Stories of Butch Cassidy and Ann Bassett in Leeds, UT

The following is taken from the book “Leeds; Historical Events in Little Pieces” by Wilma Cox Beale.

Ann Willis

A friend of mine, Dorothy Spendlove, from Hurricane, Utah, asked me if I knew where Ann Willis was buried. She said she had looked throughout the Leeds cemetery and couldn’t find her grave. I told her I knew she had died while living in Leeds, but I was sure she was cremated.

Now this was quite a coincidence. It wasn’t too long after the above visit when a couple, by the name of Dick and Sara Sawyer dropped in to see me. They asked if I knew “Queen Ann” from Brown’s Hole. I asked if they were talking about Ann Willis and they said they were.

We visited a little about Ann, then Mr. Sawyer asked me if I would like a book telling about her life. I told him I had heard lots of stories first hand but it would be interesting to read more. didn’t expect to hear from him again, but I did. He brought me the book.

Ann’s own stories, with Frank chipping in every so often, when the stories concerned him, tell you a little of her spicy escapades.

start this story with how Ann came to be here.

Alex Colbath was negotiating the sale of Silver Reef to a company located hack in New York City. The company wanted to do some diamond drilling on the place to check the different kinds of ore, where it was located, and how much they could count on Forest Major and Frank Willis were the diamond drillers contracted to do the job. These men brought their wives with them. Ann Bassett was the wife of Frank Willis. Frank and Ann lived in the Rice Bank building, at Silver Reef, for several years, even after the drilling stopped. They came here from Brown’s Hole, the outlaw country, and Ann used to tell some very colorful stories.

Ann always bragged that she was boss in her family, and I think Frank was willing to let her be boss. At least things went more peacefully when he didn’t oppose her, and he didn’t have to worry about making decisions. He was easy going, never worried about making a lot of money, and occasionally liked to drink a little too much.

At one time Frank came home just a little tipsy and Ann went after him with a broom yelling to the top of her voice, “Frank, you old worthless, no good creep. Why can’t you leave that stuff alone?” Another time, as he went to step over the threshold, in the same condition, Ann conked him over the head with a frying pan. It knocked him out cold and she let him lay there all day.

You never knew whether the stories she told were fad or fancy. One day when a particular juicy article appeared in the newspaper about the Bassett girl’s, Ann’s sister went after her saying, “Ann, why do you tell such lies?” Ann’s offhand reply was, ” The paper always wants a good story. They never want the truth, so I gave them that story. It was more juicy, anyway.”

In her younger years, Ann lived in Brown’s Hole, later named Brown’s Park by the Bassett family because of its beauty. The mother said it was much nicer to live in a Park than a Hole.

Ann used to brag about her midnight excursions, swimming across Green River to take food to Butch Cassidy. She said he was one of her best friends. Ann was well educated, but often used rough, crude language even when she was dressed in her best finery.

While living on a ranch near Brown’s Hole, Ann Ibught the big Cattle Barons, apparently using their own tactics.

The Story:

The big Cattle Barons made it miserable for the little ranchers, so they usually sold out to them or just moved on. But not Ann Bassett and her sister Josie. They would not give up.

The Cattle Barons controlled the grassland because of their huge herds of cattle, but the grass was getting scarce and they coveted Brown’s Park. Ann felt that these men had hired two of her friends killed so she retaliated by killing Two-Bar cattle and encouraged her neighbors to do the same. Her foreman even took small herds of cattle (not owned by Ann Bassett) down to a butcher in Vernal. To cap-it-all-off, Ann closed off her water hole up on Douglas Mountain, which she had a legal right to do. Within days, she was arrested for cattle thievery. Ann said she was really guilty but the way her attorney got her off was classic.

The attorney had the Two-Bar Cattle Baron on the stand. He casually asked his name, occupation, residence and position, then how many cattle he had in the county.

Haley thought for a minute, scratching his head as he thought, then said, “Over ten thousand head.”

The defense attorney whirled around and shouted, ” You have more that ten thousand head? Then tell me Mr. Haley, why did you file a statement about four months ago with the county, saying that you only have five thousand head of cattle? Is that a lie?”

