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The hole in the wall

September 8, 2013
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Tucked up in Johnson County, Wyoming (northern Wyoming), is a little town called Kaycee. Wyoming has a wild history, and the town emerged during some of the wildest of its history. Still today it boasts itself as a true west town (population 240!) Kaycee is probably most noted for The Hole in the Wall. Located west of Kaycee, this was where Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, (of the Wild Bunch), and the rest of the Hole in the Wall Gang of outlaws hid out frequently.

Although the outlaw period in Western history only lasted about thirty years (1875-1905) the images of cattle rustlers, horse thieves, and train robbers of this area still capture our imagination today. The Hole in the Wall gang actually consisted of several outlaw gangs who used the Hole in the Wall as their hideout. Throughout the years, the Hole in the Wall was home to gunmen such as Jesse James, the Logan Brothers, and George "Flat Nose" Currie. It was towards the end of the century that Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch joined the Hole in the Wall Gang, making this one of the foremost outlaw headquarters along the outlaw trail. Historians claim as many as thirty to forty bandits hung out in six log cabins that they had constructed there.

The nearby Willow Creek Ranch dates back to 1892 when it was founded by Kenneth MacDonald, an immigrant sheep rancher. The areas small ranchers such as MacDonald many times aided the outlaws because they didn't want any trouble, they felt the outlaws somewhat protected them, and there was always the Robin Hood image in that the outlaws rustled from the large cattle barons and robbed trains with well fitted strong boxes!

Each gang of the Hole in the Wall planned and carried out their own robberies, meeting up only when they each were at the hideout at the same time. Between escapades, the outlaws fled back to the Hole in the Wall, whose narrow trail over the red wall made it the only way into the valley from the east. The hideout had all the advantages needed for a hideout, it was easily defended and impossible to access without detection by the outlaws. It contained its own infrastructure, with each gang supplying its own food, livestock, and horses. The hideout was also used as a place for outlaws to lay up during the harsh Wyoming winters.

All in all, the Hole in the Wall was the perfect hideout. Civilization in any direction was a day's ride away, and few lawmen were up to the chase. They also knew that the outlaws closely guarded the trail. In the end, no lawman ever successfully entered the Hole in the Wall during its more than fifty years of active existence.



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