Escape to Infamy
by Kerry Ross Boren
William Pinkerton, HEAD OF THE Pinkerton Detective Agency, called Kid Curry the most vicious outlaw in America. "He has not one single redeeming feature," Pinkerton wrote. "He is the only criminal I know of who does not have one single good point."
The Kid was, without question, a cold-blooded killer, perhaps the most infamous in the bloody history of the American West. He was wanted on warrants for fifteen murders, but it was generally known that he had killed more than twice that number. Most of his victims were lawmen, for whom he held a special hatred, and because he was elusive and escaped capture consistently, he was a decided thorn in Pinkerton's backside.
Kid Curry's real name was Harvey Logan. He had been born in 1865 in Morehead, Kentucky, of a good family that had fallen on hard times due to the Civil War. As a lad, he had met Jesse James, who gave him a handful of dime novels that glorified the man as a modern-day Robin Hood, and young Harvey was hooked. He was determined to be as great or greater an outlaw than Jesse James, and some are of the opinion that he succeeded.
Kid Curry was short, solemn, and soft-spoken. He never deliberately started a fight, but was quick-tempered and brave to a fault. During his career as a bank and train robber with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, he was known to drop back alone behind the fleeing gang to single-handedly delay a pursuing posse. As a gunman, he was unequalled and credited as being one of the fastest "draws" in the West.
Though Pinkerton found the Kid irredeemable had many friends and was always warm and gallant to women. Maude Davis of Vernal, Utah, who received a fox fur as a present from Kid Curry, told Pinkerton detectives that the Kid was "a gentleman, clean through." Annie Rogers, whose real name was Annie Marie Thayne -a schoolteacher from Wellington, Utah described the Kid as "a fine man who never said a bad or cross word to me."
The career of Harvey Logan as an outlaw would fill volumes, but no part of his life is more controversial than his final escape into anonymity. It began with a daring escape from an "escape-proof 'jail, and ended, for all intents and purposes, with his own supposed death a few years later.
On July 3, 1901, Kid Curry assisted Butch Cassidy in the robbery of the Great Northern Express train near Wagner, Montana. The Kid fled from Montana, after having first killed a man named Jim Thornton -who bad earlier killed Logan's brother and next appeared in Tennessee.
In the fall of 1901, Kid Curry fell in love with Catherine Cross, a respectable young woman of Knoxville, Tennessee. The Kid, then thirty-six, hoped to retire on a farm with his new wife-to-be and live on the proceeds from the Wagner train robbery. While be courted Catherine Cross respectfully, he was living in a brothel in downtown Knoxville. The two prostitutes who shared his bed later told Pinkerton detectives that the Kid had been one of their favorite customers. Both girls described him as a "sweet and bashful person," who tried to impress them by boasting, "my underwear comes from the finest men's shop in Denver, Colorado."
Kid Curry's plans to marry Catherine Cross were suddenly disrupted by an unexpected incident. On December 13, 1901, the Kid entered Ike Jones's pool hall in downtown KnoxvilIe. After ordering a shot of expensive apricot brandy, he lit a big cigar, took off his coat, and began to shoot pool. He passed himself off as William Wilson, a "railroad Man.''
A little while later, the Kid began gambling with two local men, Luther Brady and Jim Boley. When Brady's game suddenly improved in response to a large bet, the Kid lost his temper and accused Brady of being a hustler. Some other insults were exchanged. The Kid calmly laid down his cue, walked to the bar, and ordered another shot of apricot brandy. He drank the brandy in one toss and scowled for a moment into the empty glass. Then he walked coolly to, the pool table, seized Brady by the neck, and proceeded to strangle him.
Boley tried to come to Brady's defense, but the Kid, continuing to strangle Brady with one hand, pulled a pistol from his pocket with the other hand. He shot Boley, then calmly pocketed the pistol in order to free both hands to continue the strangulation.
Patrons of the pool hall ran to summon the police. Officers Robert Saylor and William Dinwiddie, on patrol nearby, hurried to the scene of the disturbance. As the two policemen entered the pool hall, Kid Curry emptied his six-shooter into their bodies and they slumped to the floor, severely wounded. Even as they fell, the Kid tried to make his getaway out the back door of the pool hall, unaware that the door opened on a railroad cut. He fell twenty feet to the railbed badly spraining his ankle. He managed to reach the woods outside of town by limping down the tracks.
