Thursday, 9 February 2012

Crossing Paths with Butch Cassidy

One finds the oddest bits of information in the oddest places.   We were looking for a couple of friends from the running club - who were not to be found - when Bill noticed this poster on the pub wall.  I didn't really have time to read it, so I took a couple of quick photos for later perusal.  (I see I should have cleaned the finger prints off the glass first.)

Robert LeRoy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy, 1894

For most of my adult life I've never given a great deal of thought to any of the historical figures famous for rustling cattle or robbing banks and trains.  Beyond the fact that Redford and Newman were in a movie about this man I never took much notice that he had anything to do with Utah.  I sort of knew it, but then a lot of films about the Wild West have been shot in that state so I never was sure if this was how I associated him with Utah, the state in which I resided before coming to England.

However, the pub poster told the story that his mother, Ann Sinclair Gillies, was born in Newcastle in 1849.  She spent her early years living in Brandling Village, near Jesmond (now a posh part of central Newcastle); I often run past Brandling Park.  In 1856 the Gillies family packed up their belongings and emigrated to New York.

In time they moved to Utah where Ann met her future husband, Maximilian Parker (apparently from Lancashire).  The first of their thirteen children, Robert, was born on 15 April 1866.  He grew up to become one of the most notorious outlaws of the Wild West.

Robert left the family's Circleville ranch (in Utah) when he was a teenager.  He soon hooked up with cattle rustler Mike Cassidy, whose surname Robert added to the nickname he acquired during a stint as a butcher (hence Robert Parker became Butch Cassidy).

In 1896, he formed the 'Wild Bunch', a ruthless gang that targeted banks and the Union Pacific railroad for the next five years.  Following a train robbery in 1901, Butch and Harry Longabaugh, alias 'The Sundance Kid' fled to South America.

It is believed that the men died in a shoot-out near San Vincente, Bolivia in 1908.  The Bolivian army claimed to have buried their bodies in unmarked graves, but no remains have ever been found.


"The Wild Bunch" December 1890
You probably already knew most of this.  However, there is information given here that says not only did  (alias) Cassidy come from a Mormon family, he was also related to none other than Charles Dickens.  

I may have to have a look around Brandling Village for a blue plaque just in case the Gillies' old home is still around...

13 comments:

Tabitha said...

I'm slightly obsessed with The West, I find that period of America's history so utterly fascinating and have read some great books on it and of course, I cannot pass up a western. I don't think I would have made it there at the time.

PS. Oh I love your hair colour as it is but I'm now two shades lighter than what I was a few years ago and I actually prefer it now.

Rick Stone said...

That is interesting but he looked nothing like Paul Newman. ;->

On one of our RV trips up north we found ourselves in Sundance, Montana, where "The Kid" spent some time in jail and got his nickname. On main street they have a bronze replica of the jail with a bronze Sundance sitting there. I have a picture of Joanne sitting on the bench "conversing" with him.

BigLittleWolf said...

Fascinating. I didn't know a great deal of this. And related to Charles Dickens?

Amazing.

Beryl said...

I actually didn't know anything about Butch Cassiday. Thanks for all the information. All I know about the Victorian British view of the Mormons in Utah, I learned from reading "A Study in Scarlet", the very first Sherlock Holmes story.

ilegirl said...

Interesting! It's such a small world in many ways.

Carolyn said...

That is all news to me; how interesting! I wonder why he took the surname of his friend.

Shelley said...

Tabitha, I think it is a hoot that you are fascinated by Western history. I come from there and find it rather boring, but then I grew up with it. I'm just now, after gobbling up all the history I can from this side of the pond, beginning to get interested in what went on back home. I think we tend to dismiss whatever we grew up with and be drawn to what is strange and 'foreign'. Thanks, I like this colour too, but I'm finding hair colour a lot of hassle just now!


Rick, Actually, I just went back to look it up and Redford played The Sundance Kid, not Cassidy, which explains why he named resort in Utah 'Sundance' I suppose. That's a place I would go back and visit, having never had time for such things when I lived in SLC.

LittleBigWolf, On one hand, yes it is amazing, but on the other Britain is such a small place I think everyone is eventually related if one goes back far enough. I think I read that Kate Middleton and William are 15th cousins or something.


Beryl, I shall have to look up that Sherlock Holmes story. It was fascinating (if a bit creepy at first) to live in SLC and as I've always been quite interested in learning about various religions I bought a book about the church's history when I visited the temple. There are some briliant aspects to that religion, some scary ones and a few that one could find fairly amusing. I was thinking of blogging about all this, but I tend to avoid talking religion or politics here. On the other hand, in a couple of days I'm going to talk about SEX!

Ilegirl, I agree, it is very small world, particularly within the western culture.


Carolyn, That's an interesting question. I sort of think he was divorcing himself from his original family and embracing the name of someone else he admired. I can imagine that the role of the eldest child in a family of thirteen children could be one that someone might run away from. Also, at that time when Mormons practiced polygamy, a man could find himself saddled with the responsibility for an awful lot of people: his wives and children and also the wives and children of any deceased brothers. I'm not sure he didn't make a good choice there!

Beryl said...

Oh Goody, Shelley, some blogging about SEX - I'll be waiting to read it. I would need a super secret blog to write about such stuff, since my children read my blog and they wouldn't want to find out I knew anything about such stuff! (Snicker)

Terri said...

What a fascinating story. As I read and realized the parallels with your locations, I mused what a small world it can be. Either that or you are some sort of outlaw who I take to be a mild-mannered blogger.

Shelley said...

Beryl, Yep I understand that. My Mom and Dad found me in the cabbage patch, too.


Terri, You are so perceptive! I did have this small shiver, wondering if I wasn't really the mild-manner blogger (love that) I think I am, but that in the past life I was mixed up with something more outlandish. Mind, I can't recall having ever been to Centerville (and I know I never made it down to Sundance, something I really should remedy).

Terri said...

I had wanted to comment on your skirt project, but for some reason I don't see a comment link. In any case, I look forward to seeing you in the skirt and in the remodeled place.

Shelley said...

Terri, I've looked at this, republished, and I've no idea why this one post doesn't have a comment field. V. strange - I guess Blogger doesn't like my topic?

Shelley said...

What an idiot! I just noticed the selections for Post Options and realised I'd accidently clicked on 'do not allow, hide existing'...