The Wild Bunch Gang

By: Shayla C.

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Fanny Porter

During the years of the American West, there were many outlaws who committed crimes in the western states.  One group that was responsible for a lot of the crimes in the west was The Wild Bunch Gang.  The group began in 1886 and was a group until 1901.    Their crimes included robbing banks, stealing horses and cattle, and holding up trains across the West.  Some members helped by fencing goods and money for them.  An example of one of their crimes took place on August 29, 1900 around Tipton, Wyoming where the gang robbed a train and escaped with $55,000. Afterwards they split up (something they did after most crimes to avoid getting caught).  Many of the women of the gang had been prostitutes in the past and came from a sporting house in Texas called Fannie Porter's.  The group had many visits to the house during the years they were together.  They also had a lot of other hideouts throughout the West that they would escape to after crimes.  Overall The Wild Bunch Gang stole thousands of dollars with all their robberies and crimes combined and surely would have gotten more if the group had not been caught.  They were responsible for many of the crimes committed in the West which made them some of the most famous outlaws.   

Many women were a part of the Wild Bunch Gang, but there was one that stood out from the rest.  The most famous Wild Bunch Woman was Etta Place.  That was a code name, but her real name was believed to be either Etta Thayne or Etta Ingerfield.  Rumors say that before joining the gang, she was a prostitute in Texas and was found at Fannie Porter’s brothel by Butch Cassidy who set her up with a job as a schoolteacher.  Finding a good job as a woman in the west was a big challenge for Place and many others like her.  That is why so many girls gave in to prostitution. There were no other jobs available that were considered suitable for women.  This is also why many young women became part of groups like The Wild Bunch Gang.  It was a way of standing out and getting money, two things that were hard for women to come by in the West.  Her first appearance as a member of the gang was in 1896 at the Robber’s Roost hideout when she was in her early twenties.  According to medical records, she had blue or gray eyes, medium dark hair and was around one hundred and ten pounds. Place was great at riding horses and good with a rifle.  There is no proof that Place actually participated in the robberies and crimes, but she definitely knew what the others were doing, and visited their hideouts frequently.  Because Cassidy was the leader of the gang, Place started out as his mistress.  But stories said that she later married Harry Longabaugh, also known as Sundance Kid.  There was another woman in the groups whose name was Ann Bassett.  Because she had a similar description to Place and the two were never seen at the same time, many were lead to believe that they were the same person.  Bassett was also known to have used Etta Place as a code name.  In 1901 around the time the gang ended, Place traveled to South America with Sundance Kid and Cassidy to avoid getting caught by detectives.  Many think that the three of them took three secret trips back to the U.S. and stayed there on the third one.  By 1907 Place had “disappeared from history” and was never seen or heard from again.   Since there is still little known about her life, the legend of Etta Place lives on and she remains “one of the most mysterious females of the Old West."    

Ann Bassett ............................................................................................Etta Place..............................................same person?

The Wild Bunch Gang photo that got them caught

Because The Wild Gang Bunch was devoted to their crimes, they experienced many conflicts.  But their biggest one was definitely when the group was caught and brought to an end.  In 1901 many members of the gang met up for a celebration at the Hell’s Half Acre area of Fort Worth, Texas.  Without thinking, they posed as a group for a photo.  They had no idea that it would lead to the end of their gang.  Copies of the photo were made and hung up in the window of a photography shop near the place the picture had been taken.  A Well’s Fargo man recognized one of the group members and names were finally matched to faces.  Flyers recognizing the group as outlaws started appearing everywhere and some of the members were arrested.  After the arrests were made, the others split up and escaped to different areas of the U.S. and some even fled the country.  The Wild Bunch Gang had always had to live in secret avoiding these kinds of conflicts and was destroyed by one wrong move that seemed harmless. 
The Wild Bunch Gang connects to a lot of the key themes that we have discussed.  It relates the most to the theme Violence and Conquest, since the whole point of the group was centered around crime.  Although most of their crimes did not include murder, they were still always armed and ready to shoot and kill anyone who got in their way, which meant the crimes could quickly become very violent.  Also, while detectives were out trying to hunt the gang down, they were definitely portrayed to the public as dangerous and the kind of people that no one wanted to get in an argument with.  The gang took their crimes very seriously, knowing that one wrong move could cost them a lot.  It was a big deal that they were on top and always one step ahead of the detectives and everyone else trying to catch them.  Conquering the West and being in total control seemed to be their ultimate goal.  Even though the gang managed to avoid complete brutality, violence and conquest was still the base of all their crimes and their way of showing their superiority and power.

Butch Cassidy

Harry  Longbaugh (Sundance Kid)

There are a lot of interesting thing about the American West, and The Wild Bunch Gang was one thing that made it so intriguing.  Although crime is not a good thing, it definitely draws attention to the area where it occurs.  The gang, along with all the other outlaws of the West, was the talk of all the towns when they were up and running.  People always wanted to know what happened, and after all these years, people are still interested in what went on.  Since not much is known about the gang and their crimes, the American West has a very mysterious history.  Researchers continue looking for clues and details, hoping to find more information about the West and its unfinished stories.  The gang is particularly fascinating because everything they did was in secret and no one really knows for sure what happened to all its members after they split.  There is still a lot to be discovered about The Wild Bunch Gang, and that is what makes the group so interesting.