Amongst my great-grandfather's papers I found a few pages ripped out of an boys adventure magazine from the 1920s. He had bound these pages in a cardboard cover on which he had written 'Western America 1883-1893' (the years that he worked out in America.)
The story is about Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. I saw familiar place names like Rawlins and Meeker mentioned and the dates seemed to fall in line with the time that William and his partners ranched on the White RIver. So is it possible he had met Butch on a round-up?
Anyway, below is the story as told by William Wells, who ranched just south of Independance Pass on the Green River. William Well's personal recollections are fascinating, but there are some inaccuracies, such as where the famous photograph of the Wild Bunch was taken. He says it was St Antonio, but nowadays it is known to be Fort Worth.
He knew Harvey Logan and refers to him in this article by the less formal 'Harve'. That does sound true.
Anyway, have a read and let me know what you think.
Robber's Roost by William Wells
Author of "The Outlaw Years", "Sioux Know" etc.
Butch Cassidy, famous leader of the "Wild Bunch," first attracted attention on Wind River, Wyoming, where he and a bronco buster- a common type then- called Al Hainer, started a horse ranch on Horse Creek near where the town of Dubois now stands. Butch was a rollicking, tow-haired puncher well liked by everyone, and where he got the name "Butch" I could figure, for he wasn't that kind at all. In fact, as far as was known he never killed anyone till long afterward. Cassidy wasn't his right name, and he had left Utah between two days. Some difficulty over horses, probably, because as I have said, he wasn't the killer type.
He and Hainer were on their ranch until the spring of 1890, selling and trading horses, then having disposed of all of them, they departed, a ranch being nothing to hold anyone down in those days. After that they made Lander their headquarters. Old Lander was a young cowtown then, wide open in all that the name implies, and Butch and Hainer kept up their end in making it a lively burg. They were away at times, then back with plenty of money, and more than suspected of being rustlers. However, in 1892 the big cowmen had been whipped in the Johnson County raid, and it took them some time to get organised and start war in the rustlers again, and anyone with cash to blow in was popular.
Once Butch and several other wild youngsters hitched four unbroken broncs to a Concord stage coach, filled it up with lively ladies, all slightly exhilarated, climbed on the roof of the coach, bottles in one hand and six-shooters in the other, and raced up and down Lander's one and only main street, whooping and shooting, the passengers adding their shrill screams to the racket. Celebrations like that, however, were no novelty in Lander in those times.
In 1894, Cassidy and Hainer were away and when they came back were in the custody of Bob Calverly, deputy sheriff, and a companion, who also brought along a band of horses that had been missing from the Owl Creek range since early spring. The deputies had found the men and horses on Ham's Fork in southwestern Wyoming. Hainer had given up easily enough, but Butch had objected, so Caverly had to crease his head with a bullet and then bend the six-shooter barrel over Butch's jaw, cracking it, before he would be reasonable. Hainer was acquitted, but Butch got two years in the pen.
Teton Jackson, one of the most famous of the riders of the Horse Thief Trail, was also convicted at about this time. Teton, however, reformed when he came out. He married a breed girl on the Shoshone reservation on Wind River, located a ranch there, raised a family, and died in the poor house at Lander just a few years ago. Jackson, which wasn't his right name by a long shot, worked as a guide for me at the Green River Camp for several years, and several big game hunters who were out with him told me that he was one of the most interesting men that they had ever met. In fact, Teton was a college graduate like several others of the Wild Bunch, who were by no means depraved ruffians.
By this time the Wyoming Cattle Growers' Association was making a determined effort to break up the rustling gangs, and W.A.Richards, former president of the association and now governor of Wyoming, pardoned Butch a few months before his term expired with the understanding that Butch wouldn't operate any more in Wyoming, a promise that he faithfully kept. Out of this understanding grew the Robbers' Roost in Utah and the governor of that commonwealth was once heard to remark with deep feeling that he wished to Heaven that the governor of Wyoming had kept Butch at home.
