Henry Rhodes “Bub” (Bob) Meeks, Jr
Idahoan Bob Meeks’ career in crime consisted of one bank robbery
Butch Cassidy’s foray into Idaho to rob the bank at Montpelier in 1896, with the help of local boys Bob Meeks and Elza Lay, made him a part of Gem State history, and like other Western states, we are quick to claim anybody that famous as one of ours.
Certainly Butch and his “Wild Bunch” have become part of the lore of the Wild West, right up there with Jesse James, the Dalton gang and Billy the Kid. Another name for the informal and constantly changing association of horse thieves and bank robbers who rode with Cassidy was the “Hole in the Wall Gang.”
The Hole in the Wall was a mountain hideout in Johnson County, Wyo., that was already notorious before the Cassidy gang holed up there at the time of the Montpelier robbery. Among those reported to have used this secluded canyon in the 1880s and ’90s were “Laughing Sam” Carey, “Black Jack” Ketchum and “Flat nose” Currie. Meeks, who helped rob the bank at Montpelier in 1896, was not notorious, and this might have been his first crime. In 1897 he was arrested, tried and convicted, and sentenced to 35 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise.
In August 1901, the State Board of Pardons reduced Meeks’ sentence to 12 years on the recommendation of E.C. Gray, cashier of the bank he had helped rob; Joseph Jones, special agent of the Oregon Short Line Railroad; and Alfred Budge, county attorney of Bear Lake County. The Idaho Statesman was much taken with the story of the robbery and Meeks’ part in it, and published an account of it on Aug. 13, 1901:
“The history of the Meeks case is one of the most exciting in the criminal annals of the state. On the 12th day of July, 1896, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, three men rode into the town of Montpelier. They rode down the main street of the town, their horses going at an easy amble.
“Arriving in front of the Bank of Montpelier the men alighted, tied their horses, and went into the bank. At the door they met Cashier Gray and urgently but politely invited him inside. Getting into the bank, two of the men ordered the employees to come out from behind the counter and line themselves up against the wall. They did so, when one of the men, heavily armed, stood guard over them. One of the men then stepped outside the door and watched the street, the other going inside the counter and securing some $7,000 in cash.
“After the money had been procured, the men started back toward the street, and in a moment all three were again seated on their horses and were riding like the wind out of town.”
Cassidy’s later success as a train robber and resourceful dodger of the law makes it obvious that he was the brains behind the Montpelier bank robbery. The escape from the posse was by a ploy Cassidy would use later after a train robbery near Price, Utah, on April 1, 1897. In both cases Cassidy had staked out extra horses on the escape route so that the horses of his pursuers were outrun by fresh mounts.
Meeks decided that 12 years was still too long to spend in the penitentiary and planned to escape at the first opportunity. His first try, on Christmas Eve 1901, failed; on Feb. 2, 1903, he made the attempt again and was shot in the leg. The wound was so serious that amputation was necessary. Despite the missing limb, on March 16, 1903, he somehow managed to scale a prison wall, and in an apparent suicide attempt dove from the wall after shouting, “Hurrah for hell.”
That Meeks was a sympathetic character is suggested by the fact that in April 1903 his fellow convicts raised the money to bring his mother to see him. He was next judged to be insane and sent to the asylum in Blackfoot, where he escaped, was recaptured and was sent back to Boise, where he served out his time and was released in 1912.
Meeks was in prison during the years when Butch Cassidy and his gang went on to become the legend that has inspired several largely fictional movies, notably “Three Outlaws,” with Neville Brand and Alan Hale in 1956, and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the famous 1969 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday.
Butch Cassidy and Two Gang Members Rob Montpelier Bank
Montpelier, ca. 1910. Source uncertain: Wyoming Tales & Trails.
On Thursday, August 13, 1896, Montpelier, Idaho sweltered under a blistering afternoon sun. Three riders walked their horses along a street, trailing a pack mare behind them. Had the local jeweler seen them, he might have recognized the three men he’d hired to gather hay on his ranch near the Wyoming border. His wife, who handled the spread while her husband ran his shop, considered them good workers.
Founded by Mormon colonists in 1864, Montpelier grew only modestly until the Oregon Short Line railroad built a station there in 1884. The three riders stopped first at a general store.
The storekeeper thought the three might be sheepherders. Finished, the strangers remounted and walked their horses east along the street. The time was after 3:00 p.m. when they stopped in front of the bank and dismounted. Two men standing on the board sidewalk glanced at them, didn’t recognize the riders, and resumed their conversation.
They paid sudden attention when two of the men, now masked with bandannas, accosted them with drawn revolvers. Terse commands urged them inside, where they found three bank employees and several customers. The robbers ordered everyone except the Assistant Cashier to line up facing the wall.
