Idaho History February 25, 2018

Hugh Whitney the Idaho Bandit

Pocatello, Idaho, June 23, [1911] – That Humph Whitney, the Idaho bandit, is safe in the mountains on the Idaho-Wyoming line, is the report received here from the posses which abandoned the chase in the Wild creek country.

source: The Houston Post, June 24, 1911 courtesy of Samuel Nielsen – Idaho State of Mind
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Charles and Hugh Whitney

[June 1911] … a saloon in Monida, Montana, had been robbed by Charles and Hugh Whitney, who killed three people in the process. According to Patricia Lyn Scott in her book The Hub of Eastern Idaho, they rode south towards Rigby and crossed the Menan bridge. A hundred men with bloodhounds stalked the area around Rigby looking for them but found no signs. For years rumors of the outlaws’ whereabouts circulated, but the men never surfaced. It wasn’t until 1950 that Hugh Whitney revealed that he had been living in Teton Valley since 1911. Even after the turn of the century, the Valley was still a great place to hide out.

source: Teton Valley Magazine, Teton Valley’s Checkered Past By Diane Verna
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HughWhitney1-2-aRancher is Held by Bandit for Ransom

Sum of Six Thousand Dollars Demanded for His Release on Penalty of Death

By Associated Press, Idaho Falls, Ida., July 20, [1915]

Ernest Empey, aged 35, a wealthy rancher, is being held by a lone bandit for $6,000 ransom. Directions for the delivery of the money, brought to the ranch by Empey’s son, aged 11 and a neighbor boy, provided that it be delivered on a lonely road in the mountains in the night of July 24 under pain of death. From the boys’ description the officials believe the bandit is Hugh Whitney, a fugitive, thought to be hiding in the mountains of Eastern Idaho or Western Wyoming.
source: Prescott Journal Miner – Jul 21, 1915
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From the Tribune week of July 19, 1915

Idaho Falls, Idaho – Ernest A. Empey, a wealthy rancher, kidnapped several days ago by bandits and held for $6,000 ransom, has escaped from his abductors. He is now safe at Montpelier. Empey escaped late today while his captor was asleep in a hut on Sheep mountain, five miles from Empey’s ranch where he was taken at the point of a rifle. According to a report from Montpelier, Empey recognized his abductor as a man employed upon his ranch about five years ago.

source: Great Falls Tribune
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Hugh Whitney the bandit

By Arthur C. Saunders, Pocatello, Idaho 1915

… In spite of the wild and sometimes forbidding scenery that meets the traveler’s eve from the train window, there are probably few more peaceful communities than Bannock County in the farming sections of the east. Women frequently live alone and unprotected on isolated ranches and are seldom molested. The case of Hugh Whitney, the bandit and outlaw who robbed Pocatello of a true citizen, and upon whose head there rests a large reward, is today an exception. His story is too well known to be repeated in detail here. In brief, Hugh Whitney, who was a Wyoming sheep man, and a companion, held up a saloon at Monida, just over the Montana line, in 1911, and were apprehended on a train running south toward Pocatello. The sheriff, who had boarded the train to make the arrest, placed his guns on a seat in order to handcuff the prisoners. Whitney grabbed those and shot both the sheriff and Conductor James Kidd, who was helping the officer. Conductor Kidd died in Pocatello within a few days. The sheriff recovered.

Whitney and his companion jumped from the moving train and separated in making their escape. Whitney was trailed by posses for weeks, and in the course of the chase killed several of his pursuers. Although bloodhounds were used in the attempt to capture him, he eluded all pursuit with ingenuity worthy of a better cause. When the excitement had died down somewhat, he and his brother held up a bank in Cody [*], Wyoming, driving the employees into the safe and locking them up there while they made their escape.

Evidently the days of “bad men,” in the criminal sense of the term, are not yet ended in the far west, but the facility of communication afforded by the railway, telephone and telegraph makes their trade very hazardous, and the ordinary citizen lives in less danger of being held up or shot than does the wayfarer on the streets of New York or Chicago.

source: History of Bannock County, Idaho By Arthur C. Saunders, Pocatello, Idaho. U. S. A., The Tribune Company. Limited, 1915
[*] The bank was in Cokeville, Wyoming.
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The Whitney Boys

In September of that year [1911], two sheepherders, Hugh and Charley Whitney, came into [Cokeville]. The brothers had for that year had been cutting a wide swath through Idaho and Wyoming.

