Butch Cassidy – Outlaw – His Early Years

When Maximillian Parker and Anne Gillies immigrated to Utah from Britain as children, they had no idea their son Robert LeRoy Parker, born April 13, 1866, would one day become one of the Wild West’s most notorious icons, Butch Cassidy. Raised in Beaver and Circleville in a devoted Mormon household with 12 siblings, Robert was a resourceful and hardworking youngster, often helping out at neighboring farms and ranches. Yet he managed to get into quite a few scrapes with the law, beginning with his first crime: taking a pair of jeans from a closed shop in town and leaving a note saying he’d pay for it later.  With an unhealthy disrespect for law enforcement from young age and an acquired love for easy money, he was soon headed down the outlaw path.

By 1884, angry about large cattle ranches driving smaller ranches out of business (his own dad lost property in a dispute), Butch was rustling cattle from Parowan.  Hired by the big guns to cripple smaller operations by stealing their cattle, Butch gained a Robin Hood reputation, later writing, “The best way to hurt them is through their pocket book…I steal their money just to hear them holler.  Then I pass it out among those who really need it (sic).”   He adopted part of his alias from his childhood hero, Mike Cassidy, a shady ranch hand who mentored the young teen in cattle rustling and gun slinging.  His nickname, Butch, is rumored to come from a stint as a butcher while living in Wyoming.

At 18 years old Butch left home and headed for Telluride, Colorado, where he worked hard and played even harder in the local saloons. It was there that he met three of his future partners in crime, Tom and Billy McCarty and Matt Warner.  Some historians believe Butch’s first foray into hard crime was a November 3, 1887 train robbery netting $140 in cash, in Grand Junction but most believe it was the San Miguel Valley Bank heist on June 24, 1889. After making off with more than $20,000, the bandits headed for the hills: through the canyons of the Green River of the Utah-Wyoming border to Robbers’ Roost east of what is now Capitol Reef National Park.  Butch was one of the first trailblazers of the Outlaw Trail, which ran from Mexico to Montana, linking remote hideouts in hard-to-reach mazes of canyons, like Hole-in-the-Wall in Central Wyoming and the Carlisle Ranch and Robbers’ Roost in Utah.

In spite of his criminal success, Butch Cassidy actually held legitimate ranch jobs for much of his lifetime—although the ranch he set up in Wyoming in 1890 was probably a front for his outlaw operations—and he always returned to quick cash and a life of crime.  At times his crimes caught up with him and he did 18-month stint in jail for horse thieving. Originally sentenced to two years, Butch actually managed to convince the judge he would go straight—at least in the fine state of Wyoming—and was released after serving 18 months.  He immediately began recruiting outlaws to join his Wild Bunch.   Read about the later years of Butch Cassidy (Click Link).

Read more about the history of this region – here.

Keep Capitol Reef Country Forever Mighty

What is Forever Mighty? It’s practicing responsible travel while visiting Utah and Capitol Reef Country by following the principles of Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace.

Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, be considerate of others, support local business and honor community, history and heritage. Help us keep Utah and Capitol Reef Country’s outdoor recreation areas beautiful, healthy, and accessible.

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