Robert LeRoy Parker alias Butch Cassidy
Robert LeRoy Parker's father, Maximillian Parker, a weaver, was born in Lancashire, England, in 1844. His family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1853 when Morman missionaries were recruiting English and European artisans to immigrate to Utah. The Parker family immigrated to America in 1856 and were in one of the first Mormon handcart companies that crossed the continent. They settled in Beaver, Utah, and went to work in the local woolen mill. Robert's mother, Ann Gillies, was Scottish by birth and arrived in Utah about the same time. Her family had also been recruited into the Mormon faith in the middle of the nineteenth century and had also been in one of the early Mormon handcart companies that made their way to Utah. Ann and Maximillian met in the 1860s and married in 1865. On April 13, 1866, their first child was born - Robert LeRoy Parker. Maximillian carried the mail between Beaver and Panguitch along the Sevier River. In the spring of 1879 Maximillian moved his family to Circle Valley and established a small farm. He also worked at a variety of temporary jobs in various parts of southwestern Utah. As Robert grew up he helped out on the family farm and also took temporary jobs on nearby ranches. Max and Ann eventually had a total of fourteen children.
In 1882 Congress passed the Edmonds Act which made polygamy a federal offense punishable by up to five years imprisonment and/or a $500 fine. Robert is believed to have been involved in the Mormon underground railroad that helped Mormon's accused of polygamy to avoid arrest. As a youngster Robert had a few minor scrapes with the law, but nothing very serious, however, sometime in the early 1880s he met Mike Cassidy and became involved with him in rustling cattle. Cassidy also gave Robert his first pistol and taught him how to use it. One day in June 1884 Robert told his mother that he was going to Telluride, Colorado, to work in the mines. It is thought that he may have been involved in transporting some stolen horses for Cap Brown, a notorious rustler then in the area. In Telluride, Robert worked as a teamster. He probably spent the winter elsewhere, but was still in Telluride during the summer of 1885 when he got into a legal dispute with a local rancher over a horse. Robert left town with the horse, but was arrested and jailed briefly in Montrose, Utah. After being released it is thought that he headed north to Wyoming and Montana where he worked as a ranch hand. In 1887 he returned to Telluride and fell in with Matt Warner (William Christianson) a fellow Utah cowboy who owned a very fast race horse. Robert and Matt spent several months racing horses in various parts of Colorado. During 1888 and much of 1889 Robert and Matt worked as ranch hands at a ranch located just outside of Telluride.
In the spring of 1889 Robert and Matt Warner teamed up with Tom McCarty. It is believed that Warner and McCarty robbed the First National Bank of Denver on March 30, 1889, but there is some possibility that it was Matt and Robert Parker. On June 24, 1889, Parker, McCarty and Warner robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride. In making their escape they relied on multiple relays of horses to outdistance the several posses that pursued them and it is thought that friends assisted them in setting up the relay system. They made their way to Brown's Park on the Utah-Colorado border just below Wyoming. Brown's Park was a notorious refuge for rustlers and was well known to Matt Warner. For the next few days they stayed with Charlie Crouse on his ranch. When a posse showed up, Crouse got a warning to them and they fled south to what was then known as the "Robber's Roost" area of southern Utah. Robert started calling himself George Cassidy at this time and is thought to have made a trip to see his younger brother in Milford, Utah. While subsequently purchasing supplies in Green River he was recognized and the three men were forced to leave Utah for Wyoming. In Wyoming the trio split up with Cassidy ending up at Herb Bassett's ranch back in Brown's Park where he worked as a ranch hand.
In the fall of 1889 George Cassidy and Al Hainer purchased some land on Horse Creek in northern Fremont County, Wyoming (near present day Dubois). They told their neighbors that they intended to raise horses. In the Spring of 1889 they closed up their ranch and rode off without telling anyone where they were going. It is possible that Cassidy may have visited his family in Circle Valley, and may have worked on a ranch for a while near his family home. In the summer of 1889 Cassidy purchased land on Blue Creek in Johnson County, Wyoming - ten miles northwest of the "Hole-in-the-Wall." He is believed to have engaged in horse stealing on a large scale and may have had a number of associates in neighboring states. In those days stolen horses were being moved across the entire west. Stolen in one state and sold in another. That winter he sold his property and in 1891 once again teamed up with Warner and McCarty and engaged in some cattle and horse rustling in Wyoming. His exact activities are hard to pin down, but it appears that this is when he began to be called "Butch." On April 11, 1892, Cassidy and Hainer were arrested for staling a horse. They were incarcerated in the Fremont County jail at Lander, Wyoming. Cassidy's lawyer was Douglas A. Preston. On July 30 Cassidy and Hainer made bail and were released. They settled on Owl Creek and spent a year rustling cattle and horses from the men who were trying to put them behind bars. On June 20, 1893, they returned to Lander to stand trial and were acquitted for insufficient evidence. Both men were immediately charged with yet another incidence of horse theft and this time Hainer again went free, but Butch was convicted.
Butch was sentenced to two years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Laramie, Wyoming. He was released on January 19, 1896. On leaving the penitentiary, Butch went to Brown's Park where Matt Warner had a small ranch. At Brown's Park he also renewed his friendship with Elzy Lay whom he had known while working at the Bassett ranch in 1889. For a short time Butch and Elzy engaged in helping to pass counterfeit currency. On August 13, 1896, Butch Cassidy, Elzy Lay, and Bub Meeks robbed the bank in Montpelier, Idaho. (Legend has it that the money from that robbery was paid to Douglas A. Preston as his fee for defending Matt Warner on a murder charge. Warner was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to five years in the Utah State Penitentiary.) Following the Montpelier bank robbery Butch and Elzy were suspects so they decided to move from Brown's Park and hide out in Robber's Roost near Horseshoe Canyon. It is thought that Bub Meeks, Joe Walker, Flat Nose George Curry, Harvey Logan (Kid Curry), and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) were also at the camp. Butch Cassidy was forming the band that would become known as the "Wild Bunch." On April 21, 1896, Butch and Elzy robbed the payroll of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Castle Gate, Utah. The other members of his gang probably helped stage their get-away horses as had been done in the 1889 Telluride bank robbery.