10 Famous Outlaws of the Old Wild West

Billy the Kid in 1881.
Billy the Kid in 1881.

The Old Wild West was a period in the history of North America that started after the Civil War and continued to the start of the 20th century. There were many (in)famous outlaws and bandits that lived during that age, and here is a top 10 list of men and women that left a significant mark in the history of the Wild West. 

James Butler Hickok aka Wild Bill Hickok

As was the case with many of the outlaws you are going to read about here, Wild Bill Hickock operated on both sides of the law. He served as a Union soldier, he was doing scout work and he became a sheriff. However, he ended up switching to the dark side completely. 

Wild Bill killed two men, and because of those crimes he was put to trial and in both cases he was released. During his sheriff duties in Kansas’ Ellis County he put down two men and his gunslinger reputation soon rose. In 1871, while he was serving as a Marshall of Abilene, Kansas, he had problems with other outlaws like John Wesley Hardin and Phil Coe. Living in a dangerous town, doing such a dangerous job and dancing around both sides of the law, Wild Bill Hickok was shot down during a poker game in Deadwood, South Dakota. 

Henry McCarty aka Billy the Kid

Also known as William Henry Bonney, Billy the Kid is remembered as one of the most ill-famed outlaws of the Wild West. There is no certainty when talking about the year when he was born, but it is suspected that it was 1859. The outlaw career of Billy the Kid began very early, at the age of 15. 

Being an orphan, Billy the Kid, resorted to criminal activities as a young teenager. He started to steal horses and by the time he was only 17 he already killed a man, saying it was in self-defense. In the years that came after, Billy the Kid built up quite a reputation. He fought for two gangs, the Regulators and the Rustlers and it is believed that during that time he killed 21 men in gunfights. 

Although he was sentenced and was to be hanged for the killing of Sheriff Brady, Billy the Kid managed to escape before he was executed. However, on July 14, 1881, the outlaw finally met his destiny when Pat Garett located him and shot him. Billy the Kid was only 21 when he died.

The Dalton Gang

The Dalton Brothers were most famous for their bank and train robberies. The gang was, as the name suggests, a family business. Three brothers, Emmet, Robert and William all took part in the criminal activities. The oldest of them, William, unsurprisingly, also worked as a U.S. Deputy Marshall and had his first taste of blood when he was only 19 while on duty.

In 1892, the Dalton Gang decided to rob two banks in Kansas that were in the same street in the town of Coffeyville. They wore fake beards as a disguise, but that did not help. As soon as they stepped out of the bank, the people from Coffeyville opened fire. Two out of three brothers were dead, and only Emmet lived but only to spend 14 years in prison in the Kansas Penitentiary. 

John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardin started his criminal career when he was only 15 years old, shooting down a young black boy during a brawl. After that, he immediately put down two more people that were out to get him because of what he did. J.W. Hardin killed around 30 people during his killing spree.

Arrested in 1877, he served 15 years in prison when he was caught by the Texas Rangers. After he got out, he stopped with outlaw lifestyle, but only to be shot in a saloon while playing dice, in 1895. 

Pearl Hart

Miss Heart was born in 1871 in Canada. She came from a wealthy family and had her chance to live a life free of crime, but yet she chose differently when she ran away to Chicago with a gambler Frederick Hart. She left him soon after, because Hart was very abusive. 

She then went to Arizona, and along with her partner Joe Boot, did a series of robberies. Pearl Hart seduced the men, Boot would smack them in the head once they entered the room and that was a method that served them well.  After they robbed a stagecoach, they went off into the desert and were found soon after. Pearl Hart was released after only 18 months in prison, and it is suspected that she got pregnant there and the court of law did not want to disclose how did that happened while Hart was incarcerated. 

Robert Leroy Parker aka Butch Cassidy

Born in 1866, Butch Casidy was the leader of one of the most successful gangs in Wild West history. Butch entered the world of outlaw activities by robbing cattle and horses, while working at the butcher shop, hence the nickname Butch.

After he left prison in 1894, serving his 18 months sentence for stealing a horse, he rejoined his infamous Wild Bunch. They started a spree of bank and train robberies which were well prepared and immaculately executed. The events surrounding his death are inconclusive. Some believe he was shot down after a failed robbery attempt in Bolivia, while others believe he and his partner Sundance Kid returned to live in the US under aliases. 

The Buck Gang

This group of outlaws was consisted of African Americans and Creek-Indians. They got their name after Rufus Buck, who was the alpha and omega of their criminal operations. The Rufus Buck Gang was infamous for the two-week spree where they robbed, raped and murdered numerous people around the Fort Smith area. Just one year after they were formed, the group was caught by Marshall S. Morton Rutherford and all of them were executed on July 1, 1896. Interestingly, the Rufus Buck gang members were the only men executed because of raping in Fort Smith. 

Laura Bullion 

Born in 1876, Laura Bullion was of Native American descent and as a teenager she joined the Wild Bunch of Butch Cassidy. She was known as the Rose of the Wild Bunch. 

Laura was the one selling all that the Wild Bunch stole and she was a key asset to the gang while they lasted. In 1901 she was arrested and spent more than three years in prison. She settled down in Memphis, Tennessee, where she worked as an interior designer. She died in 1961, as the last member of the Wild Bunch. 

Dodge City Gang

Under the leadership of Hyman G. Neill, also known as Hoodoo Brown, the Dodge City Gang robbed stagecoaches, trains, murdered people and engaged in various corruptive activities. They were active in Las Vegas, New Mexico from 1879 to 1880.

Hoodoo Brown was the mastermind of all the operations, because he was working as a coroner in Las Vegas. He used that position to cover up the murders the gang committed around Las Vegas. That was short lived, as they were finally stopped and arrested in the summer of 1880. Hoodoo Brown was banished from the town and many other members decided to leave as well and so came the end of the Dodge City Gang.

Bonnie Parker

Bonnie Parker was born in 1910 in the town of Rowena in Texas. She was a successful student who wanted to become an actress. However, her priorities changed when she met Clyde Barrow in 1930. 

After falling in love with Clyde, Bonnie joined his gang and immediately started with robberies and murders. Bonnie and Clyde went on a crazy two-year robbing and killing spree. They robbed in 5 different states and killed 13 people along the way. In 1934, they were finally stopped by the Texas Ranger called Frank Hamer, who ambushed and killed them on a remote road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. 


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