The blond, stocky leader held them at gunpoint while the taller bandit stuffed all the bank’s cash money into a large sack. After raiding the vault, the man tossed loose silver coins into the bag, then dumped a stack of gold coins into a cloth bank bag. Finished, he carried the loot outside and loaded the bags onto his horse and the pack mare.
The blond robber waited inside until his partner completed the loading. He warned them not to make a fuss for at least ten minutes, then strolled out to mount up himself. The bandits turned their horses toward the edge of town.
The Cashier hurried to tell the deputy sheriff as soon as the hoofbeats subsided. However, the deputy was mostly a process server and owned neither gun nor horse. Still, willing to try, he grabbed a “penny-farthing” – a bicycle with giant front wheel and tiny rear – and gave chase. He soon gave up, but did find that the crooks had galloped east, towards the Wyoming border.
The bandits had planned well. They apparently used the haying job as a cover while they traced the best escape route and located a spot to hide a quick change of horses. Fortunately, the third bandit, who held the horses ready, had not worn a mask. Outside on the street, that might have attracted unwanted attention. The Assistant Cashier got a good look at him.
That man turned out to be Bob Meeks, a member of Butch Cassidy’s notorious “Wild Bunch.” He was the only one caught and convicted for the robbery. The blond leader was surely Butch himself
For some reason, there seems to be no authoritative answer as to how much the bandits got away with. Reports vary widely, from as little as $5 thousand, to around $16 thousand, to over $50 thousand. A figure of about $7 thousand is most generally accepted. Whatever the amount, none of the money was ever recovered.
source: Evan Filby South Fork Companion
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Bub Meeks The Incidental Outlaw
While most of the pioneers who settled the old West were hard working honest people, the history of the West cannot be told without including a smattering of outlaws. My ancestors moved to Utah with the first Mormon trailblazers. Life was grueling for a family with 11 children. Everyone worked from sunup to sundown. There were bare necessities and no luxury in their lives. From this family came the little-known outlaw, Bub Meeks. He was the brother of my grandfather. They were sons of Henry Rhodes Meeks, Sr. History books, newspapers and prison records call “Bob, Robert, Henry Robert, Wilbur” or “Henry Wilbur” but his real name was Henry Rhodes Meeks, Jr.
Great-Uncle Bub rode with Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch gang. Butch and Bub were neighbors in Circleville and Marysville, Utah, on the Sevier River and “cowboyed around” starting when they were about 20. At one time they were in the cattle business together or at least posing as cattle buyers. Some say, “They were buying one cow and stealing 10.” Others say they met as teenagers.
George Leroy Parker aka: Butch Cassidy reportedly had a loosely-knit group of outlaw friends who comprised more or less three gangs with many of the members being interconnected. They were not a large gang of guys that rode around robbing and shooting up the countryside. There really wasn’t an elected leader. From among those we refer to about six of them as “The Cassidy Gang.” “The Hole-In-The-Wall Gang” had approximately 20 and “The Wild Bunch” was made up of all of them encompassing outlaws from the entire three-corner area of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado as well as Idaho. “Hole-In-The Wall” referred to the outlaws that frequented a certain blind canyon near Kaycee, Wyoming. Every well-known outlaw in the West has been linked to Hole-In-The-Wall and Robbers Roost, in Utah.
A story in the Green River Star (paper) October 24, 1979, quotes Henry Len Meeks (son of William) that “they were a loosely grouped band of juvenile delinquents on horseback, robbing banks and trains to earn easy money.” Some documented stories claim that Butch held contests of horsemanship and marksmanship and Uncle Bub was chosen, along with Elzy Lay and H. B. Murdock, to be “lieutenants” based on those abilities. Bub is said to have been involved in holdups in Winnemucca, Nevada, Logan, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. It would be impossible to sort out which robberies were actually done by Butch Cassidy or his so-called “gang.”
I don’t wish to make this a eulogy to Bub Meeks. He was a criminal. The record is so convoluted that I hope to set it straight. We can never know the whole truth. Bub was quite a character! Remember, it was a different era. Sometimes the only law was hanging on the next guy’s hip. The family members of Bub’s generation said he was “just wild.” He was, indeed, a hellion.
The big cattle ranches (by hook or by crook) were starving out and taking over from the homesteaders. The big outfits were just as ruthless and lawless as any rustler or bank robber. Butch, Bub and Elzy Lay were considered a friend at most ranches. They often worked for the ranchers … and worked hard and honestly. Many ranchers welcomed them into their homes. They were not “good guys,” they were outlaws. The fact that they were popular and often helped poor people does not justify what they did. The Bridger Valley Pioneer (newspaper) stated in about July of 1981 that, (according to Wallace Shurtleff in his book about Bridger Valley, Wyoming), Butch and Bub once rode ten miles to buy some groceries for a misfortunate family who had sickness and trouble. Each member of my extensive family has another Uncle Bub story, learned from Bub or his brothers.
