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Chapter 9

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER 9

Red Lodge and Capture

I

t is not certain whether the Belle Fourche bank robbers were in the

Hole-in-the-Wall when the famous fight occurred there between the rustlers and some invading cattlemen on July 22, 1897. The latter party consisted of twelve men, which included two Montana livestock inspectors, and was there to round up all the stolen cattle that could be found. One of the inspectors was Joe LeFors, who would later figure prominently in tracking members of the Wild Bunch.1 Bob Divine was there representing the CY, and according to Brown Waller, he had warrants in his possession for the Belle Fourche robbers.2 Waller does not cite his source for this; however, it shouldn’t be discounted since Divine stated in a January 1, 1897, letter that he wanted warrants turned over to him from Natrona County Sheriff H. L. Patton and Johnson County

Sheriff Al Sproal, in order to bring in Currie, O’Day, and other members of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang for rustling.3

During the roundup three men of the rustler clique, Al Smith, Bob

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Chapter 8: Belle Fourche Fiasco

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 8

Belle Fourche Fiasco

The 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 War veterans of the G.A.R., which was to be held from June 24 through 26. Hundreds of people would be coming from the surrounding towns such as Deadwood and Rapid City to celebrate, with the local merchants depositing all this increased revenue in the vault of the Butte County Bank by Saturday night. The time to hit the bank would be soon after it opened on Monday morning.2

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Chapter 20: Winters' End

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 20

Winters’ End

Kid 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-year-old 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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Chapter 7: Brave Billy Deane Dies

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 7

Brave Billy Deane Dies

The killing of Johnson County Deputy Sheriff William “Billy” Deane was called murder by many people, but at least one called it self-defense. “Bill Deane was a hired assassin,” wrote May (or Mae) Gardner, “shooting at the Curry gang at every chance . . . He was as coldblooded a murderer as Tom Horn. It was kill Deane or be killed.”1 At this point in time “the Curry gang” was in reference to George Currie, since Kid Curry and supposedly Lonie were known as the “Roberts brothers” in Wyoming.

Deane, a young Texan, was hired by Sheriff Al Sproal (or Sproul) specifically to help curb the rustling activity in the county. He was considered fearless, but his plan to capture the gang from Hole-in-the-Wall by himself was pure foolishness. He rode south from Buffalo in early April and spent the night of April 12, 1897, at the Brock home in Powder River country. Deane started out the next morning headed for the KC Ranch, but first arrived at the Alfred and Sarah Grigg homestead and post office on Middle Fork, where the outlaws often stopped for their mail.2

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Chapter 18: Hiding in Plain Sight

Mark T. Smokov University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 18

Hiding in Plain Sight

Will 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

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