Earlier that year, the Whitneys robbed a saloon of $200.00 and were arrested, but made good their escape shooting the deputy. Several days later Hugh shot William Reuben “Rube” Scott, his cousin, in the hand. Additionally, Hugh shot and killed a conductor on the Oregon Short Line Railroad. Thus, Hugh had an award of $1,500.00 posted for his capture. The boys fled to Cokeville and proceeded to the bank in which Asa D. Noblitt, the cashier, was on duty.

Making no effort to conceal their identity, the boys had come to make a withdrawal at the point of a gun. Unfortunately, Noblitt informed the brothers, the vault was on a time lock and could not be opened for another one and a half hours. The boys calmly waiting. As customers entered, they were held at the point of a gun, not without, however, sharing a box of Mr. Noblitt’s cigars. A woman customer entered and the two brothers decided that they could not hold her. Thus, scooping up an available $600.00, the boys departed. Not withstanding an extensive search and posse, the boys were not heard from again for another 41 years.

In 1913, newspapers reported that Hugh had been arrested in a bar in Salt Lake City. The person arrested was not Hugh. Hugh was five foot eight inches tall and had blue eyes. The person arrested had brown eyes and was five foot six inches tall. Persons who knew Hugh denied that the person arrested was Hugh. Nevertheless, the Salt Lake City Police held the arrestee named Joseph Gabriel in their lockup for two days before he was finally released.

According to an article, “The Outlaw,” Time Magazine, June 30, 1952, the boys fled to Texas and later to Minnesota and Montana. Charlie after he reappeared 41 years later recounted that they fled first to Montana and then to Wisconsin and back to Montana. In July 1914 there was a moment of excitement when it was reported that Hugh had been killed near Meacham, Oregon, attempting to rob the Number 5 Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company train. The report, however, was in error. It was three other Cokeville Boys that had robbed the train.

The body at first was identified as Hugh was in fact Charlie Manning who had a wife and four children back in Cokeville. The initial identification was made from a watch inscribed with Hugh’s name. Hugh had given the watch to Manning. Identification was made from a check in Manning’s wallet made out to him and represented poker winnings. Manning had cashed the check in a Cokeville saloon. Unfortunately, the maker had stopped payment on it and Charlie had to redeem the check. The lesson to be learned, never take gambling winnings in the form of a check.

The other two Cokeville boys involved in the railroad heist were Rocky Stoner’s son Clarence and Albert Meador who claimed Kemmerer as his residence. The robbery had been planned for four months in Cokeville.

… Under assumed names the Whitney Brothers enlisted in the Army during World War I and served in France. In 1935 Hugh moved to Canada. Hugh died on October 25, 1951. As a result of which Charley decided to come clean and put his affairs in order. At the suggestion of the Governor of Montana went to Wyoming, pleaded guilty to the Bank robbery 41 years before. He was released to return to Montana. In his confession he blamed Manning for leading the two into a life of crime. Charley died on November 13, 1968.

source: From Wyoming Tales and Trails
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Wyoming’s Outlaw Brothers

photo caption: (l to r) Hugh Whitney, Charlie Whitney and Clarence Stoner before the Whitneys robbed the Cokeville bank in 1911

September 11, 1911, was a bit warmer than Cokeville, Wyoming, residents had a right to expect that late in the summer, but otherwise life in the remote little community continued its normal, placid pace. …

Gene [(Imogene) Collett] was a clerk in the Cokeville Mercantile Co. store, owned by Ben H. Smalley. It was Gene’s job every day about 3 p.m. to walk a couple of blocks straight down the street and deposit the day’s receipts in the State Bank of Cokeville. …

Gene walked through the door and her heart jumped. There was a strange silence in the room and she quickly understood what was happening. Two cowboys, their six-shooters drawn, had all of the customers and bank employees lined up against the wall. She did not have time to consider that she was the only woman in the bank.

It had been a busy day at the store and there was several hundred dollars in cash in her receipt bag. She thought of that and then it occurred to her she knew the bank robbers! In fact, everyone in town knew them. They were not wearing masks.

