The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang Robbed Trains and Shot People
For some 10 to 15 years the four Curry brothers, Henry, John, Loney and Harvey (The Kid) made the Little Rockies their home and headquarters. Their real name was Logan and the fact that they came to Montana under an assumed name suggests that their past was not pristine before they arrived here in the 1890s. The brothers, along with Harry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid) and Butch Cassidy made up the infamous “Wild Bunch.”
Bill Kellerman was an orphan, befriended and adopted by the colorful Pike Landusky. Kellerman recalls, “A Christmas dance was being held in Landusky [Pike’s Montana town]. That night the Curry Gang shot up the town, including the dance hall. They shot the piano to splinters, broke guitars over the musicians’ heads and generally wrecked the place. The Curry boys were pretty active around the old mining camp the first few months after I arrived. One time, three or four of them rode into a pool hall and played a game on horseback. One of the horses broke through the floor and horse and rider dropped into a dirt cellar. They were always coming into town, getting liquored up and shooting up the camp.”
The Currys had a special beef with Pike Landusky. At one time, the Currys and Landusky were neighbors and got along fine for several years. But somewhere along the line a feud started between them over Loney Curry’s courtship of Landusky’s daughter. Pike had a chance to vent his anger one day when two of the brothers, John and Harvey “The Kid,” were arrested for altering a cattle brand. Pike was the deputy sheriff and reportedly roughed them up pretty good while they were incarcerated. The brothers were released for lack of evidence and swore revenge on Pike.
Christmas of 1894 Pike threw a pretty good party for the town. He had four dozen quarts of Baltimore select oysters shipped in for the celebration. Word got out that Landusky was throwing a grand party. As reported in the Great Falls Tribune, “From that time until the big day the camp was all feverish activity. The big time was all the topic of conversation and fully a barrel of bourbon was licked up in considering details and devising new features. Word had gone over all that sparsely settled country that Landusky was entertaining; they all heard it and they all came.… They drifted in from the badlands 60 miles away, from grassy valleys in the foothills, from the alkali flats farther out, from remote places in the river breaks and from the gulches of far reaches of the mountains. They came in all the vehicles that were known to the time and they brought food enough to feed the multitude in the wilderness, those who didn’t get a break on the loaves and fishes.”
About 100 people showed up for the party. They danced, drank, and ate nonstop for two days and nights. But throughout the celebration there was a tenseness—a feeling that something might explode between the Currys and Landusky. On the morning of December 27, Pike made his usual mid-morning visit to Jew Jake’s saloon. Within minutes of his arrival, Kid Curry entered the saloon. He slapped Landusky on the shoulder, and when Landusky turned around his jaw received a load of knuckles. Onlookers ordered the patrons of the saloon at gunpoint not to interfere. The Kid’s blow knocked Landusky to the floor and the Kid beat him relentlessly to a bloody pulp. When he was certain Landusky was finished, he got up only to see Pike rise and draw his gun. According to the Great Falls Tribune, “It was one of the new fangled automatics that had just come out at that time, and either Pike didn’t know how to use it or it went wrong.… Anyway, it didn’t work. The Kid found himself in a moment, drew his .44 and it was all over. He shot Pike twice in the head—and missed the third time—and Pike battled no more.”
The Curry Gang rode out of town after the killing and hid on the ranch they had established south of the mountains. The ranch was strategically located for a quick getaway and was a good headquarters for the meetings of the Wild Bunch. Sheriff’s officers were sent from Fort Benton and scoured the country following up every lead in search of the Currys.
Sometime towards the spring of 1895 Kellerman recalls walking to the Curry ranch. The Kid, Longabaugh and the cook greeted him cordially and invited him in. The Kid was watching a team and buckboard headed towards the ranch through a powerful field glass. He figured it was the “law” and he and Longabaugh slipped out the back door, mounted their horses and headed for the Missouri River. Kellerman says “I was fooling with the Currys’ pet gopher when the buckboard stopped at the ranch. A man wearing a star stepped down and asked me if anyone was at home. I said ‘no’—figured the less I said the better off I’d be. I’d learned a lot in the short time I had been in Montana.”
John Curry was involved in a shooting episode at the Jim Winters ranch south of the mountains that not only resulted in his death, but, ultimately, the death of Jim Winters. Dan Tressler and his wife had separated and John Curry, whom she planned to marry, took her to a friend’s ranch on the Missouri River. Tressler sold the ranch to Jim Winters and his half-brother Abram Gill. Mrs. Tressler didn’t like the fact that she’d been cut out of the deal and persuaded John Curry to retrieve the ranch for her. Curry sent Winters a note to vacate within a certain period or face the consequences. Winters knew what the consequences would be and kept a loaded rifle behind the door. When the deadline arrived Winters saw Curry approaching the place on horseback. A few shots later, John Curry lay dead. Six months later, Jim Winters took two shots to the stomach while walking to his outhouse. Several agonizing hours later he was dead.
Later, Abram Gill sold the ranch for $10,000 to the Coburn Cattle Company. He left with a down payment check of $2,000 in hand. He and his white horse vanished somewhere between the ranch and Landusky. No trace of him was ever found.
The robbery of the Great Northern “Flyer” at Exeter Creek was probably the most famous escapade of Kid Curry. By now his brothers were dead. John killed by Jim Winters, Loney killed by lawmen, and Henry dead from tuberculosis. This was the last robbery credited to the Wild Bunch. The holdup was believed to have been planned by Curry and Butch Cassidy.
On July 3, 1901, the Flyer stopped for water at Malta. Kid Curry and another accomplice boarded the train. After the train was underway, they made their way to the engine and stuck a gun in the engineer’s back ordering him to stop the train. They ordered the fireman to open the express car where they proceeded to blow the safe and a load of $40,000 in currency into a sack. The money was never recovered and historians differ on what ultimately happened to the Kid.
From The Ultimate Montana Guidebook. For more information and lots of interesting facts and stories about Montana, visit ultimatemontana.com.