Butch and Sundance – What We Know

What Is Known

 The Sundance Kid (real name, Harry Alonso Longabaugh) was working as a ranch hand in Wyoming in the 1880s before falling onto the wrong side of the law. In 1887, young Harry was convicted of stealing a horse, saddle and a gun and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. Surprisingly, Longabaugh was not incarcerated in the Wyoming State Prison. Rather, the twenty-year-old youth was kept in a local jail in Sundance, Wyoming. Thus, he was saddled with the name that would follow him for the rest of his life: The Sundance Kid.

Butch Cassidy (real name, Robert Leroy Parker) started his nefarious career before he met the Sundance Kid. His first known bank robbery was of the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colorado in the year 1889. Later that year he was convicted of stealing horses and spent eighteen months in the Wyoming State Prison. 

Image of Telluride, 1880s

Telluride, 1880s (Image from the Mark L. Evans Collection – external website)

Image of the bank today

The white building is the site of first bank robbery as it looks today.

Early photo of a young Butch Cassidy

Early photo of a young Butch Cassidy

It was after his release from prison that Butch Cassidy met the Sundance Kid. They took a liking to each other immediately and Butch invited Sundance to join a group of outlaws he was forming, that would later be known as The Wild Bunch. For over a decade these bandits marauded with near impunity throughout the American West.

By the turn of the century things were finally beginning to get hot for the notorious bandits. But it was a photograph more than anything that was the catalyst for causing Sundance and Butch Cassidy to flee to South America in 1901. One day, on a whim, the outlaws foolishly decided to enter a photo studio in Fort Worth, Texas and have a portrait taken.  

The Wild Bunch.

The Wild Bunch.

Butch in Wild Bunch photo.

Butch in Wild Bunch photo.

Sundance in Wild Bunch photo.

Sundance in Wild Bunch photo.

 Up to this point, the Pinkerton Agency and other members of law enforcement had little idea of what Butch, Sundance, and the rest of the Wild Bunch looked like. Unfortunately for the gang, this portrait was displayed by the photographer in his studio window and was seen by a passing lawman. It soon gave law enforcement a valuable tool in their quest to capture the illusive bandits.

Photo Sundance and Etta Place

Sundance and “Etta”

The Texas photo was not the only photo of the bandits, but the other photos were either not recent enough or were never brought to the attention of law enforcement. One such photo was a portrait of Sundance and his love interest, Etta Place (to this day her real name is not positively known). 


The Bandits in South America 

The Movie poster

The Movie poster

In the famous and iconic movie, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, the robbers, along with Sundance’s girl friend, “Etta”, fled to Bolivia to continue their lawless activities in a new and safer environment.

In fact, the three sailed to Argentina, not only to escape the relentless pursuit of law enforcement, but also to leave behind their illegal life style. They actually purchased a large section of land in Patagonia along the east bank of the Rio Blanco near Cholila. There they began to raise cattle and tried to become honest ranchers.  

For several years the trio seemed to be happy on the Argentine ranch. 

Image of Cabin

This is purported to be the cabin they built on their ranch.

Image of ranch and two figures

This is purported to be a photo of the Sundance Kid and his girlfriend known as Etta Place on the Cholila ranch.

Pinkerton Agency Motto “We Never Sleep”

Pinkerton Agency Motto “We Never Sleep”

The three may have lived peacefully for some time in their rancho paradise had it not been for the 1905 robbery of the Banco de Tarapaca y Argentino in Rio Gallegos, Argentina. This robbery was 700 miles south of their Patagonia ranch, but none-the-less suspicion was laid at their doorstep. Luckily, Butch had befriended a local sheriff, Edward Humphreys, who tipped the American fugitives off to the fact that a representative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency along with the Argentine authorities were in route to arrest them. With the motto, “We Never Sleep”, the Pinkerton Agency had been relentless in their pursuit of the two outlaws for years.

Butch, Sundance and Etta immediately pulled up stakes and were once again on the run. For reasons that are left to speculation, Sundance eventually escorted Etta back to the United States.

When Sundance returned to South America, he and Butch tried once again to go straight. They took jobs at the Concordia Tin Mine in Bolivia. However, their attempts at going strait never seemed to pan out. Eventually, they returned to the profession to which they seemed best suited; robbery.

Among other places, the infamous bandits robbed banks in Tupiza, Brazil and Villa Mercedes, Argentina.

Image of Tupiza, Brazil

Tupiza, Brazil

In 1908, two masked American bandits robbed a mule train conveying a payroll shipment for the Aramayo Franke and Cia Silver Mine.

Image of Mule Train

Typical mule train







The robbers then took the payroll mules and their loot to near-by San Vicente, a small mining town. They booked a room in a boarding house and registered under the name Cassidy.

Suspicious of the name Cassidy and familiar with the Aramayo Mine brand on the mules that were in the possession of two American’s, the owner of the boarding house notified an Army cavalry unit stationed near by.

In the classic movie, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, hundreds of soldiers were summoned and subsequently surrounded the bandits.

Illustration of boarding house

A drawing that depicts the boarding house where the outlaws were killed.

In actuality, three soldiers and one officer arrived to confront the outlaws holed up at the boarding house. During the gunfight that ensued, the two desperados killed one soldier while themselves receiving numerous wounds. Sometime later, two shots rang out from inside the boarding house. Hearing no further gunfire, the soldiers cautiously entered to find the robbers dead. Their final wounds suggested that one of the bandits had shot the other and then taken his own life.

Were the infamous outlaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, indeed dead? Could it be that, instead of the infamous duo, two wannabe Wild Bunch robbers had died there that day?




Author Randal Benjamin

The novel THE OLD GUN, FINDING SUNDANCE, written by Randal Benjamin, answers the question with a fictional account of what became of The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy. Filled with action, adventure, romance and sacrifice, the story takes place mostly in Oklahoma in the year 1921 and deals with Sundance’s confrontation with the killers who have been hired by a ruthless oil baron to drive him off the ranch that has been his home for the last thirteen year.

In flashback the novel also takes the reader through Sundance’s and Butch Cassidy’s lives up to the time of their supposed deaths at the hands of the Bolivian army.