The one she knew best was Charlie Whitney, who lived in Cokeville. The other was his brother, Hugh, who was considered a major outlaw, especially after that killing on the train earlier that summer. Hugh’s exploits had received tremendous press attention elevating him to celebrity status and here he was in the flesh. Just as the notion struck her that the Whitney brothers were doing the very thing everyone said they would do, Hugh brusquely motioned for her to give him her bag.

“Nothing doing,” Charlie interjected. “We are not robbin’ women. Let ‘er go.”

Hugh quickly pulled back and searching the businessmen lined against the wall spotted a cigar in the pocket of saloon-owner Earl Haggerty. He grabbed the cigar and jammed it into the young woman’s mouth.

“All right, that will keep yer mouth shut; now get out of here and let us finish,” Hugh commanded.

Gene was only too happy to comply and walked out the door. With her went the largest cache the Whitneys could have taken that day. She breathed deeply and rushed to the Cokeville Mercantile store. She did not speak to anyone on the way nor did she sound the alarm.

She dashed into the store and threw the money bag on the counter. Smalley, astonished, asked “what’s the matter? Why didn’t you deposit the money?”

“Because they’re robbing the bank!” was Gene Collett’s simple, matter-of-fact reply. …

The Whitney brothers escaped and were not caught. The bank robbery was the biggest event in the history of Cokeville. It was also the high water mark of the Whitney boys’ outlaw career. Although before and after the robbery all sorts of nefarious activities were attributed to the Whitneys, very little has been confirmed. They were outlaws for only a short time. What makes their story so unusual is what happened following the robbery.

The story did not end until June 19, 1952, when Charlie Whitney surrendered to the governor of Wyoming. That made him the last Old West outlaw. His emotional written confession is one of the most unusual documents in American outlaw history. …

Mary Ella’s brother, Fred, was father of Hugh and Charlie Whitney. The Whitney brothers grew up mostly in Weiser but the family moved a lot. According to Charlie, the growing up years were painful. Their tyrant of a father beat them and gave them only the barest necessities.

Lewis H. Daniels said he knew Hugh Whitney during his younger days around Council and Brownlee Creek, Idaho, and Brownlee, Oregon. Much of this area is now covered by Brownlee Reservoir. Daniels said that in 1908, the Whitney family, consisting of “Ma and Pa Whitney” and eight children, moved to Council. Pa Whitney worked at various jobs and was county road commissioner. Whitney wore red wool long johns the year around. In winter, he wore a shirt and pants but in summer he shed the outer garments and wore just the long johns.

As boys, Hugh and Charlie worked on sheep ranches. By 1907, they were ready to leave and in March of that year they collected their wages and headed for Cokeville where they had relatives. The two brothers worked for Pete W. Olsen, who owned one of the biggest ranches near Cokeville and it was there their troubles began. One story is that Hugh made Olsen angry because he herded the sheep with his pistol or rifle and occasionally maimed or killed an animal.

This habit got to be too much for Ezra Christiansen, Olsen’s foreman, who fired the boys. They stayed at the ranch waiting for Olsen to return from a trip to Evanston. When he arrived two days later, he refused to reinstate them, docked their wages for the damage and told them to leave. Another story is that Hugh became involved in a scheme to collect stray sheep, change the brands and ear marks to match Olsen’s and split the profit with the owner. But after it was done and it was time for Olsen to pay up, the rancher denied he had been part of the plan and refused to split anything. He gave the two Whitneys their wages and told them to hit the trail.

Hugh Whitney was at a disadvantage because of a poker game fracas in which he was suspected of robbing the players of a local saloon. He had no choice but to leave Olsen’s ranch.

The Whitneys left vowing to shoot Olsen on sight. They returned to the range to get their equipment where they spotted Christiansen. Beating him unmercifully, they left him for dead. Hugh snapped off a shot with his pistol killing one of Olsen’s prize rams. A 1914 Salt Lake newspaper account says this fight was between Hugh and Christiansen and that it occurred in June, 1910, in Cokeville. According to that account, Hugh knocked Christiansen down whose head struck a rail knocking him unconscious for eighteen hours.

