Utah History to Go
Robbers' Roost in Utah's "Outback" was a Haven for Outlaws
Overland Migrations
Bartleson-Bidwell party
Nancy Kelsey
Bryant-Rusell Party
Harlan Young Party
Hastings Cutoff
Donner Party
This is the Place
Mormon History
Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company
Handcart Companies
A Girl Triumphed Over Handcart Tradegy
Many Mormon Immigrants Delayed Their Journey
Settlement and Exploration
Colonization of Utah
Salt Lake City
The Founding and Naming of Moab
Hole-in-the-Rock Trek Remains an Epic Experience
What Made the Mormon Landscape Unique?
Snowslides Devastated Northern Utah in 1875
A Fatal Snowslide in Provo Canyon
Those Pioneering African Americans
The Lives of Six Pioneer Girls
He Was an Outsider in Utah But Not For Long
Forty-Niners in Salt Lake Valley
Utah Farmer and the Pike's Peak Gold Rush
Emma Lee Endured Many Hardships in Pioneer Utah
Alice Parker Isom Faced Challenges WIth True Grit
19th Century Utah Women Spun Yarn and Dug Ditches
Hilda Anderson Erickson, Working Woman
Oliver B. Huntington and His Bees
A Policeman's Lot in Early Salt Lake CIty
A Blind Man and His Harp
Fanny Brooks Helped Establish the Jewish Community
Reverend McLeod and Building of Independence Hall
Jenny Baker Stanford Bridged Mormon-Gentile Gap
Welshman Dan Jones Was One of Zion's Busiest Bees
The Case of Grave Robber Jean Baptiste
Slavery in Utah
History of Polygamy
The History of a Pioneer Utah Cottage
The Pioneer's Cost of Living Versus Today's
Coins and Currency
The Sego Lily, Utah's State Flower
Pestiferous Ironclads: Grasshopper Problem in Utah
From Pioneer Fort to Pioneer Park
Ensign Peak
Temple Square
Virgin River Doused Cotton Mission Settler's Hopes
Gardner Mill and the Birth of the Valley's West Side
The United Order Movement
The Beginnings of the University of Utah
Arrival of the Episcopal Church
Ben Holladay, the Stagecoach King, in Utah
The Pony Express Added a Colorful Chapter in Utah
Mark Twain's Utah
Pony Express in Utah
The Telegraph Was Information Highway of the 1860's
The Steamboat Era Was Glamorous But Brief in Utah
Cowboys and the Cattle Industry
Old La Sal Was Once a Thriving Cow Town
Preston Nutter Made Utah Home of His Cattle Kingdom
Robbers' Roost Was a Haven For Outlaws
Utah Had Hollywood Style Western Gunfights
Just Who Was the Outlaw Queen Etta Place?
Josie Bassett-Jensen's Remarkable Woman Rancher
Military in Utah
Utah War
The Civil War in Utah
Mountain Meadows Massacre
Fort Douglas
Fort Duchesne
Camp Floyd
The Colonel Orders a Grand Review

Jeffrey D. Nichols
History Blazer, August 1995

Between the Colorado, Green, and Dirty Devil Rivers lies a wild stretch of land crisscrossed with steep-walled canyons and hidden draws. For over 30 years this inhospitable terrain served as a hideout for outlaws of every description. Robbers' Roost was a stronghold of the Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy's motley band of bank robbers, train stickup men, and horse and cattle rustlers.

The region probably gained its colorful name and reputation in the 1870s when Cap Brown ran stolen horses through the area. The Roost afforded hundreds of hiding spots and was difficult to penetrate, as the only easy access is via the mouth of the Dirty Devil River. A Circleville, Utah, native and grandson of a Mormon handcart pioneer named Robert Leroy Parker began using the Roost in the 1880s to hide cattle that he rustled with Mike Cassidy. Legend has it that Parker became a full-time outlaw in 1884, adopting the name Butch Cassidy in honor of his mentor.

Robbers' Roost was one of several hideouts along what became known as the Outlaw Trail. Brown's Hole, a rugged canyon region near the junction of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming on the Green River, was another such hideout, along with the Hole-in-the-Wall in south-central Wyoming. The three hideouts, strung out in a roughly north-south line about 200 miles apart as the crow flies, served as temporary refuges or semi-permanent Wild Bunch headquarters in the 1880s, 90s, and early 1900s.

Another frequent resident of the Roost was Matt Warner, supposedly born Willard E. Christiansen to the fifth wife of a Mormon bishop in Ephraim, Utah. Warner served a cattle-rustling apprenticeship before joining the McCarthy gang along with Cassidy. The future Wild Bunch used Robbers' Roost after a Colorado bank robbery in 1889. Cassidy used it again in April 1897 when he and another man (probably Elzy Lay) held up the Pleasant Valley Coal Company payroll. Daring robberies such as these made the Bunch notorious (and folk heroes to some), while their hard rides between their refuges were equally impressive. Cassidy was an excellent rider and always stressed the importance of strong, well-trained horses, often changing mounts at Robbers' Roost during a long ride.

The Roost was never successfully penetrated by the authorities, despite some sporadic attempts and many boastful claims by various officials. Over the years the refuge gained a reputation as being impregnable, and stories about its defenses contributed to its legend. C. L. "Gunplay" Maxwell, a small-time bandit who reportedly yearned to join the Wild Bunch, wrote Governor Heber M. Wells from prison that the Roost was defended by a well-armed, 200-man gang with an intricate system of fortifications, tunnels, land mines, and a vast storehouse of supplies and ammunition. Few law officers cared to enter such (supposedly) dangerous ground. The Roost was largely abandoned as an outlaw hangout after 1902 when Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid reportedly departed on their fateful South American trip.

Sources: See Charles Kelly, The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch (Salt Lake City, 1938), Richard Patterson, Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West (Boulder, Colo., 1985).


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