Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

Small Beginnings

George LeRoy Parker aka Butch Cassidy
George LeRoy Parker
aka Butch Cassidy

A wave of conversions to Mormonism swept through Great Britain in the 19th century, and many British citizens made the arduous voyage across the Atlantic and an equally challenging journey across America to Utah. The families of Maximillian Parker and Ann Gillies made that excursion to the center of the Mormon faith, and Maximillian and Ann spent their formative years in the Utah wilderness, where they later met and married. On April 13, 1866, the couple welcomed their first of many children, Robert LeRoy Parker, who would later become known as "Butch Cassidy."

All evidence indicates that the Parkers were a strict but loving family. The family didn't have much money and the children all contributed to the family's earnings whenever possible. At the age of 13, Butch began working at a ranch some miles from the Parker homestead. The owner of the ranch was impressed that even in his early teens, the diligent and productive Butch could do the work of a full-grown man.

In The Outlaw Trail, historian Charles Kelly's book about the colorful bandits of the American West, he speculates that it was also during his teenage years that Butch had his first minor brushes with the law. Minor infractions of the law were common among young men in the Wild West, and it appears that Butch's first crimes were no more spectacular than those of his friends. One legend even indicates that one of Butch's earliest "offenses" was not even illegal. Butch needed some new clothes and made a long journey to a mercantile, only to find it closed. Frustrated and not wanting to make the same trek again, he let himself in, took what he needed, and left a note for the merchant with his name stating that he would pay for the items in full on his next visit to the store. The merchant turned him in to the authorities, anyway. The charges were dropped and Butch went free.

This incident is not particularly telling of the criminal genius Butch would become, although it is commonly believed that he felt badly treated by the authorities during some of his early encounters with lawmen, and may have begun to build an animosity towards the law and its officers.

In his late teens, Butch found employment closer to the Parker home at a neighboring dairy farm. Charles Kelly wrote that at the dairy Butch met another hired hand, Mike Cassidy, who would teach young Butch about the art of cattle rustling and how to use guns. Butch was an excellent student and would later adopt his mentor's surname when he chose his infamous alias.

 

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