SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Many have heard stories of Butch Cassidy — one of the most notorious outlaws in the United States. But many may not know that Cassidy was actually born and raised right here in Utah, with a number of his criminal exploits occurring in our state as well.
His life of crime would become a thing of legend, and tales of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor would earn him the title “Robin Hood of the West.” But with a world of speculation behind his life and death — including rumors of a hidden treasure in Utah — who was Butch Cassidy?
The Life of Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy was born on April 13, 1866, in Beaver, Utah. His real name was Robert LeRoy Parker, and his family first relocated to the state from England as The Church of Latter-day Saints called for more members to establish communities in the region.
To help provide for his family, Parker left home at the age of 13 to work at a local ranch during the early 1880s. At this ranch, he would meet an older outlaw named Mike Cassidy, who taught him cattle rustling and gunslinging, even inspiring the surname for his lifelong alias.
Upon turning 18, he left Utah in search of other opportunities around Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming — where he would be sentenced to two years in the Wyoming state penitentiary for stealing a horse valued at $5.
Once out of prison, Cassidy would soon lead a band of outlaws known for robbing banks and trains, called The Wild Bunch. During the 1890s, he and this group would become famous for their holdups around the western U.S. It’s reported that Cassidy wasn’t known for violence and had a friendly reputation for helping neighbors.
By 1899, Cassidy would team up with Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) to oversee the group and continue their spree.
As sheriff groups and Pinkerton detectives closed in on the group of outlaws, both Cassidy and Sundance fled to New York City and eventually escaped to South America. They owned and operated a ranch in Argentina from 1902 to 1906 but would later return to their outlaw ways by traveling to other countries, robbing banks, trains, and mines.
There were multiple reports and rumors of their deaths in South America around 1909, with other stories telling of the pair returning to the U.S., where they drifted for years around the western part of the country.
Cassidy’s Hidden Treasure in Utah
Together with fellow cowboy and close friend Elza Lay in 1897, Cassidy would steal about $8,000 from a train in Castle Gate.
As they made their escape, the two men cut telegraph lines to prevent reports of their crime. Slowly but surely, they headed to Robbers Roost for sanctuary — one of Cassidy’s preferred outlaw hideouts in eastern Utah near present-day Hanksville.
While it’s been well over a century since that money was taken from the train, it has yet to be recovered and many believe it to be buried somewhere near Robbers Roost.
This real-life treasure is an exciting prospect for locals and visitors alike, but because of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, the money officially belongs to the government.
Still, for those seeking adventure, a hiking trail in Capitol Reef National Park lets visitors see the same spots roamed by Butch Cassidy and his crew — with the possibility of discovering what was lost.