Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The South American years
How did Butch and Sundance really die?
Butch Cassidy had realized that the days of the old west were over.
Civilization had arrived,
along with the long arm of the Pinkertons Detective Agency.
He looked south, way south...
In March of 1902, the steamship S.S. Soldier Prince arrived in Argentina.
Three of its passengers were Americans.
Regardless of the names on the manifest, their real names were...
Robert Leroy Parker, more commonly known as...
Harry Longbaugh, known as the Sundance Kid.
And Etta Place, beautiful, mysterious, a good horse rider,
good with a gun...
and a member of the Wild Bunch outlaw gang!
Everybody liked Butch Cassidy. He was a gentleman outlaw.
They tried to go straight!
They took some of their stolen money and bought a small ranch in the Pampas.
(Fertile South American lowlands with a warm climate
that are highly suitable for agriculture and cattle).
The threesome bought cattle and sheep and tried to settle down.
Harry (Sundance) did as he always had. He sent a letter to his sister...
A Pinkertons detective, years later, said that he believed that Etta had been teaching school
when she first met Sundance. They fell in love.
She joined the outlaw gang.
Etta and Sundance were definitely lovers at one point,
but perhaps things changed a little in the Argentines.
He had an eye for other women.
Butch Cassidy later told people that Etta, who had ridden with them on every holdup,
"Was the best housekeeper in the Pampas, but she was a whore at heart."
On February 14, 1903, Robert Pinkerton sent a letter to the president of the Union Pacific RR
had been robbed by Butch and Sundance and other Wild Bunch gang members and probably... Etta Place).
Pinkerton, of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, wrote...
'These men are ranching in a new country (Argentine Republic), 350 miles inland.'
In less than one year, the exact South American location of Butch and Sundance was discovered!
Robert Pinkerton also wrote, 'Longbaugh (Sundance) is considered to be one of the worst men
in the Wild Bunch gang
and this is saying a great deal.'
In other words, forget about the Robert Redford depiction.
Sundance had a thing with a married woman. They were caught by her husband, who pulled a gun.
Sundance shot him in shoulder. He claimed self defense.
But before the husband and the law arrested Sundance, a
It came from a friend or sympathizer in Buenos Aires.
The Pinkertons knew where they were.
The detective agency had been working with the post office and intercepted the letter Sundance
had sent to his sister. The Argentine police were notified.
Butch, Sundance and Etta immediately left Argentina and found themselves in Bolivia.
That's when the robbing of banks and mine payrolls began.
Most of the robberies were in Argentina, but there was one thing in common...
they were being committed by two men and a woman.
As time went on, the word got out that the famous American robbers,
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were the ones. No one knew who the woman was.
Etta Place was good with a gun.
Butch was good with a gun. He was a very good shot.
Sundance was better than both of them.
This photo, of Harry Longbaugh and Etta Place,
was taken in February of 1902, in NYC,
just before they went to Argentina.
They were called bandidos Yanqui and hid out in small indian villages.
They gave the Indians gold and candy for the kids.
When the police or army units came asking about
the yanqui bandits,
the Indians would indicate that they had never seen them.
Butch, Sundance and Etta were never betrayed by the Indians.
But Etta was growing tired of the hard life.
There was nothing romantic or enjoyable about it.
Most people think that was why she returned to the United States and disappeared from history.
No one knows Etta's (it might actually have been Ethel) true last name.
Therefore, it's impossible to check any records.
However, it can be assumed that she began a new life, under a new name of course,
and probably bought a small place in the Denver area, and returned to teaching school.
It needs to be mentioned however,
that some historians think that she had been a prostitute
and not a school teacher.
Butch and Sundance needed a place to lay low,
and to have actual jobs to make them look innocent.
They found the Concordia Tin Mine, southeast of the La Paz Bolivia area.
In 1907 Clement Glass, manager of the mine,
hired them for $150 a month plus room and board.
Months later, by chance, their real identities were found out.
But the two outlaws made a peace pact with Glass.
They all became friends.
Later, Glass introduced them to Percy Siebert.
Percy went on to a very distinguished and respected career in Chile and South America.