On August 13, 1896, three young men held up the bank in Montpelier, Idaho. Bub held the horses while Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay (also called “Elza” in some accounts) robbed the bank. Uncle Bub was apprehended a year after the robbery, although he was around the area for the entire year. He had been working at a ranch, which placed him in Cokeville, Wyoming at the time of the Montpelier robbery. The two towns are close together by the old west standards. It was well known who did the Montpelier job but Bub was the only one ever arrested for that crime. The papers reported that he “made no effort to provide an alibi and it was rumored that he was involved in the Union Pacific railroad holdup at the same time and was afraid that it would be discovered and he would get a bigger sentence.”
At Bub’s trial, bank cashier and witness, E. C. Gray, sent a letter telling that the man was short and slight and he did not believe it was Bub. The sheriff’s brother defended him. Letters from detective Joseph Jones, special agent of the Oregon Short Line Railway and Alfred Budge, county attorney for Bear Lake, supported him. The day before the robbery, August 12, many say he was seen in Vernal,200-or-so miles away, where he traded a buckskin horse for a mare. That was a mighty long way horseback.
Letters of support were held back until after the trial.
Nine Jurors asked for clemency. One of Bub’s brothers was believed to be the “unknown man” who provided the horses after the Montpelier Bank Robbery, although he may not have condoned dishonesty, he was Bub’s brother. The Meeks brothers raised blooded horses in those days. Bub’s father owned the much-documented “little sorrel mare” that was trained to follow along loose, with a pack, although I’ve heard family members call her “the little yellow mare.”
She was quite a little racehorse and Butch and Bub won lots of won money racing her. She was turned loose and followed the saddle horses carrying the money after the Montpelier robbery and is mentioned in most accounts. It seems odd that the little mare could not sustain the pace and was left behind. Maybe she just didn’t want to keep up. The next day she came trotting into camp with the $16,500 take. The Idaho Historical Society account states that, “Bob Meeks vaguely remembered some story about Robin Hood rescuing one of his band from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s dungeon. Elza Lay’s shout interrupted Bob Meeks’s musing. What appeared to be a tiny speck in the valley was the little Sorrel mare, to Elza’s keen eyes — and she was alone. Meeks waited impatiently for the packhorse to walk into camp but his partners dozed in the shade. The mare rolled gratefully in the red dust when her sack was removed.” How they knew what Bub was musing is a mystery to me, but it sounds really good. None of those three outlaws ever admitted that they did the heist.
Elzy, Bub and Butch had a common friend, outlaw Matt Warner. Warner had been the original ringleader of the whole bunch. He had killed a man and was awaiting trial for murder in Ogden, Utah. The trio cooked up the Montpelier robbery to get money for his defense. After the robbery they retained attorney Douglas A. Preston, in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Preston hired two Utah attorneys to represent their mutual friend, Warner. Matt was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter when it was proven that he had shot in self-defense. He had been shot in the leg.
For his crime, Bub was imprisoned in Boise, Idaho in 1897. His sentence was 35 years, commuted to 12 years, later raised again to 35 and changed once more to 20, and then finally dropped. I’ve seen accounts that allege that he was pardoned but don’t believe that to be the case. Others say he was released. A tangled phase of Bub’s life began behind those walls.
What appears to be Bub’s first escape was during a blizzard on Christmas Eve 1901. With 3 years to go, he was up for parole in 1904. Prisoners were allowed to have small knives to do jobs around the yard. While he was on a work detail near the hog pens Bub cut the traces and leapt onto a work horse (old Selam) and “lit out “Several hundred pictures were printed to be mailed all over the surrounding country and posses were formed. He was captured Christmas Day “up the Boise River.” His sentence had previously been reduced to twelve years but the judge was so angry he increased Bub’s sentence to 35 years again. Later it was commuted to 20 years. (That is documented court record). The Boise newspaper declared that, “His prison record had been one of the best and he had been a model prisoner. He was a semi-trusty. He was good natured and jovial and quite popular among his fellow prisoners.
After a rather halfhearted attempt to cut his wrists, Uncle Bub undertook another escape in February 1902. The Idaho Daily Statesman calls him “Robert Meeks.” He sneaked past a grocery wagon, and sprinted 300 yards before Deputy Warden R. Fulton “shot and struck the ‘fleeting prisoner’ below the left knee, shattering the bone and rendering amputation of the limb necessary.” For reasons known only to him, Bub had taken off his shoes and was in his stockinged feet. The prison account states that less than 30 seconds elapsed between when he ran and when he was shot. It goes on to tell how two guards on the towers shouted to halt and when he didn’t comply they opened fire. It states that Warden Fulton was in his office when the alarm was given. He hollered to the guard to watch the prisoner he was conversing with, hurried to the armory and obtained a rifle and joined the fire. “In less than a minute Meeks stumbled and fell about 50 yards from the warden’s house.” That seems to me a short period of time for the warden to accomplish all that.
