Notorious Wild West Shootout Gets The Festival Treatment in Sonora
Almost everyone knows about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The movie was a huge box office success in 1969 and is still very popular. A very famous member of that criminal gang met his demise here in our area in 1901.
This weekend in Sonora, Texas they're celebrating an infamous moment in their history. The Sutton County Historical Society is celebrating the first annual Will Carver Day and the Hole in the Wall Gang.
Who was Will "News" Carver? He was born in 1868. Will was described as a "good looking, quiet, nice boy". Like so many growing up in this part of Texas during the final Wild West years, young Will set out to be a cowboy with his uncle, Dick, when he was 12 years. Will's uncle had already done time at the state penitentiary. The criminal influence started young.
At age 21, Will joined the crew on the Sixes Ranch west of Sonora and there he met the Kilpatrick Brothers, the Ketchum Brothers and the love of his life Viana Byler. In 1892 Will married Viana. Sadly in July 1892, she died from pregnancy complications.
That was when Will Carver embarked on his life of crime. In 1899 Will held up a train in Folsom, New Mexico netting $50,000. He ended up in a shootout with law enforcement that resulted in a dead sheriff and several wounded deputies.
In 1900, Will joined up with Harry Longabaugh alias "The Sundance Kid" and Harvey Logan alias "Kid Currey" and they robbed the Winnemucca National Bank in Nevada.
In November, while hanging out in Fort Worth, Texas, they posed for the famous photo above. This photo ended up getting circulated to law enforcement nationwide. In the photo was Ben Kilpatrick (Sundance) Robert Parker (alias Butch Cassidy) Kid Curry and Will Carver standing left. This photo sealed their fate. After a killing spree around West Texas, in April, 1901, Sutton County Sheriff Lige Briant recognized Will from the famous photo. He also remembered running into Will during his days at the Sixes Ranch, where they were hiding out.
On the fateful evening in April 1901 the gang of outlaws cased the bank in Sonora and were recognized by Sheriff Briant, while they cased the bank in Sonora. Sheriff Briant immediately raised a posse. When the posse faced off with the outlaws, shots rang out in all directions. There were a lot of shots.
Will reached for his gun but was shot before he could fire a shot. He died in the Sutton County jail and was laid out for the public to view in the Sutton County Courthouse. He is buried in an unmarked grave with a stone that only reads "April 2, 1901" The stone was placed by a mysterious veiled woman.
You can tour the Sutton County Courthouse, Wednesdays through Saturdays, and see the gun that killed Will Carver, the bed he died on, and hear more stories about his life and death.
This Saturday the Sutton County Historic society will celebrate Will Carver and the Hole in the Wall Gang Day downtown. There will be Old West reenactments, including the shootout that lead to Will's death. There will also be bed races and loads of food and crafts. You can find out more you can call the historic society at 325-387-3754
Sonora keeps the memory of that fateful day alive and reminds us all that ultimately, crime does not pay. Some $80,000 Will and his outlaws stole is still rumored to be out there somewhere.