The great Winnemucca bank robbery of 1900

Dennis Cassinelli

History records that on Wednesday, September 19, 1900, the First National Bank of Winnemucca at the northwest corner of Fourth Street and Bridge Street in Winnemucca, Nevada. was held up by three unmasked men. The estimated amount taken in the holdup was $32,640.00. Most of this was in the form of gold coin. One of the robbers held a gun on part owner and cashier at the bank, George S. Nixon. He told Nixon to open the safe and give them the gold coins. When Nixon refused, the robber produced a large knife and threatened to cut the cashier’s throat. The second member of the gang held a carbine on the bystanders. There were three other employees and a visitor in the bank at the time but none of these people were harmed. Nixon complied with the demands of the bandit leader and turned over an estimated $32,640 in gold coins which the third robber placed in a canvas bag.

       The three men who committed the daring mid-day robbery were never apprehended and the money was never recovered. In fact, the identity of the robbers was never confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt. Months after the robbery was committed, the Pinkertons group was still conducting their investigation of the robbery for the American Bankers Association. Having made no progress, they sent a copy of a photograph that appeared in Fort Worth Texas to Winnemucca Banker George Nixon to see if he could identify any of the people in the photo. The photo was of five members of the notorious “Wild Bunch” and included Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy) and Harry Longbaugh (Sundance Kid).
          After the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” came out in 1969, it became a cool thing to celebrate the notoriety of these bandits. Winnemucca celebrated “Butch Cassidy Days” every year for several years in remembrance of the now infamous men who they believed committed the Great Bank Robbery. This was more of a tourist attraction than anything else. The Sundance Kid and perhaps two of the other members of the Wild Bunch may have participated in the robbery. Butch Cassidy may have even known about it, but he could not have been there, since he was was planning a train robbery in Tipton, Wyoming
          When the gold was secured, the robbers forced the four employees and the visitor out the back door into a fenced enclosure so no one from the front street could see what was happening. They then escaped over the fence and into the alley where they had horses waiting so they could make their getaway. George Nixon went back into the bank and came out with a revolver as did bank stenographer Calhoun. Shots were exchanged, but there were no injuries on either side. Bystanders at the Reception Saloon heard the shooting and fired a few shots at the escaping bandits but missed.
          The robbers circled around toward the east and when they crossed the White’s Creek Bridge, they dropped a sack of gold and lost some time retrieving it. The bandits continued on , making their way toward Golconda where they had fresh horses waiting.
          Citizens in Winnemucca quickly organized a posse and even fired up a yard locomotive to follow along in an attempt to capture the group. The robbers were able to stay ahead of the posse since they had staged fresh horses about every ten miles in order to make a speedy departure. The road they traveled veered away from the railroad track, so the locomotive proved useless to the chase. They were followed as far as Clover Valley, where they had another set of fresh mounts, then on to Tuscarora. Along the way, the citizen posse gave up the chase.
          The robbers made a clean getaway and no one even sustained a scratch in the robbery or the following shootout. George Nixon quickly sent out an alarm and contacted the Pinkerton group to help apprehend the persons who robbed the bank.
He later was elected a United States Senator and kept a complete file of all the events surrounding the bank robbery. This documentation was used to confirm that Butch Cassidy could not have been one of the people who robbed the Winnemucca Bank on September 19, 1900.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian Dennis Cassinelli who can be contacted at cassinelli-books@charter.net or on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All books sold through this publication will be at a 20% discount and Dennis will pay the postage.
There is still a bronze plaque by the utility pole at the old Winnemucca Bank that proclaims that Butch Cassidy robbed the bank on September 19, 1900. Old legends never die.

Comments

  1. Kim Brackett says:

    Hi Dennis:
    My Husband and I ranch in southern Idaho in a place called Three Creek. A few years ago we published a book taken from the writings of my husbands great uncle Chet Brackett. My husbands name is also Chet, named after him. Uncle Chet was an old bachelor who lived on an isolated ranch without electricity and in later years (he died in the 70’s) he spent his long winter evenings writing stories of his life and those around him to pass the time on the long lonely winter nights. in 1989 Chet bought the ranch that he had lived on and began to remodel the old house that Chet had spent his later years . During this remodel he opened up the attic to make an upstairs and he found among the packrat nests and the spiders a treasure in a old dilapidated box,….the stories. We didn’t do much with those stories right away as we were busy raising a family, paying for the ranch and just life. In 1913 however we hosted a family reunion that would have celebrated his fathers 100th birthday. As we listened to the stories and told of some that we had read we decided that the time had come to write those stories down and share them. We have two books Chet’s reflections and The Chronicles of Tap. In these stories there is an interesting account of the Winnemucca bank robbery. Butch and Sundance did not commit it, Relatives on my husbands other side are the Duncan’s and the Ketchum’s who hail from Texas, Perhaps you have heard of the Ketchum Gang. Tom (Black Jack Ketchum) was hung in Clayton new Mexico in April of 1901 for train robbery part of his infamy is because his head was severed during the hanging by a miscalculated hangman’s noose, and Sam( Tom’s brother wounded earlier in a robbery escape died in prison also in New Mexico in 1899.) Of course these men didn’t commit the robbery but some of our other relatives did. We would love to hear some more of your thoughts and share some of ours with you. Thanks so much! Kim and Chet Brackett

    • Teri Nehrenz says:

      We’d like to hear some more too! Your family history sounds fascinating! Thanks for sharing. Can you share the links for the books with us?

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