As soon as Butch was free he got in touch with Fat Nose George and the rest, and the bunch robbed the bank at Montepelior, Idaho. They took eight thousand dollars of the money to Rock Springs, Wyo., turned it over to an attorney who was defending two of the bunch in jail on a horse stealing charge, then hit the trail for Colorado, the line being only forty miles or so south-half a day's ride. Of the gang Harvey Logan - which wasn't his real name, either - was what might be called second in command. He had come up from Texas with a trail herd, a small, swarthy puncher, and at the little cowtown of Landusky on the Musselshell in Montana, Pike Landusky made the mistake of calling him a nigger because of his dark complexion. So they planted Pike, and though it was called a fair gunfight, Pike's friends were so powerful that the little dark puncher came away to Wyoming and changed his name to Logan.
The Bear River round-up was camped at the Bear River bridge, where the old military road from Rawlins, Wyoming, crosses on its way to the abandoned White River cantonment, now Meeker, Colorado, built to hold the Utes in check after the outbreak of 1879.
At the Bear River bridge was the Ward road house, and there Butch and the bunch stopped for a blowout. The Wards were sure a tough outfit and all of them, father, mother, son and daughter, died a violent death. Ward himself had been shot a few years before for resisting arrest – maybe - for it never was the intention to take him alive, and shooting was less bother than hanging. In after years young Ward was drowned swimming his horse across Bear River when it was up; the girl, Etta, took poison in Telluride, Colorado, and Mrs Ward-"Old Hat"- was burned to death when alone in the house and it caught fire from some unknown cause.
Butch and his companions, some half dozen all told, stopped at the road house, and having plenty of money - part of the proceeds of the Montepelier bank robbery - they had one gorgeous spree, and invited the whole round-up over to help. I remember that Mrs Ward had a bunch of chickens, somewhat of a rarity in that country, and Butch, discovering them, shot their heads off one by one with a six-shooter, "Old Hat" all the time expressing her opinion of him in lurid language that fairly scorched the grass, but not interfering otherwise with a good customer although she was capable of shooting Butch full of holes if in the right humour.
"Gosh," remarked Harvey Logan admiringly, "the old girl can sure throw language!"
After the target match Butch gave Hat a twenty dollar gold piece for each chicken, then packed them all over to the round-up wagon and had the cook prepare a chicken dinner for all hands.
This incident shows, as nothing else can, the state of affairs at that time. Here were half a dozen outlaws, fresh from a bank robbery with rewards out for all of them, dead or alive, on perfectly good terms with three times their number of supposed representatives of honest toil. Of course, half the punchers were entitled to one or more notches on their guns, and several of them were more or less wanted in other communities, so they had a fellow feeling for Butch and his crowd. One of the punchers on this round-up afterward threw in with the Wild Bunch. He was of a prominent Eastern family. Wild and reckless, he would fight at the slightest provocation, had been expelled from college and had then come West, taken up cow punching and had already killed a couple of men in gun fights.
After he joined the Wild Bunch he would, following a raid, take his share of the loot, doll up and visit his folks back East, coming West again when he was broke. He used to tell of the kick he got out of hearing the doings of the Wild Bunch discussed - and they certainly helped to fill the newspapers - by his friends, who, of course, did not dream that he was one of the outlaws, for he told them that he was interested in mining in Colorado.
After the jamboree on Bear River, I didn't see any of the Wild Bunch for some time. Then I was down in western Colorado between Grand and White Rivers hunting stray horses as usual and pulled in at the old abandoned 84 cow ranch on Yellow Creek. I had bought some of the 84 saddle horses when the outfit went broke, and the broncs always headed for their old range when ever they had the chance.
I came up the creek driving my string of half a dozen saddle horses and a couple packed, and when a mile away could see that there were other horses in the pasture and some men standing in front of the cabins watching me with field glasses. I began to recognize them as I came up, and finally Butch came out to meet me.
"Hello, Bill," he said. "Travelling or just going somewhere?"
"Hunting the wild bunch," I told him. "Seen any of the 84 broncs around?"
He grinned. "You found 'em," he said. "Sure, we seen some 84's - got 'em in the cavvy now, but we didn't know they belonged to you."
So I unpacked, threw my horses in with theirs - half of them rustled, I reckon- and camped with the gang until I had gathered the rest of my strays.
I was there a week or more and for amusement we played monte, had shooting matches and raced horses. I was lucky and won quite a bit at monte, gold and silver, and besides that, my horse Fly could outrun anything they had and Butch tried to trade me out of him, but I wouldn't trade - I thought a lot of that horse.