From other evidence it appears that Hugh and Charlie were discharged at Olsen’s in 1909. Hugh then went to work at the Green River Livestock Company in Rock Springs. He returned to Cokeville and asserted that Christiansen had sent word to the foreman of the Green River company that Whitney ought to be discharged. He was, and then worked for the Beckwith-Quinn Company where Christiansen again tried to get him fired. Whitney sent word to his tormentor that if he did not stop talking about him, he would thrash him at the first opportunity. According to these accounts, this is when Hugh’s fight with Christiansen occurred.”

Deputy Sheriff Dan Hanson tracked Hugh to Green River, arrested him and returned him to Cokeville to be charged with the assault on Christiansen. There was no jail in Cokeville, so Whitney was confined in Frank Mau’s saloon. But Whitney escaped. While absent he was tried and convicted of the assault and fined $50 and sentenced to 60 days in jail. He returned later and got off by paying $35. He then went to Oregon where he was joined by his brother. They returned to Cokeville in April, 1911, which set the stage for the next dramatic developments in Hugh Whitney’s life.

There is no question the Whitneys and Olsen became bitter enemies and the rancher blackballed the brothers from working on nearby ranches. It was difficult for the two boys to find honest work so they were forced to resort to dishonest means. Charlie Whitney, however, blamed Hugh’s entry into outlawry on one Charles Manning. To his dying day, Charlie was bitter about Manning’s role in their lives. Though Charlie mentioned Manning in his confession, he said nothing about Manning who is one of the great mysteries of Wyoming outlawry. There is little doubt he was an outlaw on par with Hugh Whitney but much less is known of him.

… Two other Cokeville badmen were said to be in this gang, Tex Taylor and Tex Long. But it was Manning who asserted leadership and it was he who snared Hugh Whitney into the deadly game. Hugh apparently learned fast. Rose recalled that one night he walked into Tommie Holland’s saloon with a handkerchief tied over part of his face and, pointing a six-shooter at a half dozen men at the poker table, ordered them to put up their hands. A young cowpoke near the culprit, with less judgement than courage, jumped up and pulled the handkerchief from his face. Whitney, his identity revealed, pretended he was playing a joke on his friends. He bought a round of drinks and took a hand in the game. When the game broke up a little before dawn, Whitney had all of the money anyway although it took him several hours longer than he had planned.

As noted previously, the Whitney boys moved to Oregon where they stayed, apparently out of trouble, for two years. Then in April, 1911, they returned to Cokeville. On June 17,1911, the name of Hugh Whitney burst upon the West with sudden force and from that time on Whitney was a major outlaw.

Hugh had been working in Idaho and southern Montana with a friend, called variously Albert Ross and Albert F. Sesler. Not much is known of him except that he was an ex-railroader, age 25, possibly from Butler Island, east of Rigby, Idaho. Hugh and Albert had gone into a pool hall in Monida, Montana, near the Idaho border, with nearly $400 between them. Hugh liked to play cards but was not known to gamble for high stakes.

It is not clear how they were separated from their money but they awoke the next morning with no money to buy breakfast. So they went into the pool hall, held up the bartender and relieved him of the money they lost. They then walked to the railroad station and bought tickets for Pocatello. It is evident they thought they had committed no great crime or they would not have boarded the train.

The bartender telegraphed ahead to have a deputy sheriff board the train at Spencer, Idaho. The deputy, Sam Milton, and Conductor William Kidd came into the car where Hugh and Albert were playing cards with two traveling men. Milton put them under arrest and removed Hugh’s revolver from the holster and laid it across the aisle on a vacant seat.

Then he came at Hugh with handcuffs calling him a “dirty yellow cowardly S.O.B.” and other expletives. That was more than Hugh could take, perhaps remembering the abuse of his father. He grabbed his revolver and shot the deputy twice at close range. In the melee, the conductor grabbed Hugh and he too was shot once at dose range. Both men slumped to the floor. Kidd was mortally wounded and died that night in a Pocatello hospital. The deputy recovered but was handicapped the rest of his life. Three passengers were wounded, none seriously.

As the sound of the last shot reverberated inside the car, Hugh pulled the brake cord and stopped the train. He disembarked south of Spencer near Hamer, Idaho. A posse was formed and members sent for bloodhounds at the Montana prison in Deer Lodge. Possemen, however, were reluctant to enter the brush to look for Whitney. Word was sent to Warren Bailey, who owned the grocery store in Hamer, and who was a deputy sheriff, to look for Hugh. Bailey saw a man on foot on the opposite side of a boxcar on the track and he and a couple of others took rifles and ran after the fugitive.

