California Cowboy By Jim Nichols
BUTCH CASSIDY CHASED BY A COP ON A BIKE? GET OUT OF HERE!
|Robert Redford and Paul Newman prtrayed the famous duo in a popular Hollywood movie|
Every year we take all of our kids and grandkids on vacation from the money we get from a house we rent out in Paso Robles. This year we rented two houses on Bear Lake in Idaho. While there for a week, and needing to resupply, we drove to Montpelier. It is a sleepy little western town a click north of the Utah border. I’m not a shopper so I dropped the wife kids and grand kids off at the little grocery store and went exploring for a half an hour. Driving down their main street I noticed a sign on a turn of the century building saying SITE OF THE BUTCH CASSIDY BANK ROBBERY. That is too cool to be true, I thought. I skidded to a stop and went in. It was a mini museum with a friendly curator who was born and raised in Montpelier. There were no patrons other than me.
“I’m a huge western history buff so lay it on me woman and don’t hold back” I said with a wink. Here is the story she told me which was consistent with the historical plaque on the side walk outside.
|Today’s view of the bank in Montpelier robbed by Butch Cassidy in 1896|
“Look at the floor you are standing on” she said. “Although sanded and varnished many times you are standing on the very boards Butch Cassidy stood on.” She then pointed toward the ceiling. “That door which we hung by wires up there to keep it from getting carved up by souvenir hunters is the old original wooden bank door that was here when Butch robbed this place.”
It was a warm August 13 when three cowboys rode into Montpelier from the north. They tied their horses up across the street from the bank and casually walked to a local saloon where they had a drink or two. Near the bank’s closing time two of them stepped across the street and forcefully ushered the banker and his friend, who were standing outside, into the bank. One man, later identified as Bob Meeks, stayed with the horses across the street.
Inside the two cowboys, Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay, at gun point, lined the teller banker and friend against the wall. Cassidy quickly moved behind the counter and took all the money from the drawers and under the counter. He put it in a sack which was estimated to weigh at least 75 pounds. Their take was said to be over $16,000 which in todays dollars is over $200,000. With his nose against the wall, but looking out of the corner of his eye, the teller studied the man holding the horses across the street. Elzy Lay demanded “where is the rest of the damn money kept?” Not receiving an answer he whacked the teller across the head with his pistol knocking him to the floor. Cassidy then left the bank, strolled across the street to the horses with the sack of money tied it on and slowly rode out of town. Meeks then rode a horse, ponying a second, over to the bank dropped the reins of the horse being lead and trotted after Cassidy. Elzy Lay, telling everyone to stay put or they would get their heads blowed (sic) off, hastily exited the bank and loped after Cassidy and Meeks. Those inside quickly rushed out yelling “the bank has been robbed.” Deputy Fred Cruikshank, who was nearby, commandeered a bicycle from a boy and started furiously peddling after the robbers. The deputy quickly burned out and was left in the dirt by Sheriff Jefferson Davis and an attorney named Bagley (first name the docent couldn’t remember). The Sheriff and the attorney along with others picked up along the way chased the bandits up Montpelier Canyon and deep into the mountains. Buying borrowing and being gifted with supplies and fresh horses the posse chased the bank robbers for a week before giving up and returning to Montpelier. Recall the line in the Butch Cassidy movie “who are those guys?” Meeks, whose description from the teller was splashed on wanted posters all over Utah and Wyoming, was eventually caught tried and went to prison. Cassidy and Lay were never apprehended for the Montpelier caper.
Butch Cassidy and his felon acquaintances became known as the Wild Bunch. They operated out of an area known as Brown’s Hole in Colorado and a ranch with a notched rock wall in it in Johnson County Wyoming. Thus the name THE HOLE IN THE WALL GANG. Between 1896 and 1901 the group consisted of several different outlaws. They came and went. They robbed trains banks and mine payrolls. Cassidy’s closest companion in crime was The Sundance Kid. In 1901 Butch and Sundance left America and resurfaced in South America. It is believed they continued their crime spree, robbing and looting, mostly in Bolivia. It is cited by several historians Cassidy and Sundance were gunned down by Bolivian troops in 1911. They allegedly are buried in San Vincent, Bolivia. However Cassidy’s relatives claim he returned to the United States and visited them in 1929. They say he is buried in Spokane, Washington. Butch’s birth name was Robert Leroy Parker. He was called Butch from working in a butcher shop in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The Sundance Kid was born Harry Longbaugh. He got his name in jail after working on the Sundance Ranch.
I picked up the family at the market and drove out of town telling my grand kids “This is the very road where Butch Cassidy of the Wild Bunch was chased by a deputy sheriff on a bicycle.” There was a burst of laughter and one of those little rascals from the back seat blurted “Poppa, Get Out Of Here!”
Top of Page