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59 CHAPTER 8 Belle Fourche Fiasco T 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 w ell as a Mor mon cowboy, they decided to rob a bank. Their first choice was the bank in Dickinson, Nor th Dakota ; however, there was something about the setup the y 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 confl uence of the Belle Fourche and Redwater rivers and means “beautiful fork” in F rench. It was a central cattle-shipping railhead for a large portion of a tri-state area (South Dakota , Wyoming, and Montana). Co wboys who had accompanied the herds would celebrate in town, spending their money freely on drinking and gambling in the many saloons, and other enter tainments. 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 w ould be coming from the sur rounding towns such as Deadwood and Rapid City to celebrate, with the local merchants depositing all this increased re venue in the v ault of the Butte County Bank by Saturday night. The time to hit the bank would be soon after it opened on Monday morning.2 According to Walt Punteney, the robbery was planned initially outside of Happy Jack’s saloon in Thermopolis, Wyoming.3 This may be true since the Hole-in-the-Wall gang were known to use the hot springs area for a headquar ters. The boys were oftentimes seen drinking and gambling in the saloons at night.4 When the Currie gang robbed the store at Wolton in early June and were initially seen heading southwest, they 60 Chapter 8 could have then turned north to Thermopolis. The purpose of robbing the store and post office may have been to stake their bank robbing venture. Nevertheless, the outlaws were in Hole-in-the-Wall no later than midJune to organize and make final plans for the job. (A June 13 letter from Bob Divine to E. T. David said George Currie had been seen in the area riding a CY horse.5 ) They then started east toward Belle Fourche, avoiding the more populated route through Buffalo and Gillette. Crossing into South Dakota, they approached Belle Fourche from the north and were camped east of town on June 26, a Saturday.6 About the only real agreement among historians concerning the participants in the robbery is that Walt Punteney and Tom O’Day were definitely present. Furthermore, Jim Dullenty states that Butte County and La wrence County, S.D., court records prove that Flatnose George Currie was easily identified by the unusual shape of his nose.7 A Butte County wanted poster dated July 28 had the description of Currie fairly close, which included his “flat pug nose,” and even spelled his last name correctly.8 Two more suspects listed in the poster w ere the “Roberts” brothers, and their descriptions resemble that of Kid Curry and his brother Lonie. Both were described as having a “very dark complexion, possibly quarter breed Indian,” with the taller Roberts brother (approximating Kid Curry) listed as five feet, seven and one-half inches, age 32, weight about 140, and “formerly from Indian ter ritory.” What is rather interesting is that, in addition to Kid Curry, Pearl Baker included Willie Roberts, “a Mexican from New Mexico” who was called “Indian Billy.”9 His Pinkerton National Detective Agency file photo and description matches the taller Roberts on the wanted poster very closely. The file states he was a halfbreed with Mexican blood and had b lack hair, black eyes, and a “real dark” complexion. He was five feet, seven and one-half inches tall, age 36, weighed 135 pounds, and his criminal occupation was listed as train robber and hold-up. He had a brother who lived at White Oaks, Lincoln County, New Mexico.10 Whether Will Roberts was one of the robbers or not, most writers believe Kid Curry also participated, and given his close association with George Currie...


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