Also in the Hamer store was Edgar McGill, age about 16 years, who took a gun and unhitched a pony from the rail in front of the store and took up the chase, against the objections of Bailey. Undaunted, McGill plunged into the brush but Hugh Whitney found him first and shot him in the shoulder knocking him from the horse. With more courage than sense, McGill raised to fire at the bandit. Whitney put a slug in the youth’s leg and told him not to follow.

Whitney borrowed the boy’s jacket and mounting the horse, headed east. A reward of $500 was posted for Whitney and his cohort. Whitney was described as “about 23 years; five feet eight inches; 165 pounds; stocky build; very dark complexion; smooth shaven; dark curly hair which comes down over forehead. He always wears a handkerchief around his neck; does not drink but smokes cigarettes; wears high heel boots with nails in the end of heels.”

… Whitney stopped at the McGill residence north of Hamer and bought lunch. He had part of the lunch and some water with him when the posse discovered him. Someone shot through his coat and he dropped the food but escaped. When he reached the Snake River it was at high water and guards were posted at all bridges and ferries. Rube Scott was guarding the bridge near Menan. In the twilight, Hugh rode onto the bridge and Scott stepped out and demanded he halt “and get down off that horse, you dirty yellow coward.”

Hugh spurred the horse at a gallop, shooting as he rode. A bullet struck Scott in the right hand taking off his trigger finger. Scott rolled off the bridge and played dead. Whitney rode on without incident. The next day, June 18, 1911 the posse found Whitney’s trail east of Rigby in the Willow Creek area. He reached the Fall Creek Ranch in Swan Valley and was given a meal by two bachelors, Ed Daniels and Joe Jones. They had not heard about Whitney, but a few hours after he left the posse arrived.

Hugh took the south side of the river up to the Edwards Ranch and the Edwards boys ferried him across. Hugh then rode to the Ralph Janes’ place. Janes and Whitney had ridden for a cattle ranch near Cokeville. Hugh told Janes of his escape and of his intention to get work near Cokeville where his brother was working at the time. When talking with Janes, Hugh did not realize he had killed anyone. He left, heading for Cokeville.

As soon as he found Charlie, Hugh learned he killed Conductor Kidd. The railroad increased the price on his head to $1,500. Hugh could not work at a ranch so he disappeared, perhaps hiding out at Lake Alice. Hugh also may have visited the Wind River Reservation west of Lander because in recent years old Indians there recalled that Whitney was seen with friends on the reservation.

Hugh stayed hidden the rest of the summer. Charlie probably supplied him. Up to this point, Charlie was not sought by the law and lived in town next door to the Ben H. Smalley residence. Dorothy Sornsen, Smalley’s daughter, a child at the time, recalled going to Charlie’s for condensed milk and strawberry jam. Dorothy never saw Hugh there but she remembers Charlie was very handsome.

Though Charlie’s life may have seemed innocent to a young girl, he was in the midst of planning the biggest operation of his life. Charlie in his confession does not say how he and Hugh decided to rob the Cokeville bank, but insists “that nefarious crook in Cokeville, Charley Manning, was the cause of my brother’s downfall. We were green, ignorant and gullible at the time and easy prey for every confidence man that came along and anyone that knew our background knows the reason why.”

He was referring to his blighted youth but the Whitneys were not as unsophisticated as Charlie indicates. Charlie’s confession does not mention the other troubles Hugh got into and in other respects glosses over their early years around Cokeville. No doubt Charley Manning did influence the Whitneys and may have exhorted them to rob the bank. This may have appealed to Hugh because his hated enemy Pete Olsen had large sums of money in the bank.

Some said Manning held the getaway horses in a field just north of the bank. But an account of a couple who saw the Whitneys escape on their horses mentions no one holding the animals. And at least one account claims Manning was in the bank when it was robbed.

According to J. Patrick Wilde, during the first days of September, Charlie disappeared and joined Hugh in hiding. Wilde said on September 6, several persons in Montpelier saw the two and the local newspaper reported it. According to the newspaper account, the brothers the night before robbed the Tom Taylor sheep camp in Salt Canyon. Then the two were seen at the Steward Grocery in Montpelier where they purchased a jug of whiskey, ammunition and a few food items.

