The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang was not one organized gang of outlaws, but rather, was made up of several separate groups and individuals who made their hideouts within the pass in Johnson County, Wyoming.
These outlaws utilized the pass as not only a hideout, but many men used it as their base of operations. The gangs formed a coalition, each planning and carrying out its own robberies with very little interaction with the other gangs. However, at times, members of one gang would ride along with other gangs, but usually, each gang operated separately, meeting up only when they were each at the hideout at the same time.
Geographically, the hideout had all the advantages needed for a gang attempting to evade the authorities. It was easily defended and impossible for lawmen to access without detection by the outlaws concealed there. It contained an infrastructure, with each gang supplying its own food and livestock, as well as its own horses. A corral, livery stable, and numerous cabins were constructed, one or two for each gang. Anyone operating out of there adhered to certain rules of the camp, to include a certain way in handling disputes with other gang members, and never stealing from another gang’s supplies, or stolen cattle or horses. There was no leader of the coalition as each gang had its own chief of command. The hideout was also used for shelter and a place for the outlaws to lay up during the harsh Wyoming winters.
It was a favorite hiding place for the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch Gang who often hid out in an 1883 log cabin which is now preserved at the Old Trail Town Museum in Cody, Wyoming. The Wild Bunch included cattle rustlers and train-bank robbers such as of William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay, Harry “Sundance Kid” Longabaugh, Ben “Tall Texan” Kilpatrick, Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, William “News” Carver, Laura Bullion, and George “Flat Nose” Curry.
Other members of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang included such infamous desperadoes as Camilla ‘Deaf Charlie’ Hanks, Bob Meeks, Bob Smith, Al Smith, Bob Taylor, Tom O’Day, “Laughing” Sam Carey, Black Jack Ketchum, and the Roberts Brothers, along with several lesser-known outlaw gangs of the Old West. Jesse James was also said to have visited the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout.
Several posses trailed outlaws to the location, and there were several shootouts as posses attempted to enter, most resulting in the posses being repulsed, and being forced to withdraw. No lawmen ever successfully entered it to capture outlaws during its more than 50 years of active existence, nor were any lawmen attempting to infiltrate it by use of undercover techniques successful.
The encampment operated with a steady stream of outlaw gangs rotating in and out, from the late 1860s to the early 20th century. However, by 1910, very few outlaws used the hideout, and it eventually faded into history.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated October 2019.