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Chapter 4

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press PDF


Pay Back


here was a light snowfall the morning of December 27, 1894, and the cold was keeping several men inside the Clothing Store and Saloon run by Jake Harris. Harris’ left leg had been amputated close to the hip after a gun battle with City Marshal George Treat of Great Falls in November 1891.1 He used a shotgun for a crutch if he expected any trouble in his saloon. Harris and Landusky were friends, and Landusky had put up the money for the building with the status of silent partner.

There was a counter in the back of the saloon where cheap clothing and some food items were sold. Harris had sent to Anaconda for a friend of his named Charles Annis, who went by the name Hogan, to be his clerk.

Despite being frail and tubercular, he was reputed to be a gunman. It was understood that, besides minding the store, another duty of Hogan’s was to keep the wild cowboy element, such as the Currys, in line.2

Ed Skelton, a friend of Landusky’s, was present that morning: “I met

Mr. Landusky at Jake Harris saloon about ten o’clock on the 27th day of

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Chapter 26

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press PDF


“He’s gone!”


ver since his capture, Curry had been planning and preparing for the eventuality of his escape.1 The first night, as he gripped the bars of his cell, he was alert to every move that went on in the jail. The following day, he asked for a special brand of shoes and socks made of materials that could aid an escape. That same day he probably secured some rope or strips of canvas before being given a replacement for his “torn” hammock. He succeeded in obtaining pieces of window molding and lengths of broom wire during the tantrum he threw in April 1902. Subsequent violent outbursts resulted in additional materials which he would use in his escape.

Curry was running out of time. His attorneys had to file an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court by July 10, 1903, or else Curry would be transported under heavy guard in a steel-lined mail car to the Columbus,

Ohio, federal penitentiary.2 However, on Saturday afternoon of June 27, he was ready to put his escape plan into action. Curry was housed on the second floor of the jail with only one guard, Frank Irwin, for company. At about 4:15 Curry was pacing the corridor between the two rows of cells when he struck up a conversation with the guard, Irwin. Irwin was walking around the outer corridor between the main cage and the jail wall. He stopped at the window in the south wall where there was a good view of the Tennessee River. “I think, Charley, that the river is rising slowly for so much rain,” Irwin said to Curry. As Curry responded to the guard’s statement, he began walking to the south end of the inner corridor. He was standing directly behind Irwin with only the bars of the cage between them, when he called the guard’s attention to an object in the river.

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Chapter 18

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press PDF


Hiding in Plain Sight


ill Carver may have been in a hurry to get to Texas because he wanted to see his girlfriend, Laura Bullion, whom he had promised to marry. Laura was born in Washington County, Arkansas, in October 1876. When her father died in 1881, Laura’s mother moved her three children to their maternal grandparents’ Dove Creek ranch near Knickerbocker, Texas. Laura reportedly left home not long after her mother died in 1891, and it is believed that she worked as a prostitute in

San Antonio, possibly at Fannie Porter’s Sporting House. It is known that she returned to the Knickerbocker area for visits and to attend dances over the next few years. Will had been married to Laura’s aunt, Viana Byler, for less than six months when she died of pregnancy complications on July 22, 1892. He was devastated by her death, and it is said he began courting her niece because she greatly resembled Viana. He had left

Laura in San Antonio before going off to rob the bank in Winnemucca.1

However, Will forgot all about Laura when he met a girl named Callie May Hunt in October 1900 at the San Antonio Fairground’s annual

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Chapter 8

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press PDF


Belle Fourche Fiasco


he Castle Gate exploit was sensationalized in many newspapers of the time, and the Hole-in-the-Wall contingent was duly impressed with Butch Cassidy’s handling of the robbery. Reasoning that they should be able to do just as well as a Mormon cowboy, they decided to rob a bank. Their first choice was the bank in Dickinson, North Dakota; however, there was something about the setup they didn’t like. It was finally decided that the Butte County Bank in Belle Fourche, South

Dakota, would be an easier and more profitable target.1 Also, both Sundance and George Currie knew the area well.

Belle Fourche is situated at the confluence of the Belle Fourche and

Redwater rivers and means “beautiful fork” in French. It was a central cattle-shipping railhead for a large portion of a tri-state area (South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana). Cowboys who had accompanied the herds would celebrate in town, spending their money freely on drinking and gambling in the many saloons, and other entertainments. Additionally, the outlaws knew the town was hosting the annual reunion of Civil

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Chapter 20

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press PDF


Winters’ End


id Curry and his cohorts most likely hid out in the badlands between the Little Rockies and the Missouri River until the majority of manhunters left the area after mid-July 1901.1 This would have been the most opportune time for Curry to leave his hideaway for a visit to his friend Jim Thornhill and Jim’s common-law wife, Lucy Tressler.

She was most likely the “old lady” Curry had in mind as the recipient of the bolt of green silk he lifted from the Wagner robbery. He would have been greeted at the door by three curious children, one his four-yearold namesake, Harvey D. Thornhill, nicknamed “Man.” When Jim later moved to Arizona, Man became a top roper and won several rodeo competitions. The others were three-year-old Sarah, and Jim’s son George, born December 27, 1899.2

Some histories state that Curry even took time out to visit his friend

Sid Willis in Great Falls. He first took a room in the Minot block, not bothering to hide his identity. He then supposedly asked the Mint Saloon owner to act as a go-between in finding someone who would forge signatures on the unsigned Bank of Montana money. Whether Willis refused or just couldn’t find anyone willing to sign the bills, Curry nevertheless left Great Falls without the desired forgeries.3

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