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Castlegate - The Getaway

Four Wheeler
Larry E. Heck | Writer
Posted November 1, 2010

Outlaws On The Run

The headline in the Sun Advocate newspaper on Thursday, April 22, 1897, appeared in large black letters: "BOLD OUTLAWS GET $7,000 IN GOLD."

Wednesday, April 21, 1897
April 21, 1897, in Castlegate, Utah, started like any other Wednesday for the Pleasant Valley Coal Company. Day shift miners were deep underground digging for coal and everyone who worked above ground was busy carrying out their daily duties.

As usual, the Rio Grande passenger train No. 2 arrived at noon. Among its cargo was the company payroll consisting of two bags of silver, one bag of gold, and a satchel with some paper money. The company paymaster and a deputy clerk took possession of the bags and headed for the company office. As they approached the building, Butch Cassidy stepped in front of them and pointed a gun at the paymaster's face. The deputy saw the gun and ran for cover taking a bag of silver with him.

Cassidy took the other bags and handed them to his partner, Elsie Lay, who was mounted on a horse nearby. Lay immediately turned his horse to leave but lost the reins of a second horse. Cassidy grabbed its reins but had trouble getting into the saddle as the horse tried to follow Lay.

Although dozens of armed men watched the entire process, it happened so suddenly and unexpectedly, no one did anything to stop the outlaws.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
One hundred thirteen years after the robbery took place, Lone Writer stood beside the historic marker reading the story from the 1897 newspaper (a copy of that newspaper story can be found at www.Lone-Writer.com under the Outlaw Trail tab). The story goes into great detail about the incidents following the time after the money changed hands. As with most news stories that are hurriedly written to meet a deadline, it does not agree on every point that has become historically accepted.

For example, it never names Elsie Lay. It also fails to mention a third outlaw even though there is no doubt Cassidy and Lay had help by at least one other partner. The paper says the outlaws cut the wire after leaving town but that would have been too late. The telegraph would have already been sent.

Cutting the telegraph wires bought the outlaws a little time but not as much as they wanted. They expected Castlegate to send a rider to get a posse together in Price. Instead, the paymaster and the train engineer disconnected the engine loose from the rest of the cars. The unloaded engine charged ahead at full speed reaching Price before the outlaws. Fortunately for Cassidy and Lay, the time it took to form a posse was enough for them to get past the small town to the point where the first relay of horses was waiting. It is likely that another partner in their crime was tending that relay.

Wednesday, April 21, 1897
By 2 p.m., a posse had been formed in Price and began the long chase. Telegraphs had been sent to the towns of Huntington, Castle Dale, and Cleveland, in an attempt to find others who would head off the outlaws. At 4 p.m., a mail carrier saw the outlaws racing across the desert near Cleveland although he was not aware of the robbery. A short time later that same carrier came upon the posse and told them the outlaws were only a few miles ahead of them.

Posse's from Huntington and Castle Dale each joined the chase, hoping to cut the outlaws off from Robbers Roost by beating them to Buckhorn Wash. The Castle Dale posse was the first to arrive and set up an ambush at a point where the canyon narrows. When riders came into view, the Castle Dale posse opened fire but soon realized they were shooting at the Huntington posse. Obviously, the outlaws had already passed through the canyon.

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