Old West Myth & Fact Archives

Robert Leroy Parker – We Know Him as Butch Cassidy

Butch CassidyBack in 1866 Robert Leroy Parker was born in Beaver, Utah Territory. But we know him as Butch Cassidy.

Supposedly, he picked up the name “Butch” from the short period of time he worked in a Rock Springs, Wyoming butcher shop. The last name came from a minor criminal mentor by the name of Mike Cassidy…I also suspect he didn’t want to bring shame on his strict Mormon family by using Parker.

Although Butch’s organizational skills and personality were probably suited more for a legitimate business life, he assembled a group of ruffians known as the “wild bunch.” Even though they could be considered misfits, Butch was able to meld them into a sophisticated criminal operation.

By the 1900’s the wild days of the West were fading and law enforcement was becoming more effective. So Butch, The Sundance Kid and Etta place fled to Argentina.

Here’s where legend and fact get blurry. Some say Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed by Bolivian troops. However members of his family maintain Butch came back to the United States and died of old age under another name.

Just as an aside. There are more than a dozen Old West outlaws, including Billy the Kid, who were supposedly not really killed, and they lived a long life under an alias. Sometimes I wonder if any Old West outlaw was ever killed.

Doc Holliday – Myth and Fact

We all think of Doc Holliday as a deadly shootist, killing scores of men. But, in this case our thinking is wrong. In reality, it can only be verified that Doc killed two men…One of them back in 1879. Here is some Doc Holliday – Myth and Fact:Doc Holliday - Myth and Fact

Doc Holliday was a partner in a saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico. A former army scout named Mike Gordon tried to persuade one of Holliday’s saloon girls to quit her job and run away with him. When she refused, Gordon became upset, and he went out to the street and began to fire bullets into the saloon. After the second shot, Holliday calmly stepped out of the saloon and dropped Gordon with a single shot. Gordon died the next day.

Incidentally, the second killing took place the following year. You may have heard about it. It’s was during the OK Corral Shootout.

Chief Seattle

Chief SeattleBy the mid 1850’s the Pacific Northwest was becoming heavily settled by whites. The area had traditionally been occupied by the Duwamish and Suquamish Indian tribes. They were headed by a chief from both tribes by the name of Chief Seattle. As the early settlers came to the area Seattle welcomed them, and the settlers treated his tribes with kindness. 
 
Through the influence of Jesuit missionaries, Seattle became religious. When in 1855 an Indian war broke out, Seattle was able to convince the warring factions that fighting the whites would only hasten their demise, and peace was had.
 
While Seattle was still alive the settlers named their major city after him. But Chief Seattle believed that if a man’s name is mentioned after his death it would disturb his eternal rest. So, to compensate Seattle for any difficulties he would have in the next life, they taxed themselves and paid him for the rest of his life. And, on June 7, 1866 Seattle did move onto another life. He was buried in the Duwamish cemetery. Twenty five years later, a monument was erected at his grave. 
 
There’s another interesting story about early Seattle, the town. During the gold rush, to meet the building needs of California, Seattle’s lumber industry boomed. They would cut the trees and “skid” them down to the lumber mill. The path they used became known as the “skid road,” and it became the main street in Seattle. Once the trees were cut in that area, the businesses moved and this area became a haven for drunks and derelicts. Thus creating the term we use today for the bad part of any town, “skid row.”

Wyatt Earp Kills Hoy?

James Masterson

Jim Masterson

In 1876, Wyatt Earp became a policeman in Dodge City, Kansas. A fellow policeman was Jim Masterson, Bat’s brother. On July 29 1878, Wyatt and Jim were patrolling the streets. At about 3 o’clock in the morning three cowboys, after picking up their pistols, passed by the local dance hall. Thinking it would be a great joke, they fired several shots into the dance hall. Wyatt and Jim rushed to where the action was taking place. The cowboys immediately turned their guns on Wyatt and Jim. Had they not been plastered, the cowboys would have realized that up until then, what they had done would have just gotten them run out of town. However, with lead coming their way, both lawmen started shooting back.

The cowboys made it to their horses, and as they rode away both Wyatt and Jim emptied their pistols in their direction. Thinking they had missed, the policemen started walking away when George Hoy, one of the cowboys, fell from his saddle. Hoy had been shot in the arm. Hoy was taken to a doctor, and then jail. Unfortunately for him infection set into the wound and he died four weeks later.

Many historians credit Wyatt for the kill even though, with lead flying, it couldn’t be positively determined if Wyatt or Jim’s bullet did the damage. And, with Hoy dying, from what could have been considered a minor wound, quite possibly, it was the doctor that did the killing. But, then, as far as George Hoy is concerned, no matter who did the killing, the results were the same.

 

Wild Bill Hickok Shoots Soldiers

Wild Bill Hickok shoots soldiersOn July 17, 1870 Deputy U.S. Marshal Wild Bill Hickok was in a bar in Hayes City, Kansas when two of a group of five Seventh Cavalry troopers suddenly attacked him from behind. It’s not quite clear what provoked the attack, but there is thought it might have had something to do with an encounter Wild Bill had earlier with Tom Custer, brother of George Custer and a member of the Seventh. So here’s the story – Wild Bill Hickok shoots soldiers.
One soldier held Wild Bill’s arms so he couldn’t fight back. A second put the muzzle of his pistol to Wild Bill’s ear and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Now Wild Bill is fighting with super human strength. He got one pistol upholstered and shot one of the soldiers. Finally able to point his pistol at the man holding him, Hickok shot him in the knee. Released, Wild Bill then did the old stuntman trick of jumping through the window, breaking glass, rolling on the ground outside, and hightailing it out of the area.
It was a good thing too, because when word of the shooting got back to the Seventh’s headquarters a number of soldiers headed into Hayes City looking for Wild Bill. General Sheridan even ordered Hickok’s arrested. But it never took place.
The event, just as it happened, was something most people would find an amazing feat. But as with most of Hickok’s adventures, it immediately took on even larger proportions. At first newspapers said all five soldiers attacked Hickok. And some ten years later Wild Bill had taken on 15 troopers, killing 3, and being wounded 7 times. Now that’s a story you could tell with pride.
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