This case had gone to court three times but this time the jury acquitted Ann of all charges.

Cowboy friends paraded her around the street, carrying her on their shoulders, shouting, and shooting and calling her “Queen Ann.” She said she felt like a queen. They danced in Main Street with her all night by the light of bonfires. A Denver Newspaper reporter dubbed her “Queen Ann of the Cattle Rustlers” and the name stuck.

After the trial, it was rumored that Ann had taken to rustling cattle. No one seemed to really care. She had singlehandedly taken on the cattle barons and won.

Ellen Savage’s story of Ann Willis bears out my opinion that she was a character who liked to throw her authority around.

Ann, always the cowgirl, was usually dressed in her denim jeans, shirt and cowboy hat. One day, Ann heard pounding like hammer on iron down in the vicinity of the Henry Clark grave. “Some fool antique swiping idiot,” she thought, so she strapped on her gun and high tailed it down the trail as fast as her bow legs could make it.

Sure enough? The man was so completely absorbed in his effort to dismantle the wrought iron fence that he was not aware anyone was around until she began spitting venom at him. He looked up to see a breathless but fearless, little old lady pointing a gun at him. He was sure she meant business. He quickly gathered his tools and slunk away.

By the time Ann returned to Silver Reef her fury had barely subsided enough to see a little humor in the man’s hasty departure. Ellen had arrived there just in time to hear a good story. Does she sound like a colorful character to you? Now for the rest of the story.

While living in Leeds, Ann suffered a heart attack and never recovered. She died in Leeds on May 10, 1957, at the age of 78. It turned out she had a way of causing trouble even after death. In her obituary it said she wanted to be cremated. She wanted her ashes to be placed in the Bassett cemetery on the old Bassett Ranch in Brown’s Park and to be allowed to blow to the far winds.

As soon as her ashes were returned from the Salt Lake crematorium, the family gathered at the ranch to give moral support to Frank. He never said anything about the ashes so they went home with nothing accomplished.

When one of the town’s people asked a niece if she had helped bury Aunt Ann’s ashes, she shrugged her shoulders and replied, “We didn’t bury her. Uncle Frank is still carrying Aunt Ann around in the trunk of his car.”

The hack of Frank’s car continued to be the burial place for Antis ashes for a long time. The family thought it was Franks business and he didn’t mention it, so they didn’t. One night aver he had gone to bed, someone mentioned Ann’s beautiful diamond ring and wondered what had happened to it. They thought about her cremation and decided to check and see if it had been cremated with her. Instead of ashes there were big yellow clumps. There was no way Frank could throw them to the far winds.

Frank was still carrying Ann’s ashes in his car to the day he died. After Frank’s funeral, the family buried the ashes of “Queen Ann of the Cattle Rustlers” in an unmarked grave in the Bassett cemetery.

Butch Cassidy

History tells us that Butch Cassidy was a hank and train robber. Because his Grandparents lived in Washington part of the time, some people would like to be able to find where they could connect him with a visit to his Grandparent’s and some robberies at Silver Reef. Only three stories, that f have been able to locate, have brought him into this part of the country at any time of his life.

The first story comes from Bart Anderson who says he got it from Bessie Snow, a resident of SeGeorge and Pine Valley. t got the same story from my Granddaughter, Kaye Nelson. She heard it from a Mr. Hunter who lived in Enoch, so there must he some truth in if. Bart’s story is in more detail so, with his permission I am using his version.

Bart Anderson Story

During the early history of Southern Utah, the mines of Pioche, Nevada were booming. During that period many freighters from Dixie took loads of produce to these mines. The men from St.George and surrounding settlements took fruit and vegetables there. Men from Pine Valley and Grass Valley and ranches up the Santa Clara Creek took loads of lumber, grain, potatoes, butter, and cheese. At this time there were no banks in this section of the country so the men were always paid in gold for their produce. Because of this, a band of robbers used to hide among the cedar and pine trees along the road side between Pioche and Ruby Valley. They held the men up, as they were returning home, and robbed them of their gold. The banks refused to cash checks unless the person could prove he was the one the checks had been made out to.