Guy Hays, who claimed to know both Whitneys, said he passed them in front of the Capitol Saloon. Marion Perkins, a local freighter, said he passed the two resting in Montpelier Canyon. So apparently the two were riding from camp to camp in the mountains between Montpelier and Cokeville.

On September 11 they acted. They left their horses in a field north of Cokeville. At a haystack yard they hid their rifles. They walked the short distance to the bank. Some say they entered just after noon and stayed an hour or more. Others put the time nearer 3 p.m. There is no doubt they spent some time in the bank waiting for more customers to show and rob since they got so little from the bank. It was reported later that bank officials suspected they might be robbed so they kept most of their cash in a time-release vault. There also is the story the Whitneys waited for the timer to go off.

This much is known: When they entered the bank, the two Whitneys held up cashier A. D. Noblitt. Noblitt said when he turned around he was looking into the muzzle of a pistol held by one of the bandits. Neither Whitney wore a mask and since everyone in town knew them they must have planned to leave the country forever on the proceeds from this raid. They demanded the bank’s money. Noblitt gave them a few dollars from the cash drawer but he said the vault would not open until later.

Disappointed, the two made the cashier and four others line up against the wall and hand over their deposits, jewelry and watches. Then they waited for more customers. As people walked in, each was robbed and told to stand against the wall. In all, fourteen persons were robbed.”

Perhaps to remove suspicion that he was involved. Manning was in the bank making a deposit and shared the fate of the other customers. Before they left, the Whitneys ordered Manning, the cashier and teller into the safe and gagged and tied them. The two shut the door and ran out of the bank. Rose said the Whitneys “gathered up several thousand dollars.” But Wilde said the brothers got only $700 of which $240 came from the bank and the balance from the customers. Wilde said fourteen customers were put in the vault and the door was closed and barricaded. The Denver Post put the take at $100 from the cashier and $300 from eleven citizens. A wire dispatch from Cokeville said the total was $500. Lewis Daniels in his “Snake River Echoes” story said it was $600. This kind of disparity is typical of bank and train robbery reporting at that time.

The biggest loser was businessman Earl Haggerty who lost a $250 deposit. But Haggerty was allowed to keep his diamond ring because the Whitneys knew his wife had given it to him and she had befriended them during their sheep herding days.

Even as the brothers fled the bank the customers were getting out of the vault and giving chase. Henry Wyaman and his wife were at an upstairs window in their hotel next to the bank and saw the Whitneys on the run. Knowing them, Wyman got his rifle and took careful aim out of the window but his wife begged him not to shoot.

A Mexican, Hernando Morino, was the first person on a horse in pursuit of the outlaws and he wished he had not been. He got too close and when a rifle shot penetrated his hat, he dismounted into an irrigation ditch.

Those who began the chase on foot returned to Cokeville to organize a posse and that gave the Whitneys a chance. The posses fanned out and one of the biggest manhunts in the West ensued. The Whitneys fled across Collett Flat where they raided Tim Kirmey’s sheep camp, taking another horse, food and a camping outfit.

The posse using bloodhounds tracked the two to Lake Alice and lost them. The brothers then fled to the Wind River Reservation and rested with friends. As they remained hidden from view, many robberies were blamed on the pair – but their involvement in any of them has never been confirmed. The next spring horses known to have been used by the Whitneys were sold at Cody and two men boarded an eastbound train. In May, 1912, they were reported in Casper and in June they were said to be back in Star Valley. But Charlie said they traveled to Wisconsin where they worked in a saddle shop. They then went to Montana where they sought refuge in the Little Rockies.” In his confession, Charlie said in the fall of 1912 he settled near Glasgow and lived there until 1952.

In June, 1912, someone put a note on the gate post at Pete Olsen’s ranch saying: “If you want to keep harm from you and your family, put $1,500 in a can and have Les (a son) leave it by the post near the bridge on Bear River. If not, harm will come to you and you will be the loser.” It was signed “Hugh and Charlie Whitney.”

