Thursday, May 30, 2024

Hollywood character based on Coryell native

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In September of 1969, a movie was released titled “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross. The movie premiered in Gatesville on June 24, 1970, at the Town & Country Theatre with the opportunity to win Butch Cassidy’s bike. An actor in the movie, Timothy Scott, portrayed a native of Coryell County, William Carver.

The movie tells the story of Wild West outlaws Robert LeRoy Parker, known as Butch Cassidy, and his partner Harry Longabaugh, and the Sundance Kid, who were on the run from a U.S. posse after a string of bank robberies.

Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch” of outlaws was considered one of the most loosely-organized outlaw gangs operating out of the Hole-in-the Wall, near Kaycee in Wyoming. The Hole-in-the-Wall hideout was a natural fortress of caves with a narrow entrance that was constantly guarded.

One of the members of the Wild Bunch gang was a young man named William “News” Carver. Carver was born in Coryell County on Sept. 12, 1868, to George Alfred Carver and Martha Jane Rigsby Causey. His father’s family had settled in Coryell County in the 1860s.

Following his father’s disappearance from the family, his mother remarried, and soon afterwards young Carver became employed with the Half Circle Six Ranch in Tom Green County before venturing west to Wyoming and Utah.

He later met and married Viana E. Byler, who was the aunt to future female outlaw Laura Bullion. Viana died less than six months into their marriage and, it was at that time, that Carver entered his life as an outlaw.

By 1896, Carver was riding with the “Black Jack” Ketchum gang, taking part in numerous robberies in New Mexico, and becoming friends with outlaw Ben Kilpatrick.

Following a failed robbery, he fled to “Robber’s Roost” in Utah where he began riding with Cassidy’s Wild Bunch Gang. That was when he gained the nickname of “News” for supposedly seeing his name in newspaper stories about the gang’s exploits.

On Aug. 29, 1900, Carver, Kid Curry, Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid robbed a Union Pacific train near Tipton, Wyoming, with a take that exceeded $30,000. The gang then split up to avoid the advancing posses that were pursuing them. It was at that point that Carver fled south. He was later involved in the robbery of a Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana.

A humorous story about one of Carver’s robberies was included in True West magazine in a story written by Marshall Trimble. He wrote, “On Sept. 19, 1900, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and members of the Wild Bunch were on their way to Winnemucca, Nevada to rob a local bank. On the way to town, they had to cut their way through a barbed wire fence. Bill Carver took a pair of wire cutters from his saddle bag and was cutting the fence when a skunk suddenly appeared on the scene. Bill drew his pistol, fired, and missed. The skunk fired back and hit. While the rest of the gang whooped and hollered, Carver attacked the skunk. The hairy critter’s aim was deadly and when Carver tried to re-mount his horse, the animal shied away, wanting no part of him – neither did the Wild Bunch. Carver was forced to ride into town at the distant rear of the gang. Inside the bank, even the tellers held their noses when he approached. The clerk’s kept sniffing, and finally Carver snapped, ‘Dammit, I can’t help it. He got me first.’”

Carver continued to ride with the Cassidy boys and was included in the famous Fort Worth Five photograph, which included Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Harvey Logan (Kid Curry), and Ben Kilpatrick.

Following Butch Cassidy’s and the Sundance Kid’s flight to South America, the remaining members of the Wild Bunch returned to Texas in hopes of escaping from a posse that was pursuing them.

Carver made a trip to Senora, Texas, where he planned on robbing the Senora bank, but was shot and killed while in a bakery in the town. On the night of April 2, 1901, Carver was shot six times. Before he died, he was heard to say, “Die Game, boys.”

His humble beginnings in Coryell County ended in a barrage of bullets back in his home state.

Carver was buried in the Sonora Cemetery with a simple tombstone that does not include his name - only the date of his death, April 2, 1901.

In the 1969 movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, William Carver’s character is included and played by actor Timothy Scott who would later appear in the series Lonesome Dove.