Thinking about identity, and alias, and outlaws, and how hard it was to keep track of people before the internet and search engines.
By Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
"Alias Smith and Jones" was a western TV series that originally aired on ABC from January 1971 to January 1973, starring Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes and Ben Murphy as Jedediah "Kid" Curry, outlaw cousins who were trying to reform. Duel's character was supposedly the brains of the operation, and Murphy's part provided a fast draw and muscle.
The show was inspired, at least in part, by success of the 1969 blockbuster film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The names "Smith" and "Jones" actually originated from a comment in the 1969 movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when, prior to one of their final hold-ups, the characters are outside a bank in Bolivia and Sundance turns to Butch and says: "I'm Smith and you're Jones."
The real "Kid Curry," Harvey Logan, was actually a member of the real 'Wild Bunch' comprised the real Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and other notable outlaws of the early 1900s.
Logan, contrary to his TV counterpart, was a cold-blooded killer, reportedly killing as many as nine law enforcement officers, and several others.
Unfortunately, actor Pete Duel died of a self-inflicted gun shot on New Years Eve in 1971. The series replaced him with another actor, and continued for another 17 episodes, but it never recovered. Fans, I guess, didn't buy the identity switch.
I've have been thinking about identity, and alias, and outlaws, as it relates to the old West and such, and the real Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, and how hard it was to keep track of people before the internet and search engines.
A few weeks ago, when I visited the Wyoming Territorial Prison, of which Butch Cassidy was a short term guest, I noticed that amazingly enough, criminals such as Cassidy were not always completely honest in what they told prison officials.
From Wyoming Territorial Prison Records, Processing Card: George Cassidy, prisoner No. 187, Alias "Butch" Cassidy, Crime: Grand Larceny, Age: 27, Height: 5'9", Weight: 165 pounds., Build: Well-Built, Hair: Dark Flaxen, Eyes: Blue, Complexion: Light, Born: New York City, Occupation: Cowboy, Received from: Fremont County, Sentenced: July 15, 1894, Remarks: Has no wife or parents, features regular, small deep-set eyes, good conduct, Two cut scars on back of head, has a small red scar under left eye, red mark on left side of back, small brown mole on calf of left leg, a well-built young man.
Basically, on processing card, the convict lied.
Cassidy claims to have been born in New York and his parents are deceased. Cassidy was in fact, born to Anne and Max Parker in Utah and was the eldest of 13 children: and called Robert Leroy Parker. Brother Dan Parker, inmate #164, was held at the Territorial Prison in 1890 for robbing the United States Postal Service.
Nothing really new here, but I had encountered it before.
Sutton's Law is related to legendary 1930s outlaw Willie Sutton's often quoted (and probably falsely attributed) response to a reporter who asked why he robbed banks.
"Because that's where the money is."
I have wondered out loud before why that law didn't seem to apply for the "Wild Bunch" and the Cripple Creek District.
As a kid growing up in southwestern Colorado, nearly every wide spot in the road down there claimed some connection to the heralded outlaws. With the gang holding up the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, supposedly robbing the train at Stoner, holing up at Dunton Hot Springs, and several associated robberies in the Grand Junction, Delta and Vernal, Utah, areas, in addition to Harry "Sundance" Longabaugh's stint working on his uncle's ranch near Cortez as just some of the historically possible links - the stories were difficult to dispute.
Then there is the haunting photograph of the five dapperly dressed fellows at the turn of the century, three seated, two standing behind. From left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, a.k.a. "The Sundance Kid," William Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, a.k.a. "The Tall Texan," Harvey Logan, a.k.a. "Kid Curry" and Robert Leroy Parker, a.k.a. "Butch Cassidy." The photo was taken Nov. 21, 1900, at John Swartz's studio in Fort Worth, Texas, near the Hell's Half Acre section of town the gang was known to frequent, and probably has appeared on more "wanted" posters than any photo in the last century.
But the outfit is given credit for robbing trains, mines, banks and other businesses all over the West - Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Oregon. And their height of operation corresponds perfectly with the Cripple Creek District's heyday. Why didn't the "Wild Bunch" knock over any easy targets in the wild district?