The following is the story of one of these holdups:

Athe Meeks, one of the early settlers of Pine Valley and later of Parowan, had taken a load of lumber to Pioche to the mines. He was driving four mules. His eight year old daughter, Sadie, had gone along with him to visit relatives in Nevada. Athe had sold his lumber and was returning home with only the running gear of his wagon. He had fixed his bed roll on the hind hounds of the wagon for Sadie to sit on. He rode on the bolster with his feet on the tongue hounds. Turning a sharp curve in the cedar trees, about eight or nine miles east of Panaca, Athe came face to lace with three armed men on horses. He knew all three of them. One was known as “Little Frank,” another was Screen, these two were Spaniards. The third man was Al Miller of Washington.

Screen stopped in the road, ahead of the team, with a drawn gun and called out, “Stick’ em up.” At the same time Miller rode down the left side of the mules, and “Little Frank” down the right side, both with drawn guns pointed at Athe. Instead of obeying, as they thought he would, Athe hurriedly slipped down between the two mules and came up under the mule on “Little Frank’s” side. He had drawn his gun, and as he came up he seized the rains of Frank’s horse and gave a jerk. The horse threw up his head, which diverted Frank’s aim, and his shot went wild. Athe shot both Frank and his horse.

Meanwhile the mules had been between him and the other two outlaws, who had lowered their guns thinking “Little Frank” would get him. Athe got a good shot at Miller and killed him instantly. “Little Frank” had already turned his horse and lied into the trees. Sereco decided not to hang around any longer and fled into the trees on the opposite side of the road than Frank had.

In the skirmish the frightened mules turned around and ran down the road into Panaca with little Sadie still hanging on to the hind gears. People, seeing the runaway team and frightened child, ran out and caught the team. Sadie told them what had happened and a posse went armed at once to the scene. They met Athe calmly walking down the road and found Miller’s body where he had dropped from his horse.

The Spaniards had fled in different directions, but “Little Frank’s” trail was easy to follow by the trickle of blood that was flowing from both him and his horse. Three miles out in the trees they found where Frank had fallen from his horse and struggled back on. A half mile farther they found hint laying dead and not far beyond they found his horse dead also. Sereco never showed up in this area again.

Athe had killed two of the outlaws and had not received a single scratch himself. He freighted over the road for years after, but always carried a rifle across his knees ready for action. He was the kind of man that robbers didn’t care to mix with.

Because of this incident, Athe’s name became known far and wide. Several years later Athe was traveling down a rough narrow road out in Rabbit Valley. He came to a very narrow place in the road and met one of the notorious gangsters of Robber’s Roost. Athe was heavily loaded with freight while the gangsters had a light load. The gangster stopped his team and ordered Athe to turn out for him. Athe refused claiming that he had a heavy load and it was the other’s place to turn out. Finally the gangster shouted out,

“Do you know who I am?”

“No,” replied Athe.

“Well, I’m Butch Cassidy.”

Athe looked him straight in the eye and said, “Do you know who I am?”

“No”, retorted Butch.

“Well, I’m Athe Meeks from Pine Valley,” he replied.

Butch caught up his lines and turned his team out of the road while Athe went on his way. Auer I read the story of Butch Cassidy’s life by Charles Kelly, I’m sure there was a twinkle in Butch’s eye as he turned out.

The second story is just a brief sketch telling of Robert LeRoy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy, coming to Leeds with his father, Maximillen Parker. Some of the family remembered seeing him sitting on the corral fence, watching the men breaking horses. This incident would likely have been forgotten were it not for the notoriety that later came to Butch.

In the December 9, 1991 Daily Spectrum Prime Time, Henry Crosby says that Butch Cassidy was on his way to Mexico and needed a fresh horse, so he stopped at the livery stable operated by Billy Al Young, Nephew of Brigham Young. Butch said he would like to see his parents before he left the country but he didn’t want them to see him. He asked Billy Al to stand guard white he peeked through the window. When Cassidy came back a while later, Billy AI said he was wiping tears from his eyes.

Henry Crosby doesn’t think Butch Cassidy was capable of killing anyone. He was too tender hearted.