For two days, he wandered through the wooded hills in subfreezing weather, eluding a hundred deputies and bloodhounds.
On December 15, Mr. A. B. Carey of Jefferson City, Tennessee, saw the Kid limping down a country road and recognized him from newspaper descriptions. Carey had recently acquired a telephone in his house, with which he quickly sum- a posse of his friends. The amateur manhunters found Kid Curry huddled over a small fire, and he seemed astonished by the sudden appearance of several men armed with rifles. "He was slow putting up his hands, but he finally surrendered," Carey reported.
When the Kid was searched, he was found to be carrying $2,000 in cash (worth about $20,000 by today's standards) and a baggage check for the checkroom of the Southern Railway Depot in Nashville. There, the authorities found a "telescope bag" that contained three expensive suits and $3,130 in stolen banknotes from the Wagner train robbery.
Although the Kid maintained that his name was William Williamson, his cover was blown when Superintendent Lowell Spence, of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, confronted him in his jail cell.
"This is Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry," Spence said.
"Hi, Spence," said the Kid, smiling.
For a few minutes, Spence stood in front of the Kid's jail cell, writing in his notebook. The notes still exist. He recorded that the Kid stood five feet, seven inches tall, with "jet black hair," "peculiar dark eyes," and "a reserved manner. ...He speaks quietly," Spence wrote, "but positively and is slightly bowlegged. He acts cool and collected."
After Spence left, Kid Curry turned to one-'of his guards and said, "Someday I'll have to kill that man, He's very troublesome."
As soon as the newspapers reported that Kid Curry had been captured, a crowd estimated at two-to-five thousand people gathered outside the Knoxville jail, hoping to get a glimpse of the famous western badman. To please the crowd, Sheriff James W. Fox gave consent for a line of visitors to file past the Kid's cell. Day after day, the lines continued. A Knoxville reporter, who observed this parade, noted that many visitors wanted to shake the outlaw's hand.
The reporter wrote:
Logan stood at the bars of his cell most of the time, receiving and indulging in fun with his visitors. He answered the questions politely unless there were some things asked that he didn't care to make public.
Most of his visitors simply asked how he felt, just to hear the sound of his voice, but some just looked at him as one would at a corpse, then passed on. He was the recipient of many cigars. The public had read in The Sentinel that he did not smoke cigarettes and none of these nor the material used in making them were offered to him...
The outlaw was given some diversion when some WCTU ladies held services on his floor He was a respectful and interested listener After the services, Mrs. Skillman called him to the bars and talked to him for some time privately. Logan gave her a respectful audience.
There was an unusual stir in the afternoon when Sheriff Fox reported his brindle bulldog, "Dock Crocken,, was lost. He is only nine months old and full Oplay. The back gate was left open and he followed someone out, Sheriff Fox will be obliged if anyone who sees the dog will notify him.
Jailer Bell reported that almost 2,000 were turned away. He said some were mountain people who had come down with their rifles, They wanted to see if a western badman was a better shot than they were.
Kid Curry was tried in Knoxville for passing stolen money from the robbery of the Great Northern Express train in Montana. The engineer and conductor of the Great Northern told the jury how their train had been robbed on July 3, 1901.
When the train had halted at Maita, Montana, Ben Kilpatrick (known as the Tall Texan) boarded the coach as a paying customer. Later, as the train was chugging up a grade near Wagner, Montana, Kid Curry leaped from his galloping horse onto the rear of the baggage car. He then crawled over the roof of the baggage car and hid in the tender.
At precisely two p.m., Kid Curry had dropped into the locomotive cab, waving two six-shooters. At the same time, in the passenger coach, the Tall Texan closed his watch, drew a pistol, and began shooting holes in the roof. After gaining everyone's rapt attention, Kilpatrick announced, "Don't worry; we only want the railroad's money, not yours. Everybody sit tight and keep your heads in."
As soon as the train stopped, Kid Curry uncoupled the passenger coaches from the express car. Leaving the passenger coaches stranded on the prairie, the outlaws forced Engineer O'Neil to haul the express car seven miles up the tracks to an isolated ranch, where Butch Cassidy and Deaf Charlie Hanks were waiting with a box of dynamite and a string of thoroughbred horses being tended by a seventeen-year old boy named Charlie Birger and Kilpatrick’s girlfriend, Laura Bullion.