I’ve seen the prison and the location of the Warden’s house, office and armory and he must have been a fast mover. Family members always insisted that the leg wasn’t that serious but officials supposed that a one-legged bandit would be no more trouble. Little did they know!
Found in his cell, scrawled on the back of a copy of prison rules, Bub had written:
“Just a word or to sum people say I am not a bleaver in god but its not so I am a bleaver in god the people hav trancelated the bible so much that it may have caused a great meny weak minded men to disbleave in god I would like to sea a cristen world for I love everybody please dont scorn my people throu my down foll hive them a true cristen hand and may god bless all nations. My parents gave me good advice and I clear them of all stain I told Mr. Meacham a story about my brain which was not so I was trying to git to talk with som of the leaden men of this state and if I had I would of pulled through all right I think but I hope it will all be for the best and may gods simpethey be with all nations. I will take advanteg of one little play ruthern to impose up on my political friends god bless all that foll in this starm to justefy men’s evil wishes.”
A poem written by Bub goes:
“My head is dizzy my bones thay ache thay punish me hard for meret sake but sutch is life tha all tell me ive suffered with pain till I can hardly sea but after while this pain will cease through the power of god ill be Released if thrue this fake I make my escape hive credit to the lord he did it for my sake. I bleed for self a little just for a stoll my friends might think I am easy if I look weak and git careless.” (As copied)
“… The lines; “released through this fake I make my escape,” “I will take advantage of one little play rather than impose upon my political friends,” “God bless all that fall in this storm” and the last sentence, “I bleed for myself a little just for a stall. My friends might think I am easy if I look weak and get careless,” suggest to me that the suicide attempt was a ploy, as was believed by all at the time.
In 1903 the now one-legged outlaw was watching a prison baseball game from one of the prisons towers and when it was over he took a dive off the tower. The Statesman reported that, “he was working on the tower” and that, “he was sunning himself from the 35-foot tower.” They write, “he wrote a letter, in lead pencil, on the back of a letter.” The story continues, “he yelled “Harrah for H- -l! Harrah for H- -l! Here goes! … and raising his hands above his head, palms outward, he dived for the ground.” It was reported that when they got him to the prison hospital he grabbed a pair of scissors and struggled with the guards and a doctor while trying to stab himself in the heart. Although some prison records show “no injuries” he did have a broken shoulder. His record shows that after the ball game the officials called for him to come down and he replied that he needed a couple of minutes because his leg was numb. He then yanked the ladder up and “shinnied up the tower like a monkey’ before he dived.
The letter he wrote this time read:
“Boys, I wish you all a long and prospers life but I am a little short on that but I have ben wise to that for a long time I have tried, hord to beat the place but made a fale of it I was rite and I hope you boys will admit it I have tried hard to see my People but I can not but send my body to some of my people please when you git through with it may the world prosper love to all nations from Henry Meeks. I ask you one thing did god demand me to suffer or was it my misfortune things has ben translated so much that it puts men in great study. I am a bleaver in hear after and I bleve ther is salvation for oll no matter how you pass off and I bleave I am right “ (As copied).
Bub unceasingly tried to convince authorities that he was insane but never could “pass the test.” The prison adjudged him insane for a brief time and he was evaluated more than once, but authorities decided he was faking.
After his header off the tower the inmates and guards were worried about him and asked his mother to come and talk sense into him. She couldn’t leave her cattle to make the long horseback ride so they took up a collection and bought her a train ticket. She arrived April 3, 1902 and it was reported that he was better for a while. At first he said he wanted to see her and then decided he wouldn’t, but mama prevailed. He was put on 24-hour suicide watch with the inmates being the watchers. Guards and inmates all liked Bub. He had a charming personality, and was polite and well mannered.
The Idaho Daily Statesman of April 22, 1903, states that he was judged insane and sent to the asylum in Blackfoot, Idaho. All of his newspaper and prison records use the name Bob Meeks. I would bet money that he never corrected that misconception. He was very conscious of the shame he had brought on to his Mormon family. The article says, in part, “It was shown that Meeks was afficted’ (spelled that way) ‘(sic) with suicidical’ (spelled that way) ‘mania and otherwise out of mental balance. His removal from the penitentiary will relieve the prison authorities of a great deal of annoyance as he was a very troublesome prisoner.” The doctors decided that he was “crazy like a fox” and quickly returned him to Boise.
