|Slavery in the United States||American West||Civil Rights Movement|
Harry Longbaugh (Sundance Kid) was born in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania, in 1870. Little is known of his early life but in the late 1880s he was involved in rustling in Sundance, Wyoming. After serving 18 months in prison he worked as a cowboy in Wyoming. Soon after his release he was charged with stealing $80 from an old man in Lusk. He escaped and in December, 1892, he Great Northern train in Malta, Montana.
Longbaugh had joined up with Harvey Logan to rob a bank at Belle Fourche, South Dakota on 27th June, 1897. Longbaugh and Logan were captured but managed to escape from Deadwood Jail three months later.
In 1900 Longbaugh met Butch Cassidy. He moved to the Robbers' Roost in Utah and joined what became known as the Wild Bunch. As well as Cassidy the gang included Ben Kilpatrick, Harvey Logan, William Carver, George Curry, Laura Bullion, Elza Lay and Bob Meeks.
The name Wild Bunch was misleading as Butch Cassidy always tried to avoid his gang hurting people during robberies. His gang were also ordered to shoot at the horses, rather than the riders, when being pursued by posses. Cassidy always proudly boasted that he had never killed a man. The name actually came from the boisterous way they spent their money after a successful robbery.
On 29th August, 1900 the Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy robbed a Union Pacific train at Tipton, Wyoming. This was followed by a raid on the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada (19th September, 1900) that netted $32,640. The following year the gang obtained $65,000 from the Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana.
George Curry was killed by Sheriff Jesse Tyler on 17th April, 1900. The following year William Carver and Ben Kilpatrick were ambushed by Sheriff Elijah Briant and his deputies at Sonora, Texas. Carver died from his wounds three hours later. Kilpatrick escaped but he was captured in St Louis with another gang member, Laura Bullion, on 8th November, 1901. Kilpatrick was found guilty of robbery and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Another gang member, Harvey Logan was captured on 15th December, 1901.
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid began to think that being an outlaw in America was becoming too dangerous and decided to start a new life in South America. On 29th February, 1902, the two men and Etta Place, left New York City aboard the freighter, Soldier Prince. When they arrived in Argentina they purchased land at Chubut Province.
After farming for nearly four years the men decided to return to crime and in March 1906 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed a bank of $20,000 in San Luis Province. During the raid a banker was killed. Other raids followed at Bahia Blanca (Argentina), Eucalyptus (Bolivia) and Rio Gallegos (Argentina).
In 1909 the men were back in Bolivia. One account claims that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in a shoot-out at San Vicente. However, the police were not able to positively identify the two dead men. According to another source the men were killed while trying to rob a bank in Mercedes, Uruguay in December, 1911. Another source claims that Robert Longbaugh escaped from these incidents and returned to the United States and died in Casper, Wyoming in 1957.
(1) Robert Lawson was a mail clerk working on the Union Pacific Railroad. In the early summer of 1899, he was in the mail car of a train stopped by the Sundance Kid Gang in the wilds of Wyoming. Lawson was interviewed about his experiences and it appeared in the Buffalo Bulletin on 8th June, 1899.
As soon as we came to a standstill, Conductor Storey went forward to see what was the matter and saw several men with guns, one of whom shouted that they were going to blow up the train with dynamite. The conductor understood the situation at once and, before meeting the bandits turned and started back to warn the second section. The robbers mounted the engine and at the point of their guns forced the engineer and fireman to dismount, after beating the engineer over the head with their guns, claiming that he didn't move fast enough, and marched them back over to our car.
In a few moments we heard voices outside our car calling for Sherman and looking out saw Engineer Jones and his fireman accompanied by three masked men with guns.
They evidently thought Clerk Sherman was aboard and were calling him to come out with the crew. Burt Bruce, clerk in charge, refused to open the door, and ordered all lights extinguished. There was much loud talk and threats to blow up the car were made, but the doors were kept shut. In about 15 minutes two shots were fired into the car, one of the balls passing through the water tank and on through the stanchions.
Following close behind the shooting came a terrific explosion, and one of the doors was completely wrecked and most of the car windows broken. The bandits then threatened to blow up the whole car if we didn't get out, so Bruce gave the word and we jumped down, and were immediately lined up and searched for weapons. They said it would not do us no good to make trouble, that they didn't want the mail - that they wanted what was in the express car and was going to have it, and that they had powder enough to blow the whole train off the track.
After searching us they started us back and we saw up the track the headlight of the second section. They asked what was on the train, and somebody said there were two cars of soldiers on the train. This scared them and they hastened back to the engine, driving us ahead. They forced us on the engine, and as Dietrick moved too slowly they assisted him with a few kicks. While on the engine, Dietrick, in the act of closing the furnace door, brushed a mask off one of the men, endeavoring to catch a glimpse of his face. The man quickly grasped his mask and threatened to "plug" Dietrack.
They then ran the train ahead across a gully and stopped. There were two extra cars on the train. They were uncoupled. Others of the gang went to the bridge, attempting to destroy it with their giant powder, or dynamite, which they placed on the timbers. After the explosion at the bridge they boarded the engine with the baggage, express, and mail cars, went for about two miles, leaving the extra cars.
Upon arriving at the stopping place they proceeded to business again and went to the express car and ordered the messenger, E. C. Woodcock, to open. He refused, and the outlaws proceeded to batter down the doors and blew a big hole in the side of the car. The explosion was so terrific that the messenger was stunned and had to be taken from the car. They then proceeded to the other mail car, occupied by Clerks O'Brian and Skidmore and threatened to blow it up, but the boys were advised to come out which they did.
The robbers then went after the safes in the express car with dynamite and soon succeeded in getting into them, but not before the car was torn to pieces by the force of the charges. They took everything from the safes and what they didn't carry away they destroyed. After finishing their work they started out in a northerly direction on foot.
The men all wore masks reaching below their necks and of the three I observed, one looked to be six foot tall, the others being about ordinary sized men. The leader appeared to be about 50 years old and spoke with a squeaky voice, pitched very high."