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Butch Cassidy, the Robin Hood of Utah
One of the West's most notorious outlaws was born and raised in southern Utah by Mormon parents, and his footprints and legends are scattered over southern and eastern Utah like buckshot. Butch Cassidy (born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866) started out as a migrant cowboy dabbling in rustling. A brief career as a butcher in Wyoming earned him the nickname "Butch," and "Cassidy" was likely the name of his old rustling mentor.
By 1896 he'd formed a gang of accomplices and had turned from rustling to the more lucrative pursuits of bank and train robberies. His Wild Bunch of loosely knit companions fancied themselves the "Robin Hoods" of the West. Outraged by the way wealthy cattle barons were squeezing out the smaller ranchers, the outlaws justified their lifestyle choice by sharing their bounty with the local people, who often struggled in the harsh environment of the Utah desert. Of course, the fact that this generosity helped buy allies and protectors in the area didn't hurt. Butch Cassidy was well known for being shrewd, quick-witted, and charming.
The only major heist he pulled in Utah was in Price Canyon, near Helper, with his friend Elza Lay. Butch and Elza stole $8,800 in gold coins from the Pleasant Valley Coal Mine office by shoving a gun in the paymaster's belly while 200 men stood nearby waiting for their pay. The steps from the Castle Gate store, where the robbery occurred, are still on display at the Western Mining & Railroad Museum in Helper. The Wild Bunch often wintered near Vernal in Browns Park—a major hideout along the so-called Outlaw Trail, which stretched from Mexico to Montana. Many of the buildings are still visible and on display to visitors today. After masterminding one of the longest strings of successful bank and train robberies in America, Cassidy eventually escaped to Argentina with his girlfriend, Etta Place, and Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid). What happened then is a source of continuing mystery. Some believe Cassidy and Longabaugh were killed there; others swear the two returned to the American West, living out their days in peaceful anonymity.
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