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Despite being one of the most popular gunslingers in the Old West, Sundance Kid is not known to have killed anyone

Neil Patrick

Harry Alonzo Longabaugh  better known as the Sundance Kid, was a notorious outlaw and member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch in the American Old West. Longabaugh likely met Butch Cassidy (real name Robert Leroy Parker) after Parker was released from prison around 1896. Together with the other members of “The Wild Bunch” gang, they performed the longest string of successful train and bank robberies in American history.

Longabaugh was born in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania in 1867, the son of Pennsylvania natives Josiah and Annie G. (née Place) Longabaugh. He was the youngest of five children (his older siblings were Ellwood, Samanna, Emma and Harvey). Longabaugh was of mostly English and German ancestry and was also part Welsh. At age 15, Longabaugh traveled westward in a covered wagon with his cousin George. In 1887, Longabaugh stole a gun, horse and saddle from a ranch in Sundance, Wyoming. While attempting to flee, he was captured by authorities and was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail by Judge William L. Maginnis. During this jail time, he adopted the nickname of the Sundance Kid. After his release, he went back to working as a ranch hand, and in 1891, as a 25-year-old, he worked at the Bar U Ranch in what is today Alberta, Canada, which was one of the largest commercial ranches of the time.

Sundance Kid and Wife. By DeYoung Photography Studio, PD-US
Sundance Kid and Wife. By DeYoung Photography Studio, PD-US


Longabaugh was suspected of taking part in a train robbery in 1892, and in a bank robbery in 1897 with five other men. He became associated with a group known as the “Wild Bunch,” which included his famous partner Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy.

Although Longabaugh was reportedly fast with a gun and was often referred to as a “gunfighter,” he is not known to have killed anyone prior to a later shootout in Bolivia, where he and Parker were alleged to have been killed. He became better known than another outlaw member of the gang dubbed “Kid”, Kid Curry (real name Harvey Logan), who killed numerous men while with the gang. The “Sundance Kid” was possibly mistaken for “Kid Curry”; many articles referred to “the Kid.” Longabaugh did participate in a shootout with lawmen who trailed a gang led by George Curryto the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout in Wyoming and was thought to have wounded two lawmen in that shootout. With that exception, though, his verified involvement in shootouts is unknown.

Longabaugh and Logan used a log cabin at what is now Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming as a hide-out as they planned to rob a bank in Red Lodge, Montana. Parker, Longabaugh, and other desperados met at another cabin brought to Old Trail Town from the Hole-in-the-Wall country in north-central Wyoming. That cabin was built in 1883 by Alexander Ghent.

Historically, the gang was for a time best known for their relatively low use of violence during the course of their robberies, relying heavily on intimidation and negotiation; 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 “nonviolent.” In reality, several people were killed by members of the gang, including five law enforcement officers killed by Logan 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 deaths.

The Sundance Kid is seated first on the left
The Sundance Kid is seated first on the left.Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain


They began hiding out at Hole-in-the-Wall, located near Kaycee, Wyoming. From there they could strike and retreat, with little fear of capture, since it was situated on high ground with a view in all directions of the surrounding territory. Pinkerton detectives led by Charlie Siringo, however, hounded the gang for a few years.

Parker and Longabaugh, evidently wanting to allow things to calm down a bit and looking for fresh robbing grounds, left the United States on February 20, 1901. Longabaugh sailed with his “wife” Etta Place and Parker aboard the British ship Herminius for Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News