Was Butch Cassidy a Master Train Robber? Turns out Butch may not have been the notorious train robber of lore.

Butch Cassidy True West Magazine
Butch Cassidy.

Butch Cassidy’s folk hero image actually exceeded his outlawry.  In 1898, a Chicago newspaper referred to him as the “King of the Bandits,” and the “worst man” in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho.  The article also claimed he was the leader of a gang of 500 outlaws, “subdivided into five bands.”

It’s not certain how many train robberies Butch actually participated in but he wasn’t the notorious train robber of lore.  He was recognized at the Tipton robbery, but his name was added to the list of train robbers at Wilcox after he became famous.  The flawless robbery went off like clockwork and most likely Butch planned it but he wasn’t there. The Pinkerton’s believed at the time, Butch and Sundance were heading to Winnemucca, Nevada.

Wild Bunch historian Jeffrey Burton believed six robbers were present. They included, George “Flatnose” Currie, Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, his brother, Lonnie Logan, Harry “Sundance Kid” Longabaugh, Bob Lee and Ben “Tall Texan” Kilpatrick. Historian Donna Ernst included Will Carver as one of the six robbers.

According to Wild Bunch historians Dan Buck and Anne Meadows, seven train robberies were committed by various members of the gang; Malta in 1892; Wilcox and Folsom in 1899; Tipton in 1900; Wagner in 1901; Parachute in 1904; and Sanderson in 1912.  Butch was not implicated in the Malta, Folsom, or Sanderson robberies. He was in Argentina at the time of the Parachute heist and dead when the train was robbed at Sanderson. So it looks like he participated in only one train robbery.

The Outlaw Trail

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.