At the trial, a messenger boy named C. H. Smith told the jury how Kid Curry bad held a gun to his head during the robbery. The crowd in the courtroom laughed when Smith reported Kid Curry's words: "All I want from you is Jim Hill's money" (Hill was the president of the railroad at the time).
Young Smith described in detail how the outlaws had blown up the express car's cast-iron safe with dynamite, collecting about $40,000 (about $520,000 by today's standards) in paper money.
As the outlaws were mounting their getaway horses, Smith had called out to Kid Curry, asking for his revolver.
"What for, young fellow ?" the Kid asked.
"Something to remember this event by," Smith retorted.
Kid Curry emptied the six-shooter by firing it into the air, then tossed the .44 Colt revolver to Smith.
As the trial commenced, Kid Curry became sullen and touchy. On one occasion he tried to strangle a fellow prisoner who had scornfully called him a "cowboy." He began to rant against the crowds that paraded past his cell. He draped a blanket over his head "as a protest against being put on display like an animal."
Logan wrote a letter in his cell to a friendin Montana:
I will get out of this scrape yet. I will show these people that they are not dealing with a soft thing. They call me "The Napoleon of Crime, " and you should see how they flock when a trial is on.
And when I get out of this, Ed, look out for me... I'll cut my way through Hell before they'll take me again,
I am now waiting for my sentence. It will be a light one, for the people out here are with me, and I've got all sorts of friends Well, goodbye, old friend, it won't be long before I'll be back in Montana and when I am, there'll be He Il to pay!"
On September 20, 1902, a good-looking woman dropped off a package of gifts for the Kid at the Knoxville jail. Sheriff Fox examined the package which contained several packages of tobacco and six corn-cob pipes with unusually long stems. Suspiciously, the sheriff broke one of the pipe-stems and found a twenty-two-inch steel saw inside of it. After that, guards were posted outside Kid Curry's cell night and day to prevent him from plotting any escape.
Harvey Logan's hopes for a light sentence were dashed on November 30, 1902, when he was sentenced to twenty years at hard labor in the federal penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio. Pinkerton's Detective Agency made every effort to ensure that the Kid's confinement was to be as secure as possible; they didn't want the "Napoleon of Crime" free to pursue his criminal career again. For a few months, while he awaited his case to be appealed, Kid Curry remained in the Knoxville jail, a newer facility which authorities boasted was "escape-proof." Logan determined to escape before he could be moved to the even more secure federal penitentiary.
The Kid was allowed to borrow a broom from the guards when he wanted to sweep out his cell, but as soon as he finished his housekeeping, he had to return the broom to his keepers. One day, as the Kid was sweeping, he stealthily unwound a length of wire from the broom and concealed it by wrapping it around the inside seam of one of his boots.
Outside the Kid's cell was a corridor where his guards were stationed. At the end of the corridor, adjacent to the Kid's cell, was a barred window that overlooked the Tennessee River. By leaning his face against the bars of his cell, he could gaze out of that window.
At 4:15 p.m. on June 27, 1903, Kid Curry walked to the front of his cell and stared out the corridor window. "I think the river is rising from so much rain," he told his guard, Frank Irwin.
Irwin strolled to the end of the corridor to look at the river. It had been mining steadily, but the storm was breaking up and shafts of sunlight struck the water.
"It's a nice, sight, isn't it?" the Kid remarked casually.
"I agreed with him," Irwin later reported, "and was about to turn around when suddenly he tossed this loop of wire from between the bars and twisted it hard."
With the wire around his neck, biting into his throat, Irwin found he could not breathe or cry out. Kid Curry told him, "I've got the advantage of you, Frank, and I'm going to get out of here. If you move I will kill you. Just do as I tell you, don't yell, and you'll be all right."
Irwin was unarmed. As a precaution against having a gun seized by a prisoner, the guards kept their pistols in a box outside the cell corridor. Irwin agreed to do whatever he was told.
After removing Irwin's keys from his belt, the Kid wired the guard by the neck to the bars of his cell. Logan then reached into his mattress and pulled out two ropes made of strips of knotted cloth. He used one rope to tie Irwin's hands.
Irwin's keys unlocked the Kid's cell door, but would not unlock the gate at the end of the cell-block corridor. A few yards beyond the locked gate sat the box containing Irwin's pistols -a .45-caliber Colt and a .38 Smith & Wesson.
Kid Curry, not to be deterred, took one of the ropes he had made and looped it into a lariat. Reaching through the bars of the locked gate at the end of the corridor, he lassoed the box of guns and pulled it to within reach.
