and got $32,640. A posse formed almost immediately, but it never quite caught up to the outlaws. The three men rode to Fort Worth, Texas to hide at “Hell’s Half Acre.” They split up the money and went out on the town. They were joined by Kid Curry and Ben Kilpatrick. While in Texas, the five men posed for a picture in a studio that has been often reprinted. An alert Pinkerton detective used it to try to track the men down.
They had one last trick up their sleeves. Cassidy, Sundance, Kid Curry, and Camilla Hanks, headed to Montana. Kid Curry and Sundance got on the train at Malta. Some distance down the track near Wagner, they ordered the engineer to stop. As usual, Cassidy blew up the safe. This time they got $65,000 in paper money. They split up afterwards and rode away. Kilpatrick was eventually caught and sentenced to 15 years in Atlanta. Hanks was later killed while resisting arrest in San Antonio on April 16, 1902. Kid Curry was caught but he escaped from a Knoxville jail. He later shot himself after being wounded in a shootout following a train robbery at Parachute, Colorado, on July 7, 1903.
Cassidy and Sundance met up in New York City on February 1, 1902. Sundance brought along Etta Place. On February 20, they left for South America on the U.S.S. Soldier Prince. They lived there peaceably on a ranch until 1906. For some reason they returned to their old ways, perhaps after hearing rumors that the law was on their tail. In March 1906, they robbed the bank at Mercedes and got $20,000. The banker was shot in the process. A few months later they held up the bank at Bahia Blanca and got another $20,000. They also held up a pay train in Eucalyptus, Bolivia.
On December 7, 1907, they held up a bank in Rio Gallegos, Argentina. They got away with $10,000. Their last job was holding up the pack train with the mine payroll at the Aramayo mines near Quechisla, Bolivia. Afterward, they stopped at San Vicente to stay for the night and get something to eat. A constable recognized that one of their mules belonged to a friend of his. He challenged them, and a shootout commenced. Sundance was mortally wounded first. In his attempt to drag him away, Cassidy was wounded. Ultimately, he saved the last two shots to shoot his friend and then himself. No one knows what happened to Etta Place.