Tom Ross: Steamboat audience hears how a posse caught up with train robbers near Parachute in 1904
Steamboat Springs — Pueblo author Ann Williams told a Steamboat audience in great detail Friday how a member of the Wild Bunch of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame met his end in a shootout with a posse outside the modern town of Parachute.
“My great-grandfather shot Kid Curry. Too bad nobody knows who Kid Curry is,” Williams said wryly. “He was the worst of the worst and the most cold-blooded killer” of the old train robbers.
She was giving a talk in the Brown Bag Lecture Series hosted by the Tread of Pioneers Museum at the United Methodist Church of Steamboat Springs.
You might not know precisely who Kid Curry was, but if you’ve ever seen the famous studio portrait of the Wild Bunch, you’ve gazed upon the outlaw’s face. He’s the man with the walrus mustache standing with his left hand on Cassidy’s right shoulder.
“Kid Curry was really, really sneaky,” Williams said. They only truly pinned one murder on the outlaw, but “the head of the Pinkerton (detective) Agency said he was without a single redeeming feature.”
Williams had a blow-by-blow story to share of how Curry died as told by her great-grandfather.
Kid Curry was born Harvey Logan in Iowa in 1867 and moved to live with an aunt in Missouri after his mother died and his father ran off. When an older man repeatedly threatened his life in Missouri, he killed him first and went on the run, Williams said. Logan took the name Curry from an older co-worker while he broke horses on a ranch outside Rising Star, Texas. It was at the end of a cattle drive that he got into a saloon brawl in Pueblo and fled to southern Wyoming to avoid being arrested. No doubt he found his way to the outlaw lair known as Hole in the Wall.
During the same historical era, Williams’ great-grandfather, Rollins “Roll” Gardner, then 15, and his large family came to Colorado. They built reservoirs and ditches to irrigate a ranch on a dry mesa overlooking the Colorado River west of present day Rifle in Garfield County.
Roll (pronounced Rahl) Gardner was a grown man when on June 7, 1904, a gang of outlaws including Kid Curry and two others who once rode with Cassidy boarded the Denver Rio Grand train at 1:30 a.m. in Parachute. According to the Garfield County Historical Society, they commandeered the train and ordered it to stop three miles west of town where they blew the safe with dynamite expecting to find gold. History does not record if they made off with any loot, but an historical marker in Parachute records that the outlaws crossed the Colorado River on foot before mounting horses they had left behind and rode toward Battlement Mesa. They also stole horses along the way, and that’s how they ran afoul of Roll Gardner.
“My great-grandfather didn’t know he was after the Wild Bunch. All he knew was three men robbed the train at Parachute, and they took his best horse,” Williams said Friday. “He and a neighbor joined the posse.”
The local men caught up with the outlaws in the middle of the night amid a heavy rainstorm. There was an exchange of gunfire, but the outlaws broke away.
Williams knows the details of the outlaw chase because her great-grandfather told her grandfather everything, and he, in turn, wrote the story down for a college paper.
In the excitement of the chase, Roll carelessly allowed his gun to get wet, and that almost became a factor in the fate of outlaw Kid Curry.
The posse caught up with the train robbers again the next day, and this time, as they topped a sagebrush covered swale while riding abreast, Curry jumped up out of the sage and yelled, “Stop you SOBs!”
Roll and his friend’s horses fell out from under them as they came to a sudden halt.
Roll saw Curry lining up a shot on his neighbor and got a shot off first, but when he attempted to shoot at the outlaw a second time, he found to his dismay that the round had rusted in the chamber.
It turned out not to matter. He heard one of the outlaws call out to the others, “Is anybody hit?” And another voice replied, “I am, and I’m all in. I’m going to end it.”
There was another shot, and the two surviving outlaws escaped never to be seen again.
The bullet from Roll’s gun had torn the third outlaw’s bicep, shattered many of the bones in his chest and broke his other arm. But ultimately, Kid Curry lay dead of a head wound by his own hand.
Ann Williams is the author of the 2012 book, “No Market For ‘Em,” which chronicles her family’s experiences becoming established in Western Colorado.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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Time seemed to stop for Matthew Engle for a few seconds after he heard crunching metal last week while he was in downtown Steamboat Springs.