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Front Page » April 7, 2009 » Emery County News » Historical society hears the story of the Sundance Kid
Published 2,875 days ago

Historical society hears the story of the Sundance Kid

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Staff Writer

Are the remains of William Henry Long, exhumed from a Duchesne grave those of the famous Sundance Kid of the Wild Bunch? This is the answer for which the great-grandson of Long, Jerry Nickle and his wife Judy have been searching. The Nickles are former residents of Utah and now live in Arizona. They recently came to Castle Dale as guest speakers at a Historical Society meeting. Jerry has always suspected his great-grandfather was the Sundance Kid. In 2000 he and his wife began doing research on Long and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid. He was able to get a copy of the Pinkerton Records and has found many discrepancies between what the records say compared to many of the books and movies about the Wild Bunch.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were said to be killed in a 1908 shoot-out with Bolivian authorities following a payroll robbery. The slain men were buried together in an unmarked grave that remains undiscovered.

Recently University of Utah biological anthropologist John M. McCullough compared a known photo of Long against a known photo of Longabaugh. He came to the conclusion that the two photographs are of the same person. The comparison revealed identical traits in both men including a notch in an ear, evidence of a broken nose, and a cleft chin. As well as matches in height, hair color, and eye color. McCullough's findings helped to secure a court order to have Long's body exhumed. DNA testing is now being performed and the Nickles' are anxiously waiting for the results.

Also at the meeting was Kelly Taylor of Fremont, another descendent of Long who has helped Jerry and Judy with their research. He brought maps that showed the actual trails that were used by the Wild Bunch in Utah. He also showed a slide show of extreme horseback rides taken into Robbers Roost, an area where the Wild Bunch often rode into to avoid the posse.

In 1887, Harry Longabaugh was convicted of horse theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Sundance, Wyo. jail. Because of this jail time he was called the Sundance Kid.

Longabaugh likely met Butch Cassidy (real name Robert Leroy Parker) sometime after Parker was released from prison around 1896. They formed the "Wild Bunch Gang." Together with the other members of the gang, they performed the longest string of successful train and bank robberies in American and Old West history. Little is known of Longabaugh's exploits prior to his riding with Parker. However, this is known: in 1891 Harry Longabaugh was a 25 year old ranch hand working at the Bar U Ranch in Alberta, Canada. The Bar U was one of the largest commercial ranches of the time.

Although Longabaugh was reportedly fast with a gun and often referred to as a "gunfighter", he is not known to have killed anyone prior to a later shootout in Bolivia, where he and Parker were alleged to have been killed. He became better known than another outlaw member of the gang dubbed "Kid", Kid Curry (real name Harvey Logan), who killed numerous men while with the gang. It is possible that often the "Sundance Kid" was mistaken for "Kid Curry", since many articles referred to "the Kid". Longabaugh did participate in a shootout with lawmen who trailed a gang led by George Curry to the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout in Wyoming and was thought to have wounded two lawmen in that shootout. With that exception, though, his verified involvement in shootouts is unknown.

Longabaugh and Logan used a log cabin at what is now Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyo. as a hide-out before they robbed a bank in Red Lodge, Mont. Parker, Longabaugh and other desperados met at another cabin brought to Old Trail Town from the Hole-in-the-Wall country in north central Wyoming. That cabin was built in 1883 by Alexander Ghent.

Historically, the gang was for a time best known for their lack of violence during the course of their robberies, relying heavily on intimidation and negotiation, but nevertheless if captured they would have faced hanging. However, that portrayal of the gang is less than accurate and mostly a result of Hollywood portrayals depicting them as usually "non-violent". In reality, several people were killed by members of the gang, including five law enforcement officers killed by Logan alone. "Wanted dead or alive" posters were posted throughout the country, with as much as a $30,000 reward for information leading to their capture or death.

They began hiding out at the Hole In The Wall, located near Kaycee, Wyo. From there they could strike and retreat, with little fear of capture, since it was situated on high ground with a view in all directions of the surrounding territory. Pinkerton detectives led by Charlie Siringo, however, hounded the gang for a couple of years.

Parker and Longabaugh, evidently wanting to allow things to calm down a bit and looking for fresher robbing grounds, left the United States on Feb. 20, 1901. Longabaugh sailed with his "wife" Etta Place and Parker aboard the British ship Herminius for Buenos Aires in Argentina.

They spent four years farming and then went back to robbery. It isn't clear if they were killed in Bolivia or if they returned to the United States to spend the remainder of their years. When the DNA evidence comes back it will help clear up the mystery surrounding the death of the Sundance Kid.

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April 7, 2009
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