It was where the money was. Once I speculated that maybe the answer was Love.
According to the information submitted to the Colorado Archives by the Pikes Peak Genealogical Society and posted by USGenWeb, "Love was the last community to officially debut in the Cripple Creek District, acquiring a post office in 1894." Research by Jan MacKell indicated that village located at the far east end of the district was made up of ranchers, a few miners, sawmill workers and maybe dairy workers. But, notes the archive project, "Love was remote enough, however, that members of outlaw Butch Cassidy's notorious Wild Bunch also felt secure in procuring a hideout there shortly after the community was founded."
Not only is that possible, I would guess, with the amount of money flowing around these parts at that time, it would be silly for an outlaw not to locate nearby.
Jan MacKell, who served for years as the director of the Cripple Creek District Museum, set me straight.
“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 I was 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.”
Additional speculation about who Etta Place was, is also intriguing. Others sources suggest that Etta Place may have in fact been Laura Bullion, who was a member of the gang. For several years in the 1890s, she was romantically involved with outlaw Ben Kilpatrick ("The Tall Texan"), a bank and train robber and an acquaintance of her father. In 1901, Bullion was convicted of robbery and sentenced to five years in prison for her participation in the Great Northern train robbery. She was released in 1905 after serving three years and six months of her punishment.
Most experts agree that Butch and Sundance probably met Etta at a bordello around 1900, probably run by Fannie Porter, according to Tony Hays.
"Near unanimous consensus among researchers is that Butch and Sundance met Etta at Fannie Porter’s brothel in San Antonio sometime in 1900," he said.
"The Pinkerton Agency, which had a strong interest in Etta, described her as attractive, speaking with an educated tone. Estimates of her birth year range from 1878 to 1882 or 1883. Rumors suggest that she was a cousin of Longabaugh’s since Longabaugh’s mother was a Place. Speculation is that she and Sundance had met sometime around 1900," Hays says.
"The last recorded appearance by Etta was in summer of 1909 in San Francisco, the year after Butch and Sundance were reportedly killed in a gun battle with Argentinian soldiers. Indeed, there are those researchers who say that Etta died in South America as well. But a woman of Etta’s description attempted to secure documents declaring Sundance dead. She was unsuccessful, and the woman known as Etta Place rode off into the sunset."
Hays searched the census information and found Fannie Porter, running a “boarding house.”
"Fannie, herself little more than a girl in 1900, claimed to be of British extraction. The birthdates did not help all that much. Of the five girls in Fannie’s “boarding house,” all were born in or around 1878-80. One girl in the household intrigued me beyond the others. Twenty-two year old Madaline Wilson appears in the census immediately beneath Madam Fannie. Like Fannie, she is listed as of English birth, immigrating to the United States in 1884 when she was six. Now here’s where the conjecture has to come in. It is quite possible that she had changed her name, but does that dictate that she would have changed her date of birth, country of origin, and date of immigration?" Hays asked.
And a British accent, tempered by 16 years in America, might be described as “refined,” he speculated.
And, Madaline Wilson disappears after the 1900 census, when Etta was in her period of historical significance as the historians would say.
Of course, there was a bunch of second-guessing on whether Butch and Sundance had actually been killed in Bolivia. Misidentification had happened before, as early as 1898, when the Salt Lake Herald on May 17, 1898, reported "Butch Cassidy is still alive," after first reporting he had been killed in Price, Utah.
"Sheriff J. H. Ward of Evanston, Wyoming, who was probably the best posted man in the inter mountain states upon criminal matters, reached Price the morning of May 16, 1898, in response to a telegram calling him there to identify the men in jail, and the corpse supposed to be that of Cassidy. Sheriff Ward for 13 years past had been a sheriff in Wyoming, and during that time had Cassidy in his jail for three months and was with him daily," reported the paper.