The coin was too heavy to pack around so I kept it in my bed roll, and get this - that bunch of outlaws could have taken everything I had, horses and all, but I don't suppose the idea ever entered their heads, or that I would betray their hideout. As a matter of fact, no one could get within a couple of miles of the ranch during daylight without being seen, and nobody slept in the cabins. Instead, everybody, myself included, had their beds under some junipers up on the hillside and also kept a saddled horse tied close alongside the bed, so in case a posse came along during the night and turned loose into the cabins they would only waste cartridges.
The gang was figuring on a more secure retreat, a place to run for after a holdup, and they asked me a lot about the country south across the Utah line, knowing that I had been down there a couple of times hunting mountain lions with dogs. The part they wanted to know about is canyon country - deep canyons, high table lands, some water here and there. Whenever there was water and level land, Mormons had located, running sheep and horses, but it was pretty much a country where nobody lived. I told them about a place where I had camped once and this became the Robbers' Roost. It was hard to find - I don't suppose that I could find it myself, now, after more than fifty years.
To go to it you strike west from the 84 through uninhabited country, cross Green River between the mouths of the White and Grand Rivers and go southwest, leaving Fort Duchesne to your right and having the Uncompahgre reservation and Fort Thornburg to your left and come at last into badland and canyon country. Follow up one of these canyons, narrow, with rock walls a thousand feet high on both sides and a maze of smaller canyons coming in from either hand, the canyon floors sometimes solid rock, sometimes with patches of earth and sand on which grow stunted brush and junipers. Turn up a certain left hand canyon and after a while you would come to a little water trickling down among the rocks.
Go on and up, out onto the shelf not six feet wide in places, a sheer cliff five hundred feet above you on the left, a drop into nothing at the right. At last you are on top of what is called a high mesa. The summit is cup shaped, covered with good bunch grass. A spring in the hollow drains down the canyon up which you came and which is the only entrance. All the rest of the way around is rimrock hundreds of feet high. What better place for a hideout? A safe pasture for horses, water and grass, logs for cabins and corrals. Most of the trail in was solid rock on which horses' tracks wouldn't show, and tangle of branching canyons were below to get lost in. One man could hold they place against a thousand-could roll down rocks if his cartridges ran out. No, you can bet high no sheriff's posse, no outfit of railroad or express detectives ever went in there after the Wild Bunch.
The gang fixed it with some of the Mormon settlers, who were glad to earn the extra money, to go in and put up cabins and corrals, then they packed in a lot of grub, drove in a band of good saddle horses, and the Robbers' Roost came into existence.
The bunch didn't always stay there, for it was a lonesome place. One winter most of them had headquarters at one of the larger cow ranches over across the line in Colorado. They had helped put up the hay crop in the fall and covered a cabin over with hay until it looked like a haystack, and in this they slept, or went into retirement when suspicious strangers might be about. They were frequently in the little cow towns - Meeker and White River City on White River, Craig on Bear River, Dixon on the Little Snake on the Colorado-Wyoming line. They went to the ranch dances, flirted with the girls, and in all ways behaved like respectable citizens.
The smaller Colorado cow outfits were not at all in sympathy with the big men in Wyoming. They were, in fact, rather at war with them, because several of the Wyoming outfits used to shove in a lot of their cattle onto the Colorado winter range. So, as long as the outlaws confined their attention to bank and train robbery elsewhere, and let the local horses alone, nobody cared to start a feud with them. Of course, there were exceptions, as in the case of the Meeker affair, or when some guy got fresh and in trying to make off with a band of horses was run down and shot. For, as I have said, the residents of north-western Colorado in those days were mighty good people not to rile up.
Once the Roost was established the Wild Bunch started on their real career, but just about then something happened that might have changed their history. For the Spanish War came on and they, with many other outlaws - thirty or so -gathered in the Mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and sent word to the governors of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah that if all charges against them were dropped they would enlist in the Second U.S. Volunteer Cavalry - Torrey's Rough Riders, a companion regiment to Roosevelt's, that never got to the front. Their crimes were too many and serious and the offer was refused.
