Some say it happened, others claim it is merely a legend. But, the truth is this story appears in a few different records. Fact or fiction, this is the story according to those records.
The Outlaw Thanksgiving
In November of 1895, the outlaws that occasionally called Brown’s Park, Utah home decided to repay their neighbors for their kindness and generosity. Basically, they wanted to say thanks for not turning them in. Among those that wished to thank the Brown’s Park residents were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
That Thanksgiving feast turned into a real official affair. According to a history of John Jarvie who attended the event, the men wore dark suits and vests, stiff starched collars, and bow ties and made sure their mustaches were waxed and curled. The women wore long tight fitted dresses with leg-o-mutton sleeves and high collars. The older ladies wore black taffeta and high button shoes with French heels while the younger girls wore bright colors.
The festivities were well attended and held at one of the Davenport ranches on Willow Creek. It is said there were individuals from Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Wales, Mexico, Canada, Italy, and Germany as well as several states. A program took place before the meal started with prayer by John Jarvie that included the singing of a few songs and a short reading on the meaning of Thanksgiving.
When it came time to eat, the food served at the feast was described as “the best delicacies Rock Springs could supply.” Butch was one of the servers. While attempting to fulfill his duties, he realized serving food was nothing like robbing a bank or holding up a train.
Poor Butch could perform such minor jobs as robbing banks and holding up pay trains without the flicker of an eyelash, but serving coffee at a grand party, that was something else. The blood curdling job nearly floored him, he became panicky and showed that his nerve was completely shot to bits.
According Ann Bassett in Wild Bunch Women, after Butch’s serving blunders, he was taken into the kitchen at and quickly instructed on proper coffee pouring procedure. He then correctly fulfilled his serving duties.
The people in attendance feasted for six hours. When everyone had had their fill, a dance took place that lasted until the sun came up in the morning.
Fact or Fiction
Although the account can be found in a few places, supposedly the only original written record of the Outlaw Thanksgiving is found in Ann Bassett’s letters to her friend Esther Campbell in the early 1950s.
One major hiccup about this story is that fact that Butch Cassidy was in prison in Wyoming during the fall of 1895. This leads certain individuals to believe the whole story was invented. However, there is so much detail about the event that it makes some wonder if Ann merely got mixed up on the actual date of the event. Interestingly enough, the Brown’s Park women recreated the event in a public performance in 1953.
Special thanks to the Sweetwater County Historical Museum for their efforts in helping me to collect the information on this story. Visit them to learn about other interesting stories like this one.