Butch Cassidy was at his hideout in Powder Springs, Wyoming, when he received a handwritten note from his long-time friend, Matt Warner. The note read, "Butch, we're goners if we don't get some money quick to hire lawyers." (We got that quote from a book titled, The Last of the Bandit Riders, narrated by Matt Warner).
Matt and Butch originally became friends in Telluride, Colorado, and robbed a bank there in 1889. In 1896, Matt was involved in a gunfight in Brown's Hole, Colorado. According to his version of the story, three gunfighters ambushed him. During the ensuing gunfight, Matt killed all three of them. Thinking he was safe under his plea of self-defense, he made no effort to escape. Unfortunately for him, the three men were better liked by the local population and Matt was arrested for murder. He was facing a hangman's noose when he sent that note to Butch Cassidy.
Getting money for his friend's defense was no problem for Cassidy. He would simply make a withdrawal from the bank in Montpellier, Idaho. Of course he did not have an account there, so he had to make that withdrawal by force.
Powder Springs, Wyoming, is located a short distance north of the border between Colorado and Wyoming. The closest settlement to that location today is Powder Wash, Colorado, which consists of a few buildings used by those who work in the local oil fields. There are no public services of any kind.
When Cassidy and the Wild Bunch used Powder Springs as their headquarters, it consisted of numerous tents and a few poorly constructed cabins and dugouts. Nothing is left of those structures today. There are two natural springs seeping out of the ground that form nasty looking pockets of water that have no appeal for use by modern travelers. Cattle and local wildlife seem to think the water is fine.
Lone Writer and Happy Jack have spent several nights in the area over the years. Access to the springs consists of two-track trails that are kept active by local ranchers. The location is miles from anything modern and still retains that feeling of isolation that existed in the days when outlaws called it home. The only nighttime light comes from the crackling embers of a campfire and millions of twinkling stars, along with an occasional moon.
Powder Springs provides its own Wild West brand of entertainment. A somewhat noisy band of coyotes sing a soothing chorus when the setting sun disappears. Once the campfire is out, they circle the area around the camp as if curious about the uninvited visitors in their hunting grounds. Owls and hawks spend the night prowling the skies for a chance to dive down for a tasty snack consisting mostly of rodents. Bats can be seen high above the campfire, chowing down on insects attracted by the light.
The grassy rolling hills around Powder Springs are public lands managed by the BLM. Oil pumps and storage tanks are scattered through the area by those who work to provide us with the fuel to explore lands such as these. Some roads have a solid dusty base that were built to support heavy oil trucks and others are just two track paths with grass growing in the middle.
The attorney Cassidy frequently worked with was Douglas Preston in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Lone Writer and Happy Jack set out to connect a trail to that city from Powder Springs. The first attempt was along the lines of following the border roads between Colorado and Wyoming to get to Three Corners. That would be the point where Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming connect. They were on one of those roads when it ended at a locked gate.
The pair backtracked and picked up another road going north. They used DeLorme Topo USA to find a route that eventually connected to a major road and then to Interstate 80. It was a fun day that crossed some really remote and isolated country with an abundance of beautiful scenery. They spent some time in Rock Springs trying to determine where Preston's law office might have been, but had no luck.
The relationship between Cassidy and Preston is a mystery to most. In addition to their professional relationship, they seemed to be friends — but Preston was a prominent member of the community. It is curious why he would work so closely with an outlaw. A few years after the Matt Warner incident, Preston was elected to the House of Representatives in Wyoming. He served from 1903 to 1905. In 1911, he was appointed by the governor as attorney general. After retiring from public office, he went back to his private practice as a lawyer until he was injured in a car accident in 1929. He died a few weeks later from his injuries.
Join us next month as we pick up Cassidy's trail in Rock Springs and follow it across Wyoming and into Idaho. According to our references, Cassidy and his gang used parts of the Oregon Trail, so we will do the same.
References used for this story include The Last of the Bandit Riders written by Murray E. King and narrated by Matt Warner, The Outlaw Trail written by Charles Kelley, and several websites.
The Xterra Pro-4X driven by Lone Writer was provided by Nissan. Tires are provided by BFGoodrich. GPS and mapping software is provided by DeLorme. For more information, visit www.lone-writer.com.
|Navigation: GPS Positions|
|N41° 2.0180'||W108° 16.5890'||This campsite is located beside the gulley where water flows from Upper Powder Spring.|
|N41° 1.8316'||W108° 17.8322'||This is the point where the two-track trail to Upper Powder Spring connects to a graded road from Powder Wash, Colorado.|
|N41° 2.5662'||W108° 18.3423'||At this intersection, we turned left (West).|
|N41° 2.5011'||W108° 25.9723'||This waypoint is called Shell Creek Crossing.|
|N41° 1.7416'||W108° 34.3125'||This is BLM Road 4407 but not marked. We spent a lot of time exploring the roads branching off it but eventually ended up following it North.|
|N41° 7.8697'||W108° 41.4015'||Turn right on County Road 19.|
|N41° 25.6840'||W108° 30.0702'||This waypoint is called Antelope Bridge. It crosses Antelope Creek.|
|N41° 38.7664'||W108° 34.5847'||The county road connects to I-80 at Exit 142. We traveled west to reach Rock Springs.|