His hospital evaluation showed the notations; “Strength – feeble. Attempted suicide some weeks ago … Fractured left leg by gunshot by Pen guard when attempting escape. Leg amputated soon after … Rather dull delusions of persecution … Eloped (escaped) August 9, 1903:
Prison officials, in their reports, described him as “Large, 6’2″ – 200 pounds” … (prison record shows 5’ 11) affable, courteous.” They also described him as “desperate, and ingenious.” He was never regarded as insane at prison or the asylum. They all said he planned these things months ahead. He just didn’t like being confined. At least twice he was transferred from Boise to Blackfoot for evaluation and he once dug through the wall to the stables there … and escaped.
He was gone for 68 hours. Bub escaped at least twice, possibly three times, from the asylum in Blackfoot. All seem to be after his leg had been amputated. In one attempt they say he dove headlong over the wall. I haven’t seen anything more about that attempt or how it ended. Neither of these escapes matches his final breakout, although I have no information on whether he actually got away when he dove over the wall. His final escape was from Blackfoot. There is sketchy documentation of five escapes.
Although actual prison records I’ve seen don’t mention it, the real story is that he ate soap to make himself sick and was hospitalized at the asylum in Blackfoot. I don’t know how he pulled it off but he absconded with the doctor’s coach mare.
After all those attempts, he finally escaped (one-legged) and never went back to prison. He would have served his sentence by 1909 and was eligible for parole in 1904. The Green River Star reported (after the fact) that he tied up a guard and stole the sheriff’s horse, but the account reported at the time, in Idaho, claimed that on August 9, 1903 he stole the doctor’s coach mare and made his final escape. He was reported to have sent the horse back with a note stating that it was the best horse he ever rode.
The law caught up with him at his brother’s ranch in Fort Bridger, Wyoming. He was a physical wreck and officers sent to arrest him claimed it would be inhumane to arrest him. His sentence was mysteriously reduced to conform to time already served. He had, theoretically, completed his sentence for the robbery and was supposed to begin his sentence for jailbreaks and the record just ends there. The record shows that he was released but that was after his escape. He made at least four, most likely five, attempts at escape from prison and the asylum.
Jed Bullock carved him a wooden peg leg just like his own. I was a bit surprised to read the Idaho Historical Society account that nothing was known about what became of “Bob” Meeks after he sort of disappeared from the penitentiary records. He went back to Wyoming, near Lonetree, and lived there until he finally drove himself crazy waiting for the law to come and get him. He was committed and died in the asylum at Evanston, Wyoming. (Funny: our family always referred to it as the “poor farm”). He used to sit in the top of a cedar tree with a rifle, all day, and wait to be arrested. In 2001, I took pictures of the, now dead, cedar tree with the top cut out. His double-decker barn is also still standing.
I think it possible that, because of the prison records having his name wrong, authorities never found out his real name. Is that also why he was not stricken from the LDS Church records? It would be a shame to do so now. He may have been a criminal, but he was still a part of this family and of history.
I read Butch Cassidy’s sister’s account of his life and was shocked that she didn’t know one thing about Bub, or Bob, Meeks. She was much younger, but the families had been neighbors and well acquainted. I would think that her family would have mentioned him if they ever talked about Montpelier. Maybe they didn’t tell his baby sister much about him.
Butch, Elzy and Bub did at least one train robbery. The three purportedly had an agreement not to shoot anybody. On April 21, 1887 they robbed the Castle Gate-Rio Grande. They removed the Castle Gate Coal Company’s $8,800 payroll. Uncle Bub cut the telegraph wires and waited with relay horses. Cassidy and Lay “stuck-up” paymaster Carpenter as he stepped out of the payroll train and walked toward his office. The infuriated Mr. Carpenter pursued them in a commandeered locomotive. They were quickly out of range of the train and rode for Robbers Roost.
After Castle Gate, Butch and Elzy had ridden south and Bub went to Wyoming where he was arrested at Cheyenne for a failed train robbery the year before. It was noted that when arrested he had only 35 cents in cash.
After a robbery at the Fort Bridger Post Office Bub’s brother, William, was imprisoned for eight years for the crime of harboring an outlaw. The outlaw he harbored was not his brother, Bub. Family legend was that it was Butch Cassidy he went to prison for harboring an outlaw but I don’t think that is true. He not only gave fresh horses to Tom McCarty, Ham Lee and Ike Lee, he cooked them dinner. It was brought up at his trial that he didn’t take a dime and only provided a hot meal.
Eight years was a stiff sentence for William being a good neighbor or brother. Although many believe that Bub was one of the bandits (or the only one) he was arrested and let go for that robbery.
After the Castle Rock (or Castle Gate) holdup Joe Meeks (a cousin) allegedly led the posse in the opposite direction. Another story was told that when Cecil Davis, (an ancestor on Grandma’s side) was the marshal, a posse from Mountain View rode up to Bub’s place. He met them with a Winchester and said, “Boys, if you just came to visit come on in. If you came for anything else, turn around and ride out.” I hear they came on in.
