A new monument to the Sundance Kid was recently unveiled in Wyoming. Born Harry Alonzo Longabaugh and also known as Harry Place, the Kid had deep roots in the Phoenixville area.
The monument of The Kid was unveiled June 11, 2004, at the Crook County Courthouse. Reed Henschel constructed the background for the statue.
The plaque on the statue reads: The "Sundance Kid" Harry A. Longabaugh served time in our local jail and did take his name from Sundance, WY. Commissioned by the Sundance Area Chamber of Commerce. The statue was created by South Dakota native Edward E. Hlavka.
Longabaugh was believed to be born in the spring of 1867 at 122 Jacobs Street in Mont Clare, based on the census report and tax records. The Longabaugh family also supposedly rented a home at 354 Church Street in Phoenixville.
"If he wasn't born in Phoenixville, he was transplanted here at a very, very young age," said Betsy Daley, executive director of the Schuylkill Canal Association (SCA).
"He had his own library card, issued January 31, 1882, for one dollar by the Young Men's Literary Union in Phoenixville," wrote Linda Moberg in The Sundance Times.
Years after that, the Young Men's Literary Union eventually gave rise to the Phoenixville Public Library.
Longabaugh gained his notoriety at 20 when he stole a horse. After being tried, imprisoned and pardoned in Sundance, Wyo., Longabaugh acquired his nickname, The Sundance Kid.
"Soon after leaving Sundance, history seems to indicate he hooked up with Butch Cassidy and they became the leaders of a group of thieves better known as The Wild Bunch," wrote Moberg. "Together these men were so skilled at escaping the law that the American Bankers Association and the Union Pacific Railroad hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to capture them."
Donna Ernst, who married a great-great-nephew of Longabaugh, wrote "From Cowboy to Outlaw" and "Sundance, My Uncle," the definitive book about the Sundance Kid.
"According to Ernst, before they left the States, Sundance took his wife, Ethel, home to meet his family in Phoenixville and Mont Clare, Pa. This was his first visit home in nearly twenty years," wrote Moberg.
The Pinkerton Detective Agency kept surveillance on Sundance's sisters, Samanna and Emma, in Phoenixville, including reading their mail. Sundance was said to have sent artifacts and letters to his sisters "during one of Phoenixville's celebrations." However, they were destroyed by the family for fear of the detectives locating Longabaugh before he fled to Argentina with Cassidy and his family, where they spent some time as law-abiding ranchers before returning to crime after being located by the Pinkerton agency.
"It is believed they held up a payroll shipment near Tupiza in Southern Bolivia on November 4, 1908, and two days later arrived in the small mining town of San Vicente, Bolivia. Contrary to the famous movie scene, an army did not corner the outlaws as they rested for lunch. A local had recognized the brand on the stolen pack mule and ran to ask the mayor and a couple of local miners to help. One newspaper reported that a total of five or six armed men tried to capture the bandits. Within an hour a member of the posse and both bandits were dead, the outlaws by their own hand," wrote Moberg. "Two unidentified bodies were buried as unknowns in the local cemetery. Rumors abounded for years that these were the bodies of the Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy. To date this has never been proven."
The Kid's sister and parents, Josiah and Annie (Place) Longabough, are buried in Morris Cemetery in Phoenixville. The Longaboughs changed the "a" in their name to an "o" when their "kid" became infamous.
Local enthusiast Ed Naratil has been documenting Longabaugh's ties to the area for years.
"I went through Sundance, Wyoming, in 1948 on a trip to California. The black hills were so beautiful, I swore I'd return. And I did, working for Burroughs," said Naratil.
Naratil was unaware of the Kid's affiliation to the area when he moved here. He hasn't been back to the Black Hills since 1965.
Naratil rekindled his interest in Sundance when he purchased a Sundance sheriff's badge at an auction in Lansdale in 1996. He likes to "collect things" and now keeps track of Sundance-related articles.
"Fate put me into the area he (Sundance) was born and raised, so I figured somebody wanted me to make a folder," said Naratil. "I just want to keep the name alive."