The next year they held up and robbed a Union Pacific train at Rock Creek, Wyoming, and in pursuit, being crowded too closely, in a hot gun fight in rocky ground they killed Deputy Sheriff Joseph Hazen and stood off his posse. After this the gang rode to a cabin on the Little Muddy near Fort Washakie and divided the loot. A day or so after this Will Simpson, who had prosecuted Butch in the horse stealing case at Lander, met Butch and asked if he had broken his promise not to operate in Wyoming. Butch denied that he had been in the train robbery and there was never proof that he had been, but it was generally understood that he received some of the money. In fact, he was most likely with the gang when they divided it up. After this they disappeared and it so happened that I was with one of the posses that tried to head them off.
This was in June, 1899, and I was at the Green River camp. One morning six horsemen showed up across the river from the buildings and yelled for somebody to come across, so I took the boat and went over. It turned out to be Sheriff John Ward of Uinta county, which at that time took in all of western Wyoming, nobody knowing just where the eastern boundary of the county was. With him were five deputies and they had come up to try and head off the train robbers if they struck through the Union Pass, which was ten or twelve miles to the north of my camp and directly west of where the robbers had divided up the proceeds on the Muddy.
Ward with his men and horses had been brought by special train to Green River city on the U.P. Then they had come up the river horseback, changing horses at the different cow ranches, and making the hundred and fifty miles to my camp in about thirty hours. They wanted something to eat, fresh horses, and somebody to go with them who knew the country.
So I had one of the boys run in the remuda, the cook hustled grub, and an hour later the posse, together with one of the boys from the camp and myself, mounted on the best horses in the remuda, were hitting the high spots for the pass. I didn't think we would run across the gang, neither did Ward, because none of them were fools enough to take to the high mountains at that time of year, as there would still be snow, and the streams would be up, but Ward had orders to close the pass.
We didn't find any robbers, which was lucky, for they would most likely have filled us up with lead, but it was a great trip. During it Ward, sheriff of a mighty tough county and Deputy United States Marshal for western Wyoming, was bluffed out by a woman, and he with seven armed deputies at his back! Also, he broke into a U.S. post-office, creating a mystery which has never been solved.
We were up in the pass two days, with a mighty little to eat. It is ten thousand feet up, open meadows, streams and lakes, bodies of timber - you wouldn't think that you were on the ridgepole of the continent, the water running to both the Atlantic and the Pacific. In June it's early spring up there - snow banks, boggy ground, streams running bankfull with melting snow and swimming for a horse.
The first night we shivered around a darned small fire, well hidden - if the train robbers were up there we didn't want them coming around to investigate. The afternoon of the second day we went down Warm Spring Creek, on the Wind River side. There was a placer mine there, managed by an Eastern man who had his wife along. The lady was sitting on the porch of her house when we rode up, and I reckon we were a tough looking bunch, muddy, wet and smoke blackened. Ward asked her if we could get something to eat.
The lady fixed the sheriff with a cold and fishy eye. "We do not feed tramps," she said very distinctly, although she may have been all shivery inside us.
Ward came back to us. "Boys, she won't feed us," he reported.
I was hungry, awfully hungry, so hungry that all I could think of was grub. "Let me try, Jack," I suggested.
I took my star out of my pocket-it is not considered wise to have a star in sight when you are expecting to go into a gun fight, because it makes too good a bull's-eye, pinned it on my shirt and rode over.
"Madam," I said, "we are officers of law in pursuit of a band of desperate criminals and really you must feed us and our horses."
She unbent a trifle. "Oh, in that case," she said, touched a bell, and when a Chinaman appeared gave directions that we and our horses be fed, all in the grand manner. But just suppose that we had really been a hard crowd?
So we went back to my place without any train robbers, but with whole skins, which was something.
As I have said before we had a post-office there, run in rather a primitive manner. The mail came on horseback once a week and was dumped into a box for everybody to help themselves; the stamps and small change were in a cigar box. In my cabin, which I kept locked, more because of the private papers and correspondence than for any other reason, were the surplus post-office funds, also in a cigar box, and some whiskey
As soon as we got back I pulled out for Jackson's Hole, but Ward and his men lay over to rest before taking the hundred and fifty mile desert ride to the railroad. The next morning Ward wanted a drink - stomach ache or something.