Jack Neal recently told me another story I had forgotten. While robbing a bank (Jack thought, in Evanston), Bub asked Butch if he should take the pennies, too. Butch replied, “Hell yes, pennies make the dollars.” They abandoned the gunnysack of pennies near the edge of town presumably due to the weight.
There is no doubt that Uncle Bub was colorful. He was a product of his time, certainly not his upbringing. It was truly the “Wild West.” Many other families have similar stories in their backgrounds. There weren’t that many people around back then.
The stories get confused and I have tried to illuminate only what really happened. It is said that in about 1910 a deputy named AI Scruggs, (or Scraggs) Uinta County, Wyoming, went after Ab Murdock and Bub Meeks for stealing horses and trading them in Vernal, Utah. I had never heard that Uncle Bub returned to his outlaw ways after his amputation and escape but this story points to that possibility. Scruggs detested Murdock and some say he suspected Ab of having an affair with his wife. Scruggs hid along the trail from where he shot and killed Murdock as he and Bub rode past. He summoned a posse and went after Bub. When they caught up with Bub it was at Bub’s sister’s house in Roosevelt, Utah.
The encounter came at the business end of a Uncle Bub’s Winchester looking Scruggs in the face. The posse turned around and Bub allegedly put his little niece on the back of his horse and rode off with her He was confident that they would not shoot the child. When he was out of rifle range he let his niece off and rode for the other side of the Uintas. He got rim-rocked up in Yellowstone canyon and couldn’t go any further horseback. Bub turned the horse loose, hung his saddle on a tree and walked (with a peg leg) over the Uintas to a sheep camp where Jock Anson and Jewel Rusha were herding. He hid out there about a week. Willis Meeks found the saddle in about 1979, still in the tree where Bub hung it in 1910. Bub Meeks’ Winchester is in the Green River, Wyoming museum. He dropped it when he was bucked off his horse between Lonetree and Brown’s Park. Sometime between 1955 – 1985, Joe Davenport found it and carved on it, “Found by Joe Davenport, a rifle that was lost by one of Butch Cassidy’s men.” It was definitely Bub’s rifle. These stories are courtesy of Henry Len Meeks. (Son of Bub’s brother, William).
Wallace Shurtleff tells in his book that one day one of Bub’s neighbors in Bridger Valley was skinning some dead sheep. He skinned 35 sheep and piled the pelts against a sagebrush. Bub knew the pelts were there and who owned them. A man stole the skins and locked them in a shed. Bub found out about it and in the middle of the night he stole them back and stacked them up against the door of the owner.
He knocked on the door and ran. Shurtleff also wrote that one evening he and his father were doing the chores and Bub Meeks rode up and helped out. His father then told Bub to put his horse in a stall and come in for supper. After eating Bub said he had to go into town to see a man. That night, Shurtleff relates, Bub went into Guilds store and asked Mrs. Guild if he had any mail. From there he met Jess Clark and they went to the saloon. He bought Jess a drink and told him to go home. He said he was supposed to stay at Shurtleff’s but had changed his mind.
The next morning Shurtleff’s father received a call during breakfast that the Bridger store, post office and saloon had been robbed of about fifteen hundred dollars. (The Ft. Bridger Post Office robbery mentioned earlier). Sometime after that, Bub was arrested and taken to the Evanston, Wyoming jail. Apparently the charges didn’t stick because he was never convicted. I found Shurtleff story very confusing as he mixed up this arrest with Bub’s escape from the Idaho penitentiary.
Butch Cassidy could not have been killed in Bolivia, because too many people, who knew him well, saw him at Henry Rhodes Meeks’ (senior) funeral in 1921.
A man described by Henry Len Meeks as, “an old rancher” was actually a former member of the gang. This man went straight. His name was Tom Welch and he and a doctor, named Hawk, built the Tomahawk Hotel in Green River, WY. While running after the Tipton robbery, Tom had been shot in the leg. Tom and Butch were as close as brothers for many years. When Tom heard that Butch died in Bolivia he just laughed and said that it could not be, because Butch came to visit him in Green River in 1924 and he saw him at Henry Rhodes Meeks’ (senior) funeral in 1921. I have copies of several letters Bub sent to Tom, which I will include at the end of this story.
Herman Lajuenness, My brother, Howard Meeks’ former father-in-law, took Cassidy on a pack trip in about 1934. I used to stay with another of Herman’s daughters (Kathy) at his home in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming and knew Herman to be truthful. Butch’s sister said that he visited the family in Utah in 1925. Many people believe that IF it was Harry Longabaugh (Sundance Kid) he was with Tom Dilly when they were killed.