All the stories told of Butch Cassidy paint him as anything but a killer. What were the circumstances at home that turned him into an outlaw? It seems that he wasn’t afraid of work. Was it poverty or what? Cases have been cited where he has helped the poor at the expense of those better off. He has been called a modern day Robin Hood. This bears out a story that Calpurna Fluckiger told me.

During Mrs. Fluckiger’s teenage years, she was a clerk in her Grandfather Burton’s store in Star Valley, Wyoming. When you own a business, you learn there are some people you can charge goods to and they pay their bills. Others are dead beats who never pay their bills. Back in the early 1900’s there was very little transportation during the winter months, because of the deep snow. Some of the people who wanted to charge goods, Grandfather Burton didn’t feel like he could afford to give credit to. He knew from past experience that they didn’t pay their bills. He didn’t feel that he could support them along with two wives and twenty-five children. When he wouldn’t extend credit to some of the people, they became very angry with him.

Butch Cassidy and his gang spent some of their winters in Star Valley, when the snow was so deep that the officers couldn’t come in there after them. When the snows began to melt, they would disappear.

Once Butch and his gang were in the store when some of those people were shooting off their mouths. Butch pulled his gun out of its holster and pointed it at Grandfather Burton, calling him an old skin flint. He emptied the shelves, giving it to the people gathered there.

Modern day Robin Hood? Or was this a way of securing protection from the law? Just another way of buying protection.

Speaking of Butch Cassidy, he never lived in ‘feeds but from TV broadcasts and Newspaper reporters, one of his gang lived here. In fact he must have lived in Southern Utah quite a few years.

if Hyrum Behee really was the Sundance Kid, he and his wife (common-law or whatever) lived in Alton, Utah in about 1915 when my oldest sister was a teenager. They moved away then Caine back again about 1925 when f was a young kid living in Alton. Recently I was reading in the I fistory of Kane County in the section on Alton, and I am going to quote here what is said on page 475: The old “Hundred-and-eight-er” and his wife, came about the same time (as Dr. Glendon). He claimed to be 108 years old. I ie later served a rap for murder, as Hyrum Bebee, and died in prison.” This little bit of first hand knowledge seems to coincide with the article by Bart Anderson in the Daily Spectrum. I don’t know what year Amelda Wilcox saw him in Rockville but he lived in Leeds during 1944-45. They were here over one year, living at 211 North Main, straight across the street from the Town Hall, which used to be the school house. The old house they lived in was torn down and rebuilt in 1990.

My son Ray Beal, tells this story. Ray and a couple of friends were chasing each other during school recess. They ran across the road and Ray grabbed on to he picket fence in front of the house where Hyrum Bebee lived. Bebee rushed out of the house with his pistol drawn and told the kids to get away and stay away. He said if they ever came back he would shoot them. They were frightened enough to clear out.

This would have been the end of this story if it hadn’t been that years later Ray saw a certain TV Broadcast. On Channel Two, Take Two Rod Decker was interviewing an author who was researching material on the Wild Bunch. It was probably Author Edward Kirby. On this broadcast, he told about Hyrum Bebee having an argument with the town marshall, Alonzo T. Larsen, in a tavern in Spring City, Utah. The marshall grabbed Bebee by the collar and escorted him outside. He spotted Bebee’s old pickup truck so he stuffed the old man inside. Bebee reached in the glove compartment, and drawing a 38 caliber pistol, he shot and killed that town marshall.

Now, it turned out that Hyrum Bebee claimed to be Harry Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid and said he was seventy-seven years old instead of the one hundred and eight-er that he claimed to be when living in Alton.

When Ray related the TV show he had seen by Rod Decker to Bill Stratton, Bill said that Hyrum Bebee had shown that pistol to him when he was living here. Bebee called his attention to the many notches on the pistol and said each notch represented a man he had killed. He bragged about and was proud of those notches.

remember Mrs. Bebee as quite a crotchety old woman. She wanted to run everyone else’s life. They moved to Fountain Green from here. The residents of Leeds weren’t sorry to see them go.

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2 Responses to Stories of Butch Cassidy and Ann Bassett in Leeds, UT

  1. Great article with some interesting new aspects. I always look forward to your posts.

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