This summer I made a journey from my home in Highland, Utah to visit a no-kill animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, at the extreme southern end of the state. The fastest travel route is along Interstate 15 for most of the drive. But, that is most definitely not my preferred route.
When I can, I like to take other roads. For this trip I decided that I would follow US Highway 89, a traditional surface road, for most of the route. Much of US 89 is a simple two lane highway that goes through numerous small towns along the way toward southern Utah. The traffic volume is generally much lighter, the speed limit is 65 miles per hour (105 kph), and the scenery is superb.
About 187 miles (299 kilometers) south on US 89 from Highland is a small town called Circleville, population about 485. Just south of the town limits lies an old cabin built in the mid 1800s, and once home to a quite renowned outlaw, Butch Cassidy. You may know the name from the 1969 film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
I have noticed the turnout for the cabin a few times and decided to stop this time to check it out. The little cabin is the boyhood home of Butch Cassidy whose real name was Robert LeRoy Parker. The Parker family settled in Circleville in the later mid 1800s as farmers. The cabin is quite typical of the period, but is otherwise pretty unremarkable. It is well preserved, however.
The remarkable thing about the Parker home is not the structure; it is the history. Robert Parker, Butch, as he preferred, was a bank robber and train robber who gained notoriety in the last part of the 19th century. He ran a gang known as the “Wild Bunch”. They were the most prolific train robbers in United States history.
Robert Parker was the oldest of 13 children of Maximilian Parker and Ann Cambell Gillies. The couple had immigrated to Utah from England and Ireland after converting to Mormonism (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).
Robert grew up in the little cabin in Circleville and had a typical childhood as the son of a rancher. At 13 while working on the ranch he had his first run in with the law. After a long ride into town to buy new overalls, he found the store closed. The boy got into the store, took the overalls and left a note saying he would pay the next day.
The store owner had him arrested, and after that he developed a strong distrust of the law and authority figures. At about 18, Robert Parker had befriended an older fellow, Roy Cassidy, who had been in trouble with the law. Later on, he got a job in a butcher shop. In 1889, Robert committed his first bank robbery in Telluride, Colorado. After the butcher shop job and some of the crimes, Robert became known as Butch Cassidy.
Butch (Robert) and his main partner in crime, the Sundance Kid, (Harry Alonzo Longabaugh), were wanted in several states and were hunted by numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Butch Cassidy was once imprisoned in Laramie, Wyoming for 18 months from a horse theft conviction.
In 1904, the Pinkerton Detective Agency had a reward of $2000 (quite a sum in those days) for the arrest and detention of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The reward resulted from the gang’s robbery of the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada. Evidently, the pair has stolen over $32,600 from the bank in an armed robbery.
After about 10 years on the run, the gang fled to Argentina along with Harry’s (the Sundance Kid) girlfriend, Etta Place. There they took to farming again, but that soon morphed back into robberies. Butch and Sundance were shot and killed in 1908 in Bolivia just across the Argentinian border, supposedly in a shootout with the Bolivian police after a robbery.
I really hope you have enjoyed my little history lesson about life along US 89. Who knew that one could find so much classic Western history in the tiny community of Circleville along a two-laner in central southern Utah.
And now you know why I prefer those less traveled roads to the super highways, because you can take time and take in the essence of the places as you pass through.
The details for this story were from research I conducted at the Parker cabin, from Wikipedia, and from an August 22, 2018 story from the History Channel as well as a Los Angeles Times article from January 14, 1996 about Butch Cassidy’s death.
Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know what you thought of my little history story.