Butch visited with many friends after he was reported dead but few ever admitted publicly that they had seen him. Josie Bassett, originally from Brown’s Park, said she visited with him and Elzy in Baggs, Wyoming. Elzy did visit his relatives (Murdocks) nearby at about the time she mentioned. When questioned years later, by Harv Murdock, Josie said, “I know Butch Cassidy a hell of a lot better than I know you. He was here in Baggs in 1930.” She said she saw him two more times, once in Rawlins and once in Rock Springs. Josie’s former daughter-in-law also saw him a few times.
From Butch’s wild-bunch days another old-timer, Tom Vernon, who knew Butch very well, said he saw him in Baggs in about 1905 and Butch had brought him a set of shot-glassed from the St. Louis World Fair in 1904. He still had the glasses stamped with the date and event when he was interviewed by Kerry Boren. He also stayed a few days with Vernon, in Baggs,sometime in the twenties. Tom also saw Butch after that and produced letters for Boren that had been postmarked in Nevada and Maryland. He said that Butch died in Pahrump, Nevada where he had been prospecting. Ann Bassett, Willis said she had been to the grave.
Bert Charter had once helped Butch rob a bank in Telluride, Colorado and had given up the robber-business to ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. His son Boyd Chartersaid that when he was a kid a man who knew his father camped in the trees at their ranch and took him sage chicken hunting, Bert later told Will Simpson, the prosecuting attorney who sent Butch to prison in 1894, that it was Butch.
The true story of how Butch got his name is the one about Tom McCarty’s old shotgun he called “Butch.” Tom was 25 years older than Butch and Bub and family legend says he, “taught all those kids outlawing.” Butch borrowed the shotgun and some of the “boys” went to the duck pond. The kick from the gun knocked him in the water. They started calling him “Butch” after the shotgun. Some accounts say he got the name when he worked as a butcher in Rock Springs, but he definitely had the nickname a long time before that. William Meeks always called him “Leroy.” History neglects to mention that the butcher shop was supplied by William and Bub Meeks. Do you suppose the beef was all their own?
Uncle Bub stayed with Dad’s family for quite awhile after his escape and he loved kids. He was a crack shot (as well as a crackpot)? He could ride like the wind. It is said that he once shot the heels off his mother’s shoes. A family member told me that my grandmother told that it was my grandfather’s (Jock Meeks) boot heels he shot off. Grandma told that there was a falling-out over a white horse that Bub “borrowed,” without permission, from Granddad. She said he would use whatever horse he wanted then bring or send it back but this one was way overdue and when Granddad went to Bub’s camp to get it Bub shot off his heels.
Half of Wyoming had a Butch Cassidy story. All large families have some skeletons in the closets. Ours just wasn’t ever kept a secret. Bub’s generation rarely spoke of it. Many of them never believed he did it but all his brothers and sisters believed. Now we all wish we had asked more questions and listened better. I’d like to know more about this incidental outlaw.
Henry Rhodes Meeks, Jr. 5/9/1869 – 11/11/1912 Buried Lyman, WY
Bub’s prison letters
The following is all contributed by Richard Popp, who received the information from Kerry Ross Boren of the Outlaw, Lawman, Association. I’ve become acquainted with Boren and he gets his facts pretty straight. He has asked me for permission to use parts of this writing in a book. From having read previous examples of Bub’s prison letters, I think someone must have cleaned up the spelling and punctuation somewhat.
`The following notes were kept in an old trunk in the living room of Tom Welch, former associate of the Wild Bunch who was living, in his 90’s, on Main Street, Green River, Wyoming. Tom allowed me to copy the notes, some written on several creased scraps of paper, some lined, some plain, but would not allow me to have the original notes or for them to leave his possession while he lived. “If you can get them from my family after I am dead, I don’t care what you do with them then” he said, “but don’t mention my name, while I’m alive, in any gawd-damned book.” He meant every word of it.
As a bit of background, these notes were sent to Tom Welch by Henry “Bub” Meeks while he was imprisoned in the Idaho State Penitentiary and the State Hospital South at Blackfoot, Idaho. The following was probably written just before his first escape in December 1901
Tom W. visited me the other day and I am going to send this note out with him, which he will give to you. I could have told him what I wanted you to know like before but I don’t want any detail missed up (or messed up) or looked over because I aim to be out and home by Christmas or pay the price for not making it. Do you know the old tree by the hole in the rock on Burnt Fork? Have me a good six shooter there in the old tree where we always left the mail and make it a 44 with two boxes of dry cartridges wrapped up to keep the snow and rain out of them and the same with the 44. Tom W. is going to get me a fresh horse and stake it out where we talked about and I will be home by Christmas. Will you tell Ma to watch out for me and have my things ready and I will try to go there first but can’t stay. I have one man here who watches me all the time and I know he would like to bring me down but I won’t stay any longer than I can, you be sure of that. Don’t fail me Tom for I will be out on schedule. (Signed “Bub”).
This note was probably written prior to his 2nd attempt to escape – February 1903.
