Butch Cassidy & his 500 Freebooters: Rounding up outlaws (1898)

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Rounding up outlaws in the Colorado basin – Territory over which the outlaws roam

Active Campaign By the Governors of Four States Against “Butch” Cassidy and His 500 Freebooters.

Butch Cassidy story 1898a

They Number Five Hundred and Keep Four States In Terror — Some of Their Crimes Against Law-Abiding Citizens of the Southwest.

“Butch” Cassidy is a bad man. He is the worst man in four states. These states are , and when the four governors met in secret conclave recently it was for the purpose of deciding upon a plan of campaign against the most notorious outlaw the west has ever had to cope with. The achievements of Jesse James and his followers pale into tawdry insignificance before those of “Butch” Cassidy [Robert Leroy Parker] and his 500.

For several years — in fact, ever since the live stock commission drove the Wyoming rustlers out of business in 1892 — “Butch” has proven a thorn in the flesh of the authorities of the four states in which he carries on his operations. He has laughed the militia to scorn.


Sheriffs and deputies he regards with pity and contempt. He is a power unto himself. After the ordinary methods of hunting outlaws had been tried unsuccessfully it was decided that drastic means must be employed. Rewards have been repeatedly offered for “Butch” Cassidy, dead or alive, and after each fresh outbreak these rewards have been invariably increased.

If all the offers which have been made from time to time hold good, the slayer of “Butch,” would be entitled to upward of $20,000 in blood money. But the rewards have proven as futile as have the efforts of the militia and the deputy sheriffs. And that is why Gov. Wells of Utah, Gov. Adams of Colorado, Gov. Richards of Wyoming and Gov. Steunenberg of Idaho got their heads together to see what could be done. Just what the result of their conference was has not been divulged.

Cassidy a bad man – Leader of a famous band of rustlers

“Butch” and his bands are the outgrowth of the rustlers of six years ago. Since then they have broadened their field and increased their numbers. It is no idle boast to say that the leader of these notorious bands has 500 men at his beck and call. Their depredations are upon a scale never before reached ‘in the history of frontier crime. All the conditions are favorable to them. They know every foot of the vast territory in which they operate, taking in, as it does, the wildest and most inaccessible portions of four states. Every man of them is thoroughly familiar with frontier life in its rougher phases.

The forces are subdivided into five bands, each controlled by its own leader, with Cassidy as the supreme power. The outlaws now practically control the sparsely settled region extending from central Wyoming southwesterly through northwestern Colorado and Utah, and almost to the Arizona line.

Marauding and murderous bands conduct their raids without restraint. The theft of livestock runs into the millions. Ranchmen are murdered and driven out of business, and the officers of the law are powerless. The outlaws roam the adjacent country and smaller settlements without molestation.

Many settlers purchase immunity by extending assistance in various ways, and the robbers even attend country dances and other functions, occasionally “shooting up” the town or indulging in other forms of recreation. It is only when closely pursued by officers of the law that they retire to their mountain retreats.

“Butch” Cassidy, however, by reason of the price upon his head, considers the higher altitude more conducive to his health and seldom ventures into the towns, unless he is making a raid or is surrounded by a band of his trusty men, in which case he never fears molestation.

Robert Leroy Parker possessed of a fearful temper

Few men who know him would care to rouse his ire, for, although a man of wonderful nerve, unlike most men of his class, he is possessed of a fearful temper. Sometimes it gets beyond control, and then he throws all caution to the wind and becomes utterly reckless.

About four years ago, he was shot at from ambush near Green River by a cowboy known as “Hackey” Hughes, whose only object was to secure the reward offered by the state authorities of Utah. The bullet pierced the lobe of his ear, and the blood streaming down his face acted upon Cassidy as a red flag might to a maddened bull.

“Butch” waited for twenty minutes, and then the cowboy shot the outlaw’s horse, which had been grazing in the open. That was more than “Butch” could stand. Throwing caution to the winds, he ran toward the clump of bushes, with a pistol in each hand, barking at each step.

But Hughes considering discretion the better part of valor, had jumped on his horse and succeeded in making good his escape. But the vindictive nature of “Butch” Cassidy asserted itself. He had recognized his assailant, and every member of the band received instructions to be on the watch for him. Hughes left the Green river country and it was not until six months later that he was located, on the north fork of the Powder river, up in Wyoming.

Old-fashioned New Year's flower meanings (1897)

Cassidy was notified and with a dozen picked men he reached the ranch where Hughes was working. It was during the spring round-up. The two men met face to face. Hughes knew what was coming, and pulled his pin. But he wasn’t quick enough. Cassidy’s pistol cracked first, and the cowboy dropped from his saddle with a bullet through his right eye.

“That’s the way I serve any d—-d skunk that tries to shoot me in the back,” remarked Cassidy. “If any of his friends want to take up the quarrel I’m ready.”

But If the dead cowboy had any friends they failed to respond. “Butch” Cassidy was well known, and it wasn’t safe to pick quarrels with him. So he rode away with his escort, cursing the cowboys for a pack of cowardly coyotes.

Cattle stealing their main source of income

Cattle stealing is the chief source of income to Cassidy and his followers. One company alone in central Utah has lost 2,000 head during the past two years, worth, at the present prices, $80,000. These were driven through Colorado and into New Mexico. It is in driving these stolen cattle from one state to another and out of the country that their system of cooperation is beneficial.

The Principal Strongholds of the Band-- Teton Basin, Hole in the Wall, Brown's Park, Power Springs and Robber's Roost-- Are Indicated on the Map.
The Principal Strongholds of the Band– Teton Basin, Hole in the Wall, Brown’s Park, Power Springs and Robber’s Roost– Are Indicated on the Map.

However, any operation that promises adventure and financial reward is never overlooked. Trains are held up, express companies and banks are robbed, and even individuals when known to have money in their possession, are relieved of their possessions in true road agent style.

Bank robberies are but side issues with them — merely incidental to their grand, chief occupation of cattle stealing. If a victim resists or an officer pursues, murder is regarded as a professional duty, to be cheerfully performed, but they are not given to wanton slaughter.

“Gimme your guns”

In several instances, foolhardy officers who have invaded their stronghold have been disarmed, dismounted and sent home. An instance of this kind occurred just after the raid on the coal company at Price. Two deputies traced Cassidy and Ferguson to the lair at Robbers’ Roost.

They were fully twenty-four hours behind, and their approach was known long before they arrived at the narrow trail leading up into the rendezvous. Cassidy was in a jovial mood, and he conceived that it would be more fun to capture the deputies and make sport of them than to kill them. So he acted accordingly. The deputies were about half way up the trail when, just at a bend around a sharp point of rocks, they heard the sharp command of “Hands up!”

A half dozen guns were staring them in the face not twenty paces away. The deputies realized that not to obey meant sudden death. Up went their hands. Cassidy stepped up to them, roaring with laughter.

“You’re a couple of fine dubs to come and catch peaceable citizens, ain’t you?” he cried, “Gimme your guns.”

The outcome of it was that the deputies, relieved of everything but their clothing, were bound hand and foot to their horses, conducted to the foot of the pass, and sent about their business. To add to their discomfiture, a rudely scrawled note was pinned on the breast of each, which read:

“We are Deputy Sheriffs, Sent Out to Capture Butch Cassidy and His Gang. When Found Send Us Home.”

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