Two men sat on a bench at the train station in Castle Gate, Utah, once again awaiting the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Western. When the train pulled in on April 21, 1897, the engineer activated a loud steam whistle. The two men exchanged smiles when they heard the blast.


Butch Cassidy and Elza Lay had dropped by the station every afternoon for about a week awaiting the DRGW that arrived with a whistle blast—the signal to miners of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company the payroll was aboard.

Castle Gate got its name from a rock formation that resembled a giant gate near the mouth of Price Canyon. Two sheer sandstone walls flanked the Price River.

Because the mine was located between two well-known outlaw hideouts—Brown’s Hole and Robber’s Roost—company officials took precautions and routinely changing the payday to discourage robbery attempts.

None of the miners knew the when paydays would fall. But And neither did Paymaster E.L. Carpenter. 

Paymaster Carpenter and his assistant heard the tell-tale whistle and met the train. They offloaded payroll bags containing about $7,000 in twenty-dollar gold pieces, currency, and silver.

When the two mining employees walked toward the company office on the second floor of a stone building seventy-five yards away, Butch Cassidy fell in behind them and shoved his Colt .45 into Carpenter’s rib with a clear warning.

“I’ll take the money bags, sir. Stay calm since I’d have to shoot a hole in you.”

Elza Lay sat on his horse a few feet away and watched as Carpenter let the bags of gold fall to the ground. The assistant dropped the bag of silver he was holding.

Cassidy walked over to hand some of the loot to Lay. But Carpenter seized the opportunity and raced up the stairs toward the office yelling a warning about the robbery.

Leaving a bag of silver behind because it was too heavy to lug around the two outlaws managed to escape through the steep and narrow canyon with the payroll.

They left the bag of silver because it was too heavy to lug along.

Mining company officials tried telegraphing the county sheriff, but other members of Cassidy’s gang cut the lines.



Join the StoryTeller Posse
and receive a FREE copy of
“When the Smoke Clears: Gunslingers and Gunfights of the Old West.”

Tom Rizzo invites you to “Discover the Historical West” and read about the characters and events that shaped the American frontier. If you enjoyed the story above, please share it with your friends. Better yet, saddle up for Tom’s VIP Readers Posse in the box above to receive occasional dispatches about adventures on the High Plains & beyond.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>