"Where the so and such is that blankety blank Bill?" he wanted to know.
The boys told him that I had gone to Jackson's Hole. So Mr Ward, the sheriff, took an axe, pried up the window to my cabin, helped himself to a bottle of booze and departed, all as a matter of course.
Came the first of July when all post-masters must remit surplus funds for the past three months. I figured out I owed Uncle Sam thirty-five dollars and seventeen cents, made out the report, opened the cigar box- and the darned thing was empty! Somebody - not Ward, of course - had lifted the works. There were a lot of hard cases hanging around the tie camp a little way below us, some were often at my place and had discovered the unfastened window.
Uncle Sam is touchy about is touchy about his cash; it must go in on the dot, and the total resources of everybody at the Dog Ranch footed up less than ten dollars, because I banked at Rock Springs and everything was paid by check. So I explained matters on the report, sent it in, and notified the bank to forward the cash at once, but you can't fool the Uncle.
Next comes a post-office inspector on the high jump to investigate the robbery. He was pretty mad when he got there - that trip across the desert was no joke- and still madder when he took in our system of running a post-office. My, he sure gave us full instructions as to how a post-office should be run, funds safeguarded, and all such things. When he started questions about the robbery. When? How? Where? Hundreds of them.
Of course, we couldn't give Ward away, nobody knew anything, and that inspector got madder and madder. He was nobody's fool, either.
"You guys are covering up something," he stormed. "Grinning and looking wise like a tree full of owls gives you away."
At last he went away, just as wise as when he came, and this is the truthful account of the post-office at Wells, Wyoming, in June 1899. I am sure hope it is covered by the statute of limitations.
From then on for a few years was the heyday of the Wild Bunch - how the newspapers buzzed with tales of them and of the Roost! They got away with the coal company's pay-roll at Castle Gate, Utah, shooting their way out through a crowd of enraged miners shooting back; they robbed the bank at Winnemucca, Nevada, and got clean away. Not long afterward Cassidy and three of the others met in San Antonio, Texas, and had a group photograph taken - a bunch of young dare-devils, all grinning, hats tilted back, one of them with a nosegay in his buttonhole.
Here is an extract from one of the many reward notices out for them:
Officers are warned to have sufficient assistance and to be fully armed when attempting to arrest these out-laws, as they are always heavily armed and will make a determined resistance before submitting to arrest, not hesitating to kill if necessary.
But their day was nearly over. Some had been killed and others jailed.
Those who were left determined to make one more big haul and pull for the Argentine, where many of the more turbulent of the Westerners had already gone as the country had become too tame for them. So, in June, 1901, they held up a Great Northern train at Wagner, Montana, getting away with forty thousand dollars in currency.
That was the last raid made by the gang, and afterward the fate that they had defied so long overtook them. One was killed in a train holdup in Texas, another died in a bloody gun fight with peace officers in San Antonio, another was killed in northern Mexico; Harve Logan had been captured but escaped.
I saw him once afterward. He came riding to the ranch, all alone, a small, dark man with twenty thousand dollars reward, and nobody knows how many killings - not murders - on his head. The Old West had its code. One of them was the idea that hospitality must not be violated, another that weapons should not be worn into a house where there were women. Logan stayed overnight, and when he came into the house to eat, apologized to my wife for having his gun belt, which he hung on the back of his chair, in his hand.
"I know you folks are all right, but strangers might come, and I feel kind of lost without it," he explained.
Harve Logan and Cassidy and one other outlaw with his wife went to the Argentine, where they drifted into outlawry again. One day troops rounded up Cassidy and the third outlaw and their men. There is no record of what became of Logan. Cassidy was the last man to go down, and according to the story that has come back, when the soldiers came to where he lay they saw that he had killed himself with his last cartridge.
Brave men were they, in a way; living according to a code of their own and dying violently, yet playing a real part in the drama of the Old West.
This is the cover and first two pages of the reminiscences on the Wild Bunch.
This image is known as the "Fort Worth Five Photograph."
Front row left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick, alias the Tall Texan, Robert Leroy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy; Standing: Will Carver & Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry; Fort Worth, Texas, 1900.