April 7, 2012

Soapy Smith most likely did NOT meet Butch Cassidy.

t the end of March I published a post entitled, Did Soapy Smith meet Butch Cassidy? I have since learned new information and although it does not directly involve Soapy Smith I inadvertently passed on some faulty history and I need to correct my mistake. Making an honest mistake is one thing but I have a pet peeve about others intentionally passing on faulty history, so I have to uphold the same high standards for myself as well.

Originally I saw the following post on Facebook.

Butch Cassidy accompanies the McCarty brothers on another raid on this date (March 30) in 1889. This time the gang picked out the First National Bank in Denver, Colorado, robbing it of $20,000. Tom McCarty approached the bank president and with his odd sense of humor, stated: "Excuse me, sir, but I just overheard a plot to rob your bank." The bank president appeared visibly shaken and managed to ask "Lord! How did you learn of this plot?" "I planned it," McCarty said, pulling his six-gun. "Put up your hands." Four men, Cassidy, Tom and Bill McCarty, and Matt Warner rode out of Denver with $5,000 a piece from the robbery.

I have read every page of the Rocky Mountain News for the year 1889 and don't recall coming across a Butch Cassidy bank robbery so I decided to do a little research. I know that some hard-core Butch Cassidy historians reside at the Old West Rogues forum so I went there and asked if the content of the above paragraph was true?

Historian, Vince Garcia responded.

McCarty did do that robbery, dressed in fine clothes with supposedly a fake bottle of nitro as a threat, but I don't know how much firm proof there is that Butch was in on it. Some would say yes, and others would say no, and that they picked him up a few months later to do Telluride [Colorado].

At the time no one else responded so considering that he said, "Some would say yes, and others would say no," I figured I was safe in asking the question, did Soapy Smith meet Butch Cassidy?

Since then Butch historian, Pat S., spoke up on that forum and stated that Butch was definitely not at the Denver bank robbery. I asked her for a little more information and she provided me with the following.

I would be honored to try and give you my thoughts on this subject. Or rather what I can prove. I know Butch was up here in Fremont County [Wyoming] during the 1889 time period and up until the fall after he was released from prison Jan. 1896. This is from court records and other records I have that I have not yet released.

What is going on with all of this, is revisionist history. Authors and historians hearing stories or reading newspapers but doing no real research, wrote to sell their books. No one at the time prior to 1896 gave much thought to Butch Cassidy under any name he used. It was all about Logan and his gang and then at same time McCarty /Warner gangs. In fact there were many small gangs of men prowling the west at that time. After 1886, when so many cattlemen lost herds to the terrible winter of 1886/7 and prices also had fallen, they layed off cowboys in droves. Montana had earlier scared them out of the state with vigilantianism.

The cowboys in the thousands were out of work and on the prowl. Then the Johnson Co war stirred up even more in 1892. At the same time simultaneously in the Big Horn Basin similar things was going on, but were not reported. It is fairly well know and proven that the ranch foreman's were doing a great deal of stock thefts to start their own herds. Most of the owners of the larger ranches were out of the state or country.

The large cattlemen had banded together around the time of the weather losses in late 1880's, hired paid killers and also hired the Pinkertons. The Pinks were masters at spreading misinformation and sensationalizing it all. Job security. They were the Nancy Grace of their time. (smile) The newspapers were in the pockets of the rich barons and Pinks too.

In a nutshell, when Col. Torry and Otto Franc wanted to clear out the Big Horn Basin area and all of Fremont Co., they merely started a smear campaign against Butch and blamed him for everything happening anywhere in every state. Of course he could not have been in all the places that a crime occurred.

Hense he could not have been in Denver and in WY at the same time. After 1896 the paranoia and fear of Col Torry and his ilk created a larger than life persona for Butch. Torry had railroaded Butch as there was no theft of horses or anything else attributed to Butch known then as George Cassidy. What Butch did do, was stand up against bullies who were murdering small homesteaders or nesters as they were called. I have over 30 murders attributed to the hired killer detectives and sheriffs in the Big Horn Basin alone. One was Torry's nephew and another was Torry's forman.

Newspapers that did try to print the truth were suppressed, records deleted or stolen, and the only thing left for later authors were the misinformation and propaganda. Much like in today's world, mob mentality takes over and people chose sides.

Note that when Butch tried to get away from it, like going to South America, the Pinks hunted him there too. Started the same smear campaign.

The common man knew Butch for what he was. A friend to the little guy and a descent man. He never killed anyone. He never abused women, children, the elderly, or poor folks. His only crime was to not lay down for the bullies.

Thank you both, Vince Garcia and Pat S.

You will note that I placed a warning label on the original post so those returning to that post will see that it has been updated.

1892: Soapy sells the Orleans Club.
1892: Lou Blonger’s gaming house at 1741 Larimer, is shut down because a “systematic bunco game was being carried on at this joint, and that the unwary were being roped in by the wholesale.



  1. Thank you for quoting me . I love your page and come frequently to see what Soapy is up to.

    You are one of the nicest people I know.

    Pat Schroeder

    1. Pat, I'm the one who should be thanking you! So....THANK YOU. I appreciate your vast knowledge. You should be receiving your first newsletter today.

      Jeff Smith


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