Hollywood, the Old West, the country of Bolivia, and most importantly Knoxville, TN. What ties them together here is a movie and a man and if you guessed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, then you’ve guessed the movie.
But if Paul Newman or Robert Redford come to mind, then guess again.
Strangely enough neither the major actors in the motion picture, nor the well-remembered historical players they portray, hold the distinction we have in mind here. No, it was a minor actor playing an ill-remembered character, whose real life story was far more exciting and significant for Knoxville than the movie or memory have depicted. The character’s name was Harvey Logan, a.k.a. Kid Curry to those who knew him in real life, and the actor’s name was Ted Cassidy, a.k.a. Lurch from The Addams Family TV show to those of us who have no idea who Ted Cassidy is.
While the character of Harvey Logan lasts not even the first five minutes into the movie—Lurch is no match for Cool Hand Luke’s fast talkin’, fast foot to the groin’ that ends the knife fight over who’s the real leader of the gang—the historical Harvey Logan proved far more formidable in life than he ever was in art. In fact, it’s not too bold to claim that it was Kid Curry, not the dynamic duo of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, who was the real outlaw of the Wild Bunch.
To put this in perspective, neither Butch nor Sundance had any confirmed kills, and shared only a handful of gunfights between them. The Kid, on the other hand, was responsible for killing nine law enforcement officers in five separate shootouts, two civilians under other circumstances, and numerous other skirmishes with local posses and bounty hunters. William Pinkerton, the famous detective who eventually brought the Wild Bunch to justice, once said of Kid Curry that, “He’s the only criminal I know of who has not one single redeeming feature.” Small wonder that those who knew him and knew of him referred to him as the “Wildest of the Wild Bunch.”
Yet why Kid Curry chose to come to Knoxville in the late summer of 1901 is not entirely clear. Nor was the ultimate purpose of his visit. At the very least he wanted to lie low in the aftermath of the $40,000 heist he and Wild Bunch cronies had just taken off the Great Northern Express outside Wagner, Montana. And for a few quiet months he succeeded.
Calling himself William Wilson, he soon began courting a woman named Laura Cross, of a respectable Knoxville family. He intended to marry her, purchase a farm, and live quietly off the proceeds he claimed he’d made in “the railroad business.”
Yet this would-be idyllic dream came to an abrupt end on the evening of December 13, 1901, when officers from the Knoxville Police Department answered a call to Ike’s Knoxville Saloon near Central Av. and Commerce St. Expecting a barroom brawl, they instead found themselves under fire from an irate Kid Curry, who seriously wounded two officers before escaping out the back door.
And though the law captured him two days later near Jefferson City, it was not the end of the story for Kid Curry. Thinking they had him, the KPD eventually discovered that what they really had was more than they could handle.
…To Be Continued…
Photo by: bobster855