Percy liked the two friendly outlaws.
He became their friend also.
Butch told Siebert that he had regrets about his life but, "There's no turning back now."
Butch and Sundance always carried a concealed single action .45 Colt.
Butch told Percy Siebert, "It has a long and heavy barrel
and can be used as a weapon.
I'd rather crack a messenger across the nose than kill him.
All the messenger has is a bump on the head.
Hell, it isn't his money anyway."
Siebert described Butch as 'a happy go-lucky man who could be a deadly enemy but a faithful friend.'
Butch's only regret was that a man had been killed in a holdup of the Compania National Store in Argentina.
The manager had gone for his gun and Sundance killed him.
One day, at the Concordia mine, Butch and Sundance put on a fast draw and shooting exhibition.
Percy Siebert said, "I never saw anything like it."
This photo was taken in 1901, in Fort Worth Texas.
At the time these were the main members of the
wild Bunch outlaw gang.
Standing on the left is William Carver, who was later killed in a gun fight in Mexico.
On the right is Harvey Logan, also known as 'Kid Curry'. He was considered to be one of the worst of the gang.
He killed a number of lawmen. After the robbery of a train, in 1904. trapped by a posse, he killed himself.
Sitting on the left is Harry Longbaugh, the Sundance Kid.
In the middle is Ben Kilpatrick, who was called 'the Tall Texan'.
In 1912, he was killed in a robbery attempt.
And on the right, is Robert (not George) Leroy Parker, also known as... Butch Cassidy.
To be sure, there were other outlaws from the United States operating in South America.
Some of the robberies attributed to Butch and Sundance may have been committed by other gangs.
But this leads us to the final scenes...
On November 3, 1908, the payroll for the Aramayo silver mining company,
in Bolivia, was robbed by two American outlaws.
A large amount of money was taken.
But, also taken was a mule. This mule had the brand of the mining company.
The mule would become the reason for the end of Butch and Sundance.
A few days later, the men came to San Vicente, Bolivia. It's extremely remote and about 15,000 feet high.
They found refuge for the night in a small house.
But the man who rented them the lodgings saw the brand and
He notified the authorities.
Several soldiers, along with the Mayor and others, approached the patio where the two men ate their dinner.
When the soldiers yelled for the men to surrender, two of them were shot and killed.
Very possibly this was the only time that Butch had killed someone.
The patio was surrounded by the soldiers and locals and there was a shootout.
As always with history, the facts are not clear.
One story is that one of the men tried to retrieve their rifles and
ammunition from a pack mule and was killed.
Later, a single shot was heard...
Another story is that both men had been wounded
and that one of them had killed the other
and then himself.
In the light of the next day, November 7, the two men were found dead.
The bodies were buried in unmarked graves and the world was told that the famous
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were dead.
Butch was 42 years old and Sundance was 41.
There is no actual evidence that the dead men really were Butch and Sundance.
But the sister of Sundance said that he had always written her and the letters stopped.
Regardless of rumors, there is no actual, credible evidence
that Butch ever returned to visit his
family in the United States.
Years later, his sister wrote a book saying that he had visited in 1925.
Butch was the oldest of thirteen children but his other siblings denied that he had ever shown up.
Some of the reported sightings, including the story that Butch had been living near Spokane, were hoaxes.
However, the Pinkertons never actually closed the case...
It would be nice that Butch had survived. He was a gentleman outlaw.
But, I am sure that he and Sundance met their
end, high in the Andes, in an unexpected and violent death.
I have based much of this webpage on a book that was first published in 1954.
The author, James Horan, had talked extensively with a Pinkertons detective,
(ninety years old at the time),
who had been actively involved in the hunt for Butch and Sundance.
The author also spoke at length with Percy Siebert.
I believe this webpage is accurate.
I believe that Butch and Sundance really were killed in Bolivia.
Here's the 1983 version of the book I have based much of this webpage on.
It can be found used on Amazon.
Pictorial History of The Wild West:
A True Account of the Bad Men, Desperados, Rustlers,
and Outlaws of the Old West
His aviation successes, Vegas casinos,
his power, his downfall... and his women.