"On inspecting the body, Sheriff Ward positively asserted that it was not Cassidy, and that while the complain and build of the men were very similar, the body in no other particular resembled Cassidy, and bore none of the battle scars of the famous robber. Sheriff Ward was of the opinion that the body was that of Bob Culp, Alias Red Bob, a notorious cattle thief, from Wyoming. Cassidy was in jail awaiting trial for horse tearing, and a close description was made by Sheriff Ward of all his peculiar marks, and he was absolutely positive that this was not the man," the paper said. But Parker, Longabaugh, Logan and the others, for whom history has had a devil of a time keeping track of anyway, likely were among the neighbors next door.
But we may never know because Butch might have been going by George Cassidy, Tom Gillis, James Ryan, Santiago Ryan, Santiago Maxwell, J.P. Maxwell, James Lowe, Santiago Lowe, George Ingerfield. And Sundance maybe he took up the name Harry Alonzo, Harry Place, Enrique Brown, H.A. Brown, Frank Smith, J.E. Ebaugh, J.E. Thibadoe, Frank Jones, Frank Bozeman, Harry Brown or Frank Boyd.
Kid Curry also had a reputation of loving and leaving. Reports said he would often return from a train or bank robbery, get drunk and lay up with prostitutes until his share of the take was gone. Numerous prostitutes would name him as the father of various "love childs" that sometimes were referred to as "Curry Kids." Some sources credit Kid Curry with as many as eighty-five children, though the real number was probably closer to five or six.
To complicate things on the Kid Curry front, in addition to the Wild Bunch, the Kid, Harvey Logan, also rode with Sam Ketchum, who was the brother of Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum and Ezra Lay.
Also muddying the water, was the fact that Curry (Logan) liked to hide out in San Antonio, Texas.
While there he met prostitute Della Moore (also known as Annie Rogers or Maude Williams), with whom he became romantically involved. At the time of their meeting, she was working in Madame Fannie Porter's brothel, which of course, was a regular hideout for the Wild Bunch gang. In October 1901, Della Moore was arrested in Tennessee for passing money tied to an earlier robbery involving Curry. The gunman is credited shortly afterwards with killing two policemen in Knoxville in a shootout and escape on Dec. 13, 1901.
On June 7, 1904, Kid Curry was tracked down by a posse outside of what is now Parachute, Colorado. Curry and two others had robbed a train and they stole fresh horses owned by Roll Gardner and a neighbor. Gardner and the neighbor set out after them and joined up with a posse and continued tracking, caught up the outlaws, who then shot Gardner's and his neighbor's horses from under them. Gardner found cover while his neighbor started running. Kid Curry took aim at the neighbor and Gardner shot Curry. The wounded Curry then fatally shot himself in the head to avoid capture. The other two robbers escaped.
But even in death, nothing is for sure. Rumors persist that Curry was not killed in the fire fight, and was misidentified, having actually departed for South America with Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Noted Pinkerton agent Charlie Siringo, who had pursued Logan for years, resigned Pinkerton's shortly thereafter, believing they got the wrong man.
Robert Parker's sister (and others in the family as well) swears her brother visited the family in 1925 for a family reunion. Some say he lived in Pacific Northwest for years, after going straight.
Actor Ben Murphy, went on to play many different characters since his stint as "Kid Curry" in the TV show "Alias Smith and Jones."
Photos from top, to bottom:
Comparison of Ann Basset to Etta Place.
The Wild Bunch, From left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, a.k.a. "The Sundance Kid," William Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, a.k.a. "The Tall Texan," Harvey Logan, a.k.a. "Kid Curry" and Robert Leroy Parker, a.k.a. "Butch Cassidy." The photo was taken Nov. 21, 1900, at John Swartz's studio in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ben Murphy as Jedediah "Kid" Curry, and Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes in "Alias Smith and Jones."
Sundance Kid and Etta Place in New York before they headed to South America .
George "Butch" Cassidy, Wyoming Territorial Prison.
Anne and Max Parker, Robert Leroy Parker's (Butch's) parents.
Kid Curry (Harvey Logan) and Della Moore.
Laura Bullion's Pinkerton mug shot.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.