South Dakota December 06, 2017
One Of The Most Insane Bank Robberies In U.S. History Happened Right Here In South Dakota
South Dakota’s early history is full of outlaws and intrigue. You’ve certainly heard about the
murder of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood. In fact, Deadwood was one of the most dangerous places in the nation in the 1870s. But it was the quiet little town of Belle Fourche that was the site of an insane bank robbery in 1897.
Thanks to businessman Seth Bullock, the little town of Belle Fourche was a prosperous spot in the 1890s.
The town served as a hub for livestock shipping, and by 1897 a lot of money was changing hands here. The Butte County Bank in Belle Fourche had a bunch of cash in its vault, and some infamous outlaws were looking for a heist.
The Sundance Kid and some of the notorious Wild Bunch robbed the bank on June 28, 1897. It was a disaster from the start.
The men thought they'd take the bank for around $30,000. Instead, they got away with just $100 after a neighboring shop owner came into the bank right in the middle of the holdup and sounded an alarm.
The above photo, taken in Fort Worth, Texas, shows the Wild Bunch in 1900, some of whom were involved in the robbery.
By the time the gang was ready to attempt their heist, Tom O'Day was stumbling drunk after enjoying himself a little too much in a neighboring saloon.
The gang left him outside the bank to mind the horses so they could make a quick getaway. In the space of just a few minutes, O'Day managed to lose his own horse.
When the gang came running out of the bank, alarm sounding, O'Day panicked and hid in the outhouse behind the saloon.
He was quickly captured and was forever after notorious as the guy who couldn't even watch the horses and was captured in an outhouse. Tom did later go on to have an illustrious career as a horse thief. When he was caught, he charmed the judge into just a six year sentence, serving three and a half years before he retired on a ranch somewhere to live out his life in peace and quiet.
A posse caught up to the rest of the gang in September, and started shooting.
During the shootout, Kid Curry's horse was shot, and he took a bullet in the wrist.
After the horse collapsed, the posse captured Kid Curry, Walt Punteney and either the Sundance Kid or George Currie (accounts vary).
The three men were taken to Deadwood to be held for trial.
They escaped, stealing horses and gear to get away...but two of the men were promptly recaptured. In the end, they managed to walk free without any jail time, but it sure turned out to be a huge hassle for a mere $100.
Other than Tom O’Day, who had a reputation as a clumsy, but affable drunk, the other men involved in the bank heist were all accomplished criminals. They had experience robbing trains, engaging in shootouts and stealing horses, and the fact that they botched the Belle Fourche bank robbery was both amusing and embarrassing (depending on whose perspective you take).
Have you heard the stories about the Belle Fourche bank robbery?
Here’s a more charming bit of South Dakota history. Take a look at these
14 nostalgic photos of South Dakota at Christmastime.