Though he grew up to become an internationally wanted outlaw, Butch Cassidy’s life had more humble beginnings, as he was raised by Mormon pioneer parents in a remote cabin in Utah.
Born as Robert Leroy Parker on April 13, 1866, he was the oldest of 13 children and grew up on a small ranch south of Circleville, Utah. Parker left home in his teens and supported himself by working as a farmhand on ranches and dairy farms. While working on one such farm he was mentored by a cattle rustler named Mike Cassidy and began using Cassidy as his own surname. Several years later, while apprenticing for a butcher in Rock Springs, Wyoming, he acquired the nickname “Butch,” and went by the name Butch Cassidy for the rest of his life.
In 1889, Cassidy committed his first bank robbery in Telluride, Colorado, and used the illicit cash to buy a ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. The ranch was never financially successful, but that didn’t matter. Cassidy used it as a front for his illegal activity and as a way to launder his stolen money.
Eventually, Cassidy gained a reputation within the criminal underworld for being cunning and fearless, and soon a group of outlaws coalesced under his leadership. Calling themselves the “Wild Bunch,” Cassidy and his gang pulled off some of the most daring and successful robberies in the American West. After each successful robbery, the members of the gang would scatter to throw off the law and reconvene in a predetermined location, such as their Hole-in-the-Wall hideout, to split their ill-gotten gains and to plan their next heists.
Cassidy and his cronies became such a thorn in the side of the banks and railroad companies that the Pinkerton Detective Agency was hired to track him down. Cassidy and fellow Wild Bunch gang member Harry Longabaugh, also known as the Sundance Kid, fled to South America in 1901. They bought a ranch in Argentina and briefly tried to live as ranchers, but soon returned to robbing banks.
On November 7, 1908, the Bolivian Army was dispatched to the town of San Vincente, where two English-speaking suspected robbers were staying in a boarding house. As the soldiers approached the building to investigate, they were shot at from within and returned fire. After a brief shootout, screams were heard from inside the house. A few minutes later, there was a pair of gunshots and then silence. The soldiers waited until daylight to enter the building and found that both men inside were dead. Although the bodies weren’t properly identified before their burial, it is widely believed that they were of Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Rumors of Cassidy’s survival were widespread, however, especially in his native Utah. Some claimed that he paid a surgeon to alter his appearance and returned to the United States. Despite numerous anecdotes about his reappearance, the bulk of the evidence seems to point at the notorious outlaw dying in a gunfight with the Bolivian Army in 1908. The small cabin outside Circleville was later restored from a dilapidated state by his native Utah so that visitors could see where the legendary criminal spent his early years.
Know Before You Go
The cabin is just south of Circleville, Utah, on highway 89. Admission is free and there is ample parking.