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11.29.2007 - 44 comments 

On our final stop out of Wyoming we crossed on to Interstate 80 right at Rawlings just about 100 miles east of Laramie, Wyoming. We decided to make a stop at the Territorial Prison there in Laramie. The prison is listed on the National Register, and visitors can spend the day touring the beautifully restored Wyoming Territorial Prison there. It was built there in 1872, the prison held some of the most notorious outlaws in the region in those days. In addition to the prison, visitors can tour the newly restored Warden's House and Broom Factory. The rotating exhibit hall, located in the historic Horse Barn, currently features the story of the first female grand jury (Laramie, 1870), a working printing press, the Laramie Fiber Guild's hands-on studio and an exhibit on the various convict industries at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

One of the most famous (or in this case infamous) characters to have ever been housed in the Wyoming Territorial Prison was none other than Robert LeRoy Parker (a.k.a. Butch Cassidy) made famous by the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" which was a 1969 Western film that tells the story of bank robber Butch Cassidy (played by Paul Newman) and his partner The Sundance Kid (played by Robert Redford). The film is only loosely based on historical facts though, but it popularized the legends of these Western icons.

In early 1894, Parker became involved romantically with female Old West outlaw and rancher Ann Bassett. Bassett's father, rancher Herb Bassett, did business with Parker, supplying him with fresh horses and beef. That same year, Parker was arrested at Lander, Wyoming, for stealing horses and possibly for running a protection racket among the local ranchers there. Imprisoned in the state prison in Laramie, Wyoming, he served 18 months of a two-year sentence and was released in January 1896, having promised Governor William Alford Richards that he would not again offend in that state in return for a partial remission of his sentence. Upon his release, he became involved briefly with Ann Bassett's older sister, Josie, and then returned to his involvement with Ann.

In 1887, Harry Longabaugh (a.k.a the Sundance Kid) was convicted of horse theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Sundance, Wyoming, jail. Because of this jail time he was called the Sundance Kid. Longabaugh likely met Butch Cassidy sometime after Cassidy 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 bank robberies in American and Old West history. Little is known of Longabaugh's exploits prior to his riding with Cassidy. 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", Longabaugh is not known to have killed anyone prior to a later shootout in Bolivia, where he and Cassidy were alleged to have been killed. He became better known than another outlaw member of the gang dubbed "Kid", Kid Curry, 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". The Sundance Kid did participate in a shootout with lawmen who trailed a gang led by George Curry to the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout and was thought to have wounded two lawmen in that shootout. With that exception, though, his verified involvement in shootouts is unknown.

They began hiding out at a place they called the Hole In The Wall, located near Buffalo, Wyoming. From there they could strike and retreat, with little fear of capture, since it was posted high on a mountain top, 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.

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

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 Kid Curry 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.

One theory is that both Butch and Sundance were later killed by soldiers in Bolivia in November 1908, after the two of them heisted a Bolivian mining company payroll. According to reports, the two were involved in a lengthy gun battle with the soldiers, who had surrounded them inside a building in San Vicente, ending with their alleged death. But the actual events of their deaths are still up to interpretation and very little fact.

The grounds and facilities at the prison had been painstakingly either preserved or restored to make it have the feel of what it would have been like to have been an inmate there back in the late 1800’s. Each little area of the prison had posted signs and pictures of not only the inmates, but also gave details about what crimes they had committed to get thrown in there and in some cases what happened to them after they left there.

Right out back of the prison they have built a little town to replicate what a town in that period would have looked like. Mrs. LZ and I also found that to be very interesting as well. I'll try and add a few more pictures with this post to give you the idea of what the tour was like. That's her (Mrs. LZ) walking in front of the place in the first shot. Here are my favorite lines from the movie as they were standing on top of the cliff over the river with the posse hot on their trail.

Paul Newman (Butch): "Then you jump first."
Robert Redford (Sundance): "No, I said."
Paul Newman (Butch): "What's the matter with you?"
Robert Redford (Sundance): "I can't swim."
Paul Newman (Butch): "Why you crazy bastard, the fall will probably kill you."