Sunday, February 8, 2009

Not in Love, but still a Wild Bunch






A while back, I wrote a speculative column wondering why the Wild Bunch, considering their time of operation and amount of activity in the Cripple Creek District, never were given credit for jobs in the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” After all, that is where the money was.
I wrote that perhaps the answer was Love.
Love was a small village at the far east end of the district, made up of ranchers, a few miners, sawmill workers and such. I thought it possible that is was also a hideout for itinerant bank and train robbers. One of the sources I referenced in that article, Jan MacKell, who has served for years as the director of the Cripple Creek District Museum, set me straight a few weeks ago.
“I just ran across your Maybe the answer was Love. Restless Native piece about the Wild Bunch hiding out in Love. You referenced something I had written about it. Well alas, further research revealed that the Bob Lee I found in Love was not the Bob Lee of the Wild Bunch. (Bob was a cousin to Harvey Logan and was implicated in the 1899 robbery at Wilcox, Wyoming - the one where they blew the train car to smithereens). Still, the Wild Bunch did hang around in these parts, particularly after the robbery, and Bob Lee was arrested at the Antlers Saloon (formerly Uncle Sam's Casino) in March of 1900. Just thought you would want to know.”
Of course I would, and I asked about where her information originated.
“Some of it came from Pinkerton files and other came from books about the wild bunch, I had many sources when I researched this. The Pinkerton files are tricky - some have been lost, some are open to the public and some are closed files. I got some information from Wyoming since that is where the Wilcox robbery was. J. Maurice Finn was Bob Lee's lawyer and a newspaper account I read had him huffing and puffing all over the courtroom. Funny to picture.”
Indeed it is.
And while we are in the speculation mode, I have always wondered about whether Etta Place (Harry Longabaugh, a.k.a. Sundance kid's love interest) might really be Ann or Josie Bassett as some historians have postulated. The Bassetts, of the Brown's Hole area in Northern Colorado and Utah and famous for their interaction with Tom Horn, had numerous connections to the gang, but for whatever reason, have never been definitively linked and most discount the possibility. The first photo above is Ann Bassett and the second is image of Longabaugh and Place taken in New York.
Incidentally, MacKell is the author of several books about rough and tumble times in the mining districts including “Brothels, Bordellos and Bad Girls,” and has a new title scheduled to appear in March called “Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains,” but I guess that is all together a different kind of “love.”
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