The Boy Who Knew Butch Cassidy

The Boy Who Knew Butch Cassidy

From top, left to right: Bill Carver and Kid Curry; Seated, left to right: Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick and Butch Cassidy.

Pete Parker was just a boy growing up in Rock Springs when his father shared his first Butch Cassidy tale with him.

As the story goes, when Cassidy heard shattering glass from behind the counter at Moulson’s butcher shop, he ran out into the street with a meat cleaver in his hand looking for the source of the mischief. The nearby gambling hall on Union Pacific’s property was the site of another brawl between the Finnish mine workers. Although this wasn’t unusual, when Cassidy saw the town marshall run by, the butcher knew big trouble awaited.

At the saloon, Cassidy witnessed a mob of angry drunks who were threatening the life of Marshall Parker with knives and shards of glass. Stepping into the room, Cassidy raised his cleaver and shouted above the violent mob. The drunk mine workers instantly halted and withdrew their attack — the scuffle was over.

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This was just one of the tales that Parker would hear throughout his time as a boy in Rock Springs. Old-timers and those who knew Cassidy best trusted the quiet boy with their stories, which left him with one of the most complete memories of the butcher.

Workers at the warehouses had labored alongside Cassidy back in the day, hauling blocks of ice from Green River to cool the butcher’s meat in Rock Springs. As they swapped stories over lunch, the worker’s didn’t seem to mind the boy overhearing, including the day they recalled the outlaw saving Marshall Parker’s life.

In a Jackson Hole News publication in 1975, Parker noted that everyone who knew Cassidy thought he was wonderful and they never held his robberies against him because a lot of the money he stole was graciously given away.

Evidence of Cassidy’s kindness was retold to Parker in another tale. As it goes, a woman who was threatened with eviction by an unethical landlord had been given hundreds of dollars by Cassidy who then stole it back from the landlord.

The Parker family had ties with Cassidy, which was well known in Rock Springs and one of the reasons so many of Cassidy’s friends and workers could trust the boy with some of their best kept secrets.

An uneasy truce existed between Marshall Parker and Cassidy. One time, Cassidy had become bitter after being falsely charged for rolling a drunk. From then on, he and his Wild Bunch would periodically stir up a commotion at the Commercial Hotel. The marshall caught Cassidy riding out of town one day, and refused to arrest him because there were no charges against him in Wyoming at the time, however, the old marshall demanded Cassidy’s gold pocket watch as payment for the damages he had caused.

While Marshall Parker kept things at bay between the outlaw and himself, the marshall’s two sons maintained a closer relationship with Cassidy. Harry Parker, Pete Parker’s father, served as a messenger for Cassidy and the criminal lawyer Douglas Preston. Parker would ride late at night with messages for the gang, receiving a $20 gold piece (a double eagle) from Cassidy for his effort.

Years later, Harry Parker was the last of the Parker’s family to see Cassidy. The two met in Ogden, UT at a hotel while Parker was on his way to college in 1906. Cassidy and Parker caught up about old times and then disappeared. In the morning, Parker found that his hotel room had been paid for and in the pocket of his clean white shirt was a double eagle gold piece.

Although Parker remained secretive, these are just a few of the tales he heard as he silently came to know the prominent outlaw.

This article is brought to you in partnership with the Rock Springs Historical Museum.