Butch Cassidy bank robbery an inside job — and he wasn’t there, book claims


Legends were retold at a reunion of Old West outlaws’ descendants. But a long-held story about a famous bank robbery in Winnemucca got a new twist. Idaho ranchers Kim and Chet Brackett say it wasn’t Butch Cassidy who robbed the First National Bank in Winnemucca. It was an inside job, and Chet’s great grandfather played a role. Aired in May 2017 on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.

Long before the hit movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were legends of the Old West — celebrities of sorts.

For 100 years, the town of Winnemucca enthusiastically embraced the story that it was Butch, Sundance and other members of the Wild Bunch who staged the daring robbery of the First National Bank, making off with a fortune in gold coins. The tale has been retold many times in Western magazines and history books. For years, Winnemucca celebrated Butch Cassidy days as a tourist attraction.

But is the legend true?

“He didn’t have anything to do with that robbery,” said Kim Brackett, who co-authored a book with her husband Chet, implicating a member of their own family in the robbery. The Bracketts are Idaho ranchers, descendants of Ira Brackett.

“What did surprise me was that … Ira, my great grandfather was involved in it,” Chet Brackett said.

Chet’s great granddad, Ira Brackett, was a master horseman whose talents proved invaluable to the robbery.

The ringleader, though was a tough Texas cowboy named Tap Duncan, who in his later years became a respected owner of the largest cattle ranch in the country, the Diamond Bar just outside of Kingman.

That ranch hosted a family reunion in May 2017 with the descendants of several Old West outlaws. Western historians believe that Tap Duncan knew the so-called Wild Bunch well. So well that some of them, including the notorious Kid Curry, used Duncan’s name as an alias.

“When Kid Curry was shot dead by a posse after a Parachute, Colorado, robbery, he was ID’d as Tap Duncan. He was carrying ID,” said Bob Boze Bell, a Western historian who is related to the Duncan clan.

At the reunion, the Bracketts gingerly told their relatives the story, and why they think Tap Duncan robbed the Winnemucca bank. The book, titled “The Chronicles of Tap,” is based on the hidden stash of handwritten notes found in a house they were remodeling. Written decades ago by Chet’s uncle, the papers described in detail how the gang spent days casing Winnemucca, the route they use to elude the posse and most surprisingly, that this was an inside job. The head cashier at the bank was a politically ambitious man named George Nixon. The Bracketts say Nixon recruited the bandits to rob his own bank.

George Nixon.

Chet Brackett relates the story. “And he says, ‘This is George Nixon, the banker. I’ve got a lot of things going for me, but I got troubles at the bank. And if something’s not done, the bank’s going to go … belly up, and I’m going to be in trouble and it’ll ruin a lot of things.’ So he says, ‘If the bank’s robbed, then everything’s covered and I can continue my political career.’ “

Nixon insisted that no one should be hurt in the robbery and no one was. Nixon went on to be elected U.S. senator from Nevada. Ringleader Tap Duncan returned to Arizona and subsequently acquired a much larger ranch.

At the family reunion, the tale generated a little bit of blowback.

Chet laughs. “Oh, a little bit. No, I mean, not … not seriously. You know, it happened 100 years ago.”

Related stories:

Old West outlaw clans reunite at Arizona’s Diamond Bar Ranch

Butch Cassidy’s trail may not have ended in Bolivia gunbattle

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