This is the second piece of a two-part series. Get caught up and read the first entry here.
The thrill of victory pulsed through the veins of the KPD officers on the train ride back to Knoxville from Jefferson City. With photographs, received days before by mail, and matching serial numbers from the bank notes in the suspect’s pockets with those missing from the Great Northern Robbery, they knew they had their man.
Within forty-eight hours of the shooting at Ike Jones’ bar, they had captured a man who had eluded federal marshals and Pinkerton detectives for years, and without firing a single shot. Believing that they were to be the ones to put the finishing touches on the story of an old west outlaw, what they were about to discover was that the town of Knoxville was but a chapter, and by no means the last, in the legend of Harvey Logan, a.k.a. Kid Curry.
To say Harvey Logan had reached celebrity status in Knoxville would be a gross misunderstanding. A celebrity is someone who gives handshakes and autographs to fans, many of whom will gather for public encounters. President Theodore Roosevelt was a celebrity when he visited Knoxville during Logan’s stay. And while local law enforcement concerned itself with his safety, public safety was never an issue as it was upon Logan’s arrival. Thousands did not push and shove to catch only a glimpse, or trample one another for a chance to touch him, as they did for the famous outlaw. The Knox County Jail had been solely designed to hold people inside, not to keep people out. Yet faced with a virtual siege, not from armed invaders, or a gang of the Kid’s cronies, but from a mob of worshipful Knoxvillians, Sheriff J.W. Fox allowed open visitation of the Kid that continued on and off up to the trial. On December 20, 1901, alone, the Sheriff’s office counted more than one thousand visitors. No, Kid Curry was not a celebrity. He was a phenomenon, an obsession that held during and beyond the two and a half year chapter of his life that was Knoxville, TN.
Fortunately for the Kid, that chapter ended on Saturday, June 27, 1903. Just seven months before, on November 30, 1902, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court had sentenced Logan to 20 years of hard labor. His appeal process at its end, he now awaited transfer from Knoxville to a Federal penitentiary in Columbus, OH.
At around 4:15 PM Knox County Jail guard Frank Irwin was standing at Logan’s cell having his usual small-talk chat with the prisoner. Across from the cell was a window looking out onto the Tennessee River. The two were talking about the river level, newly risen since a recent storm. Logan pointed to the water along the bank, and when Irwin turned to look, the Kid lassoed him around the neck with a wire taken from a broom they let him use to sweep his stall. He then made Irwin turn around, and he tied the guard’s hands to the bars with strips of cloth taken from his cell hammock. Using yet another lasso made from the hammock he secured a shoebox from across the hall where the guards kept their pistols. Letting himself out of his cell with Irwin’s keys, he forced at gunpoint jailer Tom Bell to open the cell block door. He then took Bell out into the courtyard where he ordered him to saddle Sheriff Fox’s horse. Logan then rode through the gate and onto Prince Street, turned right onto Hill Street, and then another right onto Gay. He was last seen galloping across the Tennessee River on what would later be known as the Gay Street Bridge. Yee haw!
How Kid Curry met his ultimate demise is still open to speculation. Some say he committed suicide in 1904 in Colorado to avoid capture after a railway robbery. Others say he escaped to South America, where he reunited with ex-Wild Bunch confederates Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and continued robbing banks and trains. And still others say he wound up on a ranch south of Buenos Aires where he married and had eight children before dying at the ripe old age of 76.
Who can say for sure? With individuals such as Harvey Logan, and in the public imagination they captivate, anything is possible. What we do know is that Kid Curry played a small, yet unforgettable, part in Knoxville’s coloful history.
Extra Source: Lynch, Sylvia. Harvey Logan in Knoxville. Creative Publishing. College Station, TX. 1998. Photo by: bobster855