"He stuck the guns in his belt," Irwin stated. "Then he took out my pocket watch, looked at it, and replaced it. 'I don't want your watch,' he said, 'I just want to see what time it is. Now call Tom.' I knew that he would kill me immediately if I made any trouble. I could do nothing but call Tom."
Guard Tom Bell later testified:
I was so surprised when he shoved a gun in my face that I hardly realized what had happened. "Open up, Tom," he said. "I'm going to get out of here. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will kill you if you do not open this door " ... There was nothing I could do. I knew the man and I knew he meant every word. I opened the door
With a gun to his head, Bell led Kid Curry out of the jail and into the courtyard where the Kid found a horse belonging to Sheriff Fox. Bell later testified:
The sheriffs bay was out there and so was R. P Swanee, the helper He commanded me to saddle the horse and told Swanee to assist me. When we got the bay saddled, he swung up, a pistol in his hand.
Then, the Sheriff appeared on the porch above us and asked what was the matter. I told him he would soon find out what was the matter if he did not get back into the house. I said this because I knew Logan was ready to kill the sheriff, and the sheriff didn't have a gun.
The Sheriff ran back into his house to get a gun, but Logan galloped out into Prince Street. I ran back into the jail and met Jim, our colored cook, and together we freed Irwin who had been tied by the neck to the bars with a wire lasso.
When we got back to the courtyard, the sheriff had his gun, but by this time he was gone.
At 6:30 p.m. that evening, Kid Curry rode in leisurely fashion up to a country store about five miles outside Knoxville. Several people recognized him and a crowd gathered to stare at the famous outlaw. The Kid admitted his identity and chatted cheerfully, smoking a cigar as he did. Only when he noticed several men getting "into a huddle" did the Kid ride away.
Two weeks after his escape, Logan was seen passing through some small towns in the mountains of North Carolina. A large posse, led by Lowell Spence of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, pursued him there without success.
What became of Kid Curry? In Waxhaw, North Carolina, some residents think that Kid Curry was the mysterious stranger who settled down in their community in the early 1900s. The stranger, who called himself "C.H. Lewis," had plenty of money and came from "out west." He died peacefully in 1948 and was buried in the small town.
The most accepted version of the end of Kid Curry's career was that he was one of three bandits who robbed a Denver & Rio Grande Railroad train at Parachute, Colorado, on June 7, 1904. Logan allegedly was using the alias "Tap Duncan." A posse trailed the outlaws to a gully near Rifle, Colorado. Wounded and surrounded, Tap Duncan shot himself in the head to avoid capture and prison.
The gun used by Duncan was traced to Kid Curry. A month later, the body was exhumed by Lowell Spence of the Pinkerton Agency and identified as Harvey Logan. However, W. T. Canada, chief of detectives with the Union Pacific Railroad, vehemently disagreed with the identification and refused to pay the reward.
The final end to Kid Curry's infamous career is published here for the first time in print.
In 1910, Pinkerton Detective Charles Siringo tried to convince his supervisors that Kid Curry was still alive and that he had only that year single-handedly robbed a bank at St. Johns, Arizona. Pinkerton's refused to believe it, and they would not believe Siringo's report that Logan had been living in South America, where he had joined Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Siringo resigned in indignation and subsequently published several books defaming his former employer.
But Siringo had been correct. Harvey Logan had been living in Argentina under the alias of Andrew Duffy. For many years, he had been foreman of the huge cattle ranch owned by a wealthy Englishman named Reginald Casey.
The Kid had been active in bank and train robberies all over South America, and by 1913, Pinkerton's Detective Agency issued a memo to the effect that they had made a mistake: Kid Curry was still alive. The policy that they adopted was that the Kid was too dangerous to pursue in South America; only if he returned to the United States would they renew their effort to "take" him, dead or alive.
Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry, eventually gave up his criminal career and operated a ranch some 300 miles south of Buenos Aires in Patagonia. He married a Spanish senorita, who bore him eight children According to Logan's grandson, the infamous Kid Curry, "Napoleon of Crime," died in Argentina in 1941 at the age of seventy-six.
The Gunfighter, James D. Horan, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1976.
Desperate Men, James D. Horan, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1949
Old News, "Kid Curry Captured in Tennessee," Richard Sheppard, Marietta, PA.
Personal , interviews with Duane Moran, Paradise, California, grandson of Harvey Logan.