By Kimberly Brown, Family Historian
Train robbers, horse thieves, and colorful characters of all kinds made up the composition of the bandits and outlaws of the Wild West. Who were these men? What kinds of families did they come from, and did they leave any descendants behind?
Butch Cassidy, born Robert LeRoy Parker, was the leader of the train- and bank-robbing Wild Bunch. He was born in 1866 to Mormon immigrant parents and grew up on his parents' ranch in Circleville, Piute, Utah. His father Maximillian Parker and his mother Ann Campbell Gillies had both come to Utah from the British Isles. He was the oldest of thirteen children, and left home as a youth to work on a dairy farm, where he became friends with a cattle rustler named Mike Cassidy. He took his false last name from his friend Mike; later in life he worked briefly as a butcher in Rock Springs, earning the nickname of Butch. He has no known children or descendants.
Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty in 1859 in New York City. His parents were poor Irish immigrants. He moved with his mother to Silver City, Grant, New Mexico, where she died shortly thereafter. He had one half-brother, and no known descendants.
Harry Alonzo Longabaugh was born in Mont Clare, Montgomery, Pennsylvania. After spending a year and a half in a jail in Sundance, Crook, Wyoming, he acquired the nickname of the Sundance Kid. Along with Butch Cassidy and the rest of the Wild Bunch, he was a train and bank robber. He spent many years traveling the U.S. and South America with his girlfriend, Ethel "Etta" Place, whose origins are unknown.
Notorious train robber, bank robber, and murderer Jesse Woodson James was born in Kearney, Clay, Missouri to parents Robert S. James and Zerelda Cole. Robert was a farmer and Baptist minister; he left his family for the California Gold Rush and died in California when Jesse was only three years old. Jesse's mother Zerelda re-married twice. Jesse married his first cousin, Zerelda "Zee" Amanda Mimms, in 1874. Together they had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood. Jesse James, Jr. and Mary Susan James (later Barr) both married, and each had four children. Thus Jesse James still has many descendants in America today.