Saturday, April 10, 2010

Butch Cassidy Did Not Die in Bolivia

My Grandfather Wells knew Butch Cassidy as a young man and worked with one of his partners. Below is his account taken from his personal history (copied with permission from my father's (Jerry D. Wells) Samuel Morgan Wells and Minnie Zoe Lisonbee. Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah 2003. pp. 13-15) that sheds light on the outlaw's final years. My grandfather was convinced that he did not die in Bolivia. You can read his account below and decide for yourself. I have no reason to doubt my grandfather who was an honorable man.

"I remember several times that Butch Cassidy and Ezra Leigh came and stopped at Alma’s place before they robbed the Castle Gate paymaster. To know them any one would never think they could rob anyone. They were very nice and polite young men. Everyone around there that knew them sure liked them. When we heard that they had robbed the Castle Gate paymaster, whose name was Carpenter, at first people wouldn’t believe it was them, they were such nice and harmless young men.

I have read several stories that was written about the robbers and how many robberies they committed and how many people they killed. Well, Robbers Roost gang weren’t out to kill people. They were out to steal from the rich and help the poor. For instance, Butch stopped at a place one day. There was just an old man and his wife. And the wife was crying. Butch wanted to know what was the matter, The woman told him that there was $500 mortgage past due on their home and the man was coming that day to take the place.

So Butch went out to his horse and in a few minutes returned and gave the woman twenty-five twenty-dollar gold pieces and told the woman to make the man give all the mortgage papers before she gave him the money. Then, when she got all the papers she should burn them right away. And he cautioned her the second time to not lay the papers down but to burn them.

Then Butch left. The man came alright, with the sheriff, to take possession. The lady asked the sheriff if he had all the papers and he told her he did. Then she gave the sheriff her money and he in turn gave her the mortgage papers. Then he gave the man the money. And it was getting late in the evening but the man didn’t get home with his $500.00 in gold. A man stepped out in the road and told him to give him the twenty-five twenty-dollar gold pieces that he had and the man obeyed because the man was holding a 45 on his middle. Then the robber told him to get off his horse and turn it loose and start it home, but to let the horse get a good start ahead of him—then he could walk home.

The sheriff stayed at the ranch with the old couple until dark. He was a little suspicious of where those old people got them twenty-dollar gold pieces. But he didn’t get anywhere with them. So he started home. When he got about a mile from the ranch he met a man coming along the road. And the stranger stopped and asked him if he knew where he could find a place to stop for the night. Butch said he was a stranger in the country. The sheriff told him there was a ranch about a mile back that he was satisfied he could stay and they each went their ways.

But Butch only stopped long enough to leave a note of congratulations and five twenty dollar gold pieces on their doorstep.

Now this story about Butch and the mortgage was told to me by Matt Warner and I believe he told me the absolute truth.

I knew Matt a long time. He was with the outlaw bunch at one time. But he was a man that anyone could depend on. I never heard of him telling a lie. I was with Matt quite a lot one winter. I hauled beef from Victor to Price one winter. He bought beef from Chris Jensen at Victor. My brother Bill, and I would help Matt kill the beef. Then we would load the beef in my car. Then Matt and I would take it to the butcher shop at Price. Matt told me how he came to be an outlaw and he told me his real name. His name was Willie Christensen.

The reason Matt Warner turned to be an outlaw—he got into a fight with the cop in his home town one night and thought he had killed the cop. The cop was in the hospital for a long time but he finally got all right. But during that (time) Matt had joined with a band of outlaws that had their headquarters in Brown’s Hole, which is located on Green River on the line between Utah and Wyoming.

When Matt left, he had a wife and two children, one boy and one girl. He said it was about 1 ½ years before he dared to go see his wife and family. He said then he would have to sneak in after dark and leave before daylight. It was just a few years after that Matt’s wife died. So Matt went to the funeral. While he was there the officers didn’t molest him. But after the funeral they nabbed him and was going to put him in jail. He submitted to arrest peacefully but he made one request of the two cops that had him and that was to let him have ten minutes alone in the house with his children.

So they took his gun and told him to go in and they would stand guard at the door, but for him not to try any tricks or they would kill him. He thanked them very kindly and told them he would always remember them. So he went in the house and closed the door.

But there was one thing the cops didn’t know and that was that, when Matt came home to visit his family, he made a secret getaway by a loose board in the bed room floor and two loose rocks in the foundation by some shrubs that grew behind the house. And they didn’t know that two young men that was to the funeral was in the barn with three saddle horses ready to go. Well, when fifteen minutes rolled around, the cops went in the house and the grandmother was all they could find in the house. And they never did find where Matt got out of the house.

The two strangers that was at Matt’s wife’s funeral was none other than Butch Cassidy and Ezra Lathe. No one knew them in that country at that time.

LeRoy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy, was born and raised in Grass Valley in Southern Utah. He was raised in a Mormon town and attended L. D. S. church regularly. One night when he was escorting his lady friend home from Mutual there was a bully came along and tried to take the girl away from him and they got into a battle and LeRoy knocked the fellow out cold and he supposed that he had killed him. So he left and came to the Granite Ranch, here in Wayne County. Granite Ranch is eighteen miles south of Hanksville. The Ranch was owned by a cattle man by the name of Burr and all the desert between Granite Wash and Poison Spring Wash and the Dirty Devil River is called the Burr Desert.

Well, LeRoy Parker came to Granite Ranch and applied for a job as cowpuncher. Mr. Burr asked him what his handle was and he said it was Butch Cassidy. He stayed there about one year then he came to Hanksville and got a job from Charley Gibbons and worked for him quite awhile. Then he left and went on the outlaw trail and ended up in Brown’s Hole Wyoming.

The story of Matt Warner and Butch Cassidy was told to me by Matt Warner and the story of Butch Cassidy was told to me by Charley Gibbons after I came to Hanksvffle in 1935. And the story Matt and Charley told about Butch was identical so I believe they were true.

Charles Kelly of Fruita, Wayne County, Utah, wrote a book, the title of it is The Last of the Robbers Roost Outlaws, and in the story he had Butch and Ezra killed in South America. But, since I came to Hanksville, Charley Gibbons let me read a letter that Butch wrote him telling Charley that he, Butch had quit the outlaw trail and bought a ranch in Colorado, got married, and was living happy with a beautiful wife and two children. But Charley didn’t let me see what part of Colorado the letter came from."

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