Olsen turned the note over to Deputy Dan Hanson and Olsen left for his shearing corrals. Hanson sent word to Sheriff John Ward in Evanston and left to check the Olsen ranch. As he neared the buildings about dusk, he spotted a man lurking near a structure. He called to the man and was answered by two rifle shots, the second of which went through his heart. He was found three hours later by Sheriff Ward.

Hanson lived long enough to give a vague description of his assailant and died in Cokeville. Everyone believed the killer to be Hugh Whitney. The description Hanson gave did not fit. But he could have been mistaken in the approaching dark. People were surprised when two days later Sheriff Ward arrested a drifter-sheepherder named Bert Dalton for the crime. Dalton fit Hanson’s description.

Charlie Manning was questioned and claimed that Dalton was at a meeting with the Whitneys when the crime was planned. In a signed confession Dalton admitted he met with Hugh and Charlie Whitney back of the school house on the night of June 19, 1912. He said he met them, “just by chance” and they wanted him to hold their horses while they got $1,500 but they did not say how. But though he waited for them at the appointed place to hold their horses they never showed up.

Dalton escaped the Evanston jail, but was recaptured and changed his story absolving the Whitneys of any blame and said Charles Manning planned the extortion of Pete Olsen and it was Manning who killed Hanson. Ever after Dalton said Manning had done it and the Whitneys were not to blame, … Dalton served a term in the Wyoming prison for the Hanson murder.

At Glasgow, Charlie was known as Frank S. Taylor and Hugh as George Walter Brown. During World War I, both enlisted using their assumed names, Charlie in the 363rd Infantry of the 91st Division and Hugh in the 23rd Engineers. Both were discharged in1919. They returned to ranching in Montana where they were prominent and well-respected. Charlie took part in church activities, served on the school board and was on the board of directors of a bank! Among his friends was Governor John Bonner of Montana.

In 1935, Hugh, as George Walter Brown, sold his holdings and moved to Canada. He died in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on October 25, 1950. In about a month, Charlie learned of his brother’s death and that spurred him to set the record straight. Governor Bonner suggested he surrender to Governor Frank Barrett in Wyoming and in a letter to Barrett the Montana governor recommended clemency.

The Wyoming governor, startled by this turn of events, mulled over the situation as Charlie began his journey to Wyoming. On December 1, 1951, he carefully constructed his confession. No more simple eloquence can be found in all outlaw history.

Whitney traveled first to Cokeville and spent the better part of a day walking streets he had known more than 40 years before. As he relived those haunting days of youth, he was shocked by the changes. Gone was the bank they had robbed, closed during the Great Depression. The building remained but was now a store. Main Street was paved. The hitching rails had disappeared. He spoke to no one as he walked the streets of his past and remembered those fateful hours that branded him an outlaw.

Then on June 19, 1952, Frank S. Taylor, 63, appeared before Governor Barrett. The governor assigned the case to the Third District Judge H. Robert Christmas. Whitney gave a tearful plea and volunteered to pay back the full sum of money to the community of Cokeville. After ten days of waiting in jail, Whitney was called before Judge Christmas who gave him five years probation saying “no useful purpose can be served by sending you to the penitentiary.”

Whitney left immediately for Montana but his hope for peace went unrealized. His surrender and confession made national headlines and he was continually harassed by newsmen. He traveled a lot, visiting relatives and old friends he had dared not see until his surrender. He died on November 13, 1968, in Hot Springs, Montana, and is buried in the Whitefish, Montana, cemetery.

When Charley Manning learned that the Whitneys were in Wisconsin in the summer of 1912, he tried to blackmail them, threatening to turn them in. That prompted their move to Montana. Despite this, there is considerable evidence that through the years the Whitneys kept in secret touch with some members of their family.

In his confession, Charlie Whitney said of his life: “I sold my birth right for a few tainted dollars that I took from the Cokeville Bank back in September 1911, for my brothers sake and my love and loyalty to him. If we are not punished for our mistakes we certainly are punished by them, and Hugh and I have paid a mighty sum for our mistakes in the form of bitter remorse, tears and regret.”

source: Wyoming’s Outlaw Brothers by Jim Dullenty and Mary Stoner Hadley
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1952 Press Photo. Charles Whitney [R] confess to a bank robbery in 1911. Photo is dated 06-06-1952.

source: Amazon

page updated Dec 10, 2018