I guess that Tom W. told you that I didn’t make it. God, this place is hell but I am going to be the warden’s good boy until I can make it again. They have spies all over this place and it will take some doing but will you keep in touch with Tom W. and wait until I go again? I don’t know when it will be but when I can get my chance. I am already watching a way which might work but I won’t say until I am ready. Tell Ma to have Joe fix the old cabin on the upper fork for me in case I make it out. I can’t say anything in my letters or they read it all. You have been a close friend Tom and I hope you will stick by me until I am out. (signed “Bub”)
The following note must have been written between April 1903 (when he was in the hospital) and his final escape in August 1903.
It is all set up. By god they won’t stop me this time or if they do I will go down dead before I go back in that prison. They have me in the hospital now and they think a goddammed cripple can’t run but they will find out different soon enough. I have horses enough laid out to get me home but Tom I need a good rifle and six shooter with four or five boxes of cartridges waiting for me at the old tree. If you don’t do it soon Tom they will have me back in the walls and I won’t stand a chance ….Have the guns waiting and don’t fail because I might have a fight of it and I will try to steal one if I can after I get out but a cripple makes a dammed poor thief and I probably will ride hell on for burnt fork and won’t delay… Tom I mean it if I don’t make it this time out I will not live to regret it if I have to do the job myself. They have it in for me in that place Tom and I wouldn’t last another year so one way or another I am going out and I think I can make it from this place so with luck I will be thanking you in the flesh before too long. (Signed “Bub”)
Note: Bub Meeks escaped from the State Hospital at Blackfoot, Idaho on August 9, 1903. I asked Tom Welch if he actually supplied the guns as Meeks asked him to. He smiled and remarked, “Well, he didn’t die in prison. I went to his funeral.”
Although Tom Welch didn’t say so in so many words, he inferred that “Tom W.” mentioned in his notes from Meeks, referred to Tom Widdop, a mutual friend of Meeks and Welch. This later, confirmed to me by George Widdop, brother of Tom Widdop, who said, among other things, “It was my brother, Tom, and Tom Welch who helped Bub Meeks escape from prison. They both rode with Butch once, you know, and they were good friends of Bub Meeks and his family. Hell, I knew Bub Meeks myself, but l thought he was a real hero type, you know, and I used to hang around him all the time until one time I tried to sneak up on him from behind while he watched a rodeo in a meadow at Lonetree. He heard me coming and pulled his gun up under my nose before l knew what happened. Oh, he was mad! He told me in no uncertain terms, “G—damn you, kid, if you ever pull that on me again I will blow your head off” That gun looked like a cannon. Nope, I never tried that again.”
source: Wilma Gaile Meeks, 29 Jul 2013, Ancestry.com Message Boards
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1912 Idaho State Penitentiary
(click image for larger size)
source: Copyright Idaho State Historical Society
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The Idaho State Correctional Institution of Boise, Idaho
In the book, “Butch Cassidy, My Brother”, by Lula Parker Betenson, is the following information about Henry “Bob” Meeks:
“On August 13, 1896, Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay robbed a bank in Montpelier, Idaho. Outside, watching the horses was a third robber, Bob Meeks. After the Montpelier Bank robbery, Butch and Elzy went to work in Huntington, Utah, for Jens Nielson. Bob Meeks, left and was later spotted in Cheyenne by a sharp-eyed railroad detective.
He was arrested and extradited to Idaho and was tried and convicted of the Montpelier Bank robbery. On September 7, 1897, he was sentenced to thirty-five years in the penitentiary in Boise under his given name, Henry Meeks. “The Idaho State Correctional Institution of Boise, Idaho, recorded the following about Bob Meeks.
“We had this gentleman incarcerated under the name of Henry Meeks, received Bear Lake County, Idaho on Nov. 7, 1897 for the crime of Robbery, sentenced to 35 years. He was 28 years old when received, born in Utah, occupation was a rancher. He was ht: 71 in.; comp: dark; hair: black; eyes: lt. hazel. Mr Meeks tried to escape from the penitentiary on two occasions.The first time on 12-24-01; however, was apprehended on 12-25-01. The second time was on 2-23-03 through the front gate; however was shot in the left leg by the guard, and apprehended the same day. Later his leg was amputated. As a result of this he was sentenced an additional 12 years for Escape. He was sent to an insane asylum by the probate court in Ada County on 4-22-03. Mr. Meeks was finally released on 6-6-16.”
source: G. Mathis, Genealogy.com
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Henry Rhodes “Bub” Meeks, Jr
Photo added by SMSmith
Added by WY_Snowcap
Birth: 9 May 1869 Provo, Utah County, Utah
Death: 22 Nov 1912 Evanston, Uinta County, Wyoming
Burial: Lyman City Cemetery Lyman, Uinta County, Wyoming
source: Find a Grave
page updated July 16, 2020