Wild Bunch girlfriend, Laura Bullion, not your average outlaw

Time Before Now – November 1901The Pan-American Exposition opened in Buffalo, New York on May 1, celebrating the progress on the New World nations.  On September 6, President William McKinley was assassinated while delivering a speech at the exposition. It was an especially bad year for leaders.  England’s Queen Victoria died, ending a reign of nearly 63 years.  It remained the longest in British history until 2015, when her great-granddaughter, Elizabeth II bested her record. Writer William S. Porter, better known as O. Henry was released from prison after serving three years for embezzlement.  It was just nine years before he died of alcoholism at the age of 47.  And London engineer, Hubert Cecil Booth revolutionized cleaning with his invention of the motorized vacuum cleaner.  While maids and housewives loved the horse-drawn contraption known as “Puffing Billy,” (right) was widely unpopular with the general public because of the noise it created on the London streets.

November 6,1901

On this day, Laura Bullion,a.k.a. Della Rose, a.k.a., Clara Hayes, Freda Lincoln, etc., was arrested in possession of $8,500 in stolen bank notes and charged with forgery or robbery, one or the other or both.

Bullion (left) wasn’t your run-of -the mill bandit.  During the 1890s she was a member of Butch Cassidy’s legendary Wild Bunch, a verifiable fact surrounding one of the West’s most colorful female outlaws.  The rest of the story is pretty much up for grabs.

Depending on the source, she was born in Texas or Arkansas or maybe Kentucky, possibly of German and Native American ancestry perhaps in 1876.  Her father was believed to be Native American bank robber, James Henry Bullion, and her mother, Fereby Byler, the daughter of respectable German settlers from Tennessee.  

Bullion met William Carver, (right) while he was still just a cowboy before morphing into the outlaw “News” Carver.   He became part of the family when he married Bullion’s aunt, Viana Byler. Viana’s death shortly after their marriage, coincides with Carver’s descent into a lawless lifestyle.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

At age 14 Bullion was a full-fledged cohort of Cassidy’s Sundance Kid, Black Jack Kethum and Kid Curry.  By the time she was 15, she was romantically involved with Carver, who was apparently on the rebound from his romance with the outlaw Jossie Bassett.  Bassett was sister to the even more notorious female outlaw, “The Rustler Queen” Ann Bassett. Some historians have speculated that Ann and Sundance’s girlfriend, Etta Place, may have actually been the same person. (Left, Etta and Sundance)

Carver, like most of the outlaw class, was fickle, taking up with a prostitute named Lillie Davis at Miss Fannie Porter’s Sporting House in San Antonio. By 1901, however, the Carver-Bullion duo was back together; he helping the Wild Buch rob banks and trains, she fencing their stolen goods, supplying fresh horses and ammunition. 

The reunion was short-lived. Carver died April 2, 1901,  shot and killed at the Jack Owens Bakery in Sonora, Texas.  Sheriff E.S. Briant and his deputies were attempting to arrest Carver and the “Tall Texan,” Jack Kilpatrick, on suspicion of the murder of a local rancher.  Carver’s gun never cleared his holster, the story goes, but he was shot five times anyway.  Kilpatrick escaped.

Sonora, 1900

After being caught red-handed with the bank notes, the Tall Texan was sentenced to 15 years in prison, serving not quite a dozen.  Bullion was sentenced to five years, serving three and change in the Missouri State Penitentiary.

Her time behind bars seemed to end Bullion’s wanton life on the wild side. Surfacing again in 1918 in Memphis as Mrs. Maurice Lincoln, she posed as a respectable war widow, housekeeper and seamstress.  She was employed as a drapery maker at Jennings Furniture Company for a number of years. 

In what was described as “reduced circumstances,” she died of heart disease on December 2, 1961, at the age of 85, the last surviving member of the Wild Bunch.  Bullion is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis.

Kilpatrick (right) remained in touch with his former lover while in prison, but they never saw each other again. Bullion reportedly traveled to Atlanta in 1905 where Kilpatrick was serving time but she was not allowed to see him.  Yet another planned reunion was foiled in 1911.  Hoping to meet up after his release, he was re-arrested for murder in Texas.

Unlike Bullion, Kilpatrick wasn’t a lesson learner.  After less than a year of freedom, he was shot and killed on March 12, 1912, in Sanderson, Texas,  during a train robbery.

Sanderson, Texas, circa 1910

The Outlaw and Lawmen Jail Museum, 136 W Bennett Ave, Cripple Creek, Colorado, gives visitors a peek into the accommodations reserved for many Old West bad guys, including Wild Bunch member, Kid Curry.  Located in the 90-year-old Teller County Jail, in addition to touring the original cells, there are displays of the actual police logs, sad stories of  some of the tenants and newspaper accounts of their crimes. Admission is $5 and kids under 11 are free.  The museum is open Friday through Monday from 10 to 5.  For more information, go to visitcripplecreek.com or call (719) 689-6556.

Nearby, the Old Homestead House Museum, 353 East Myers Avenue, isn’t the modest digs of pioneers.  The museum offers a unique look at one of the West’s most luxurious brothels.  Built in 1896 by Denver madam, Pearl DeVere, the cost of a night’s companionship with one of DeVere’s “soiled doves” was reputed to be $250, about $9,000 today.  Open noon to 5, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  For more information go to oldhomesteadhouse.com.

© Text Only – 2021- Headin’ West LLC  – All photos – public domain.

*Head On West strives for historic accuracy and uses a number of sources considered reliable.  When research differs on significant facts, the various points of view will be cited.