Thursday, May 15, 2014

Etta Place

(The Sundance Kid & Etta Place, NY 1901 via MentalFloss.com)
Katharine Ross as Etta Place with Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid/ Douglas Kirkland, CORBIS(Katherine Ross as Etta Place)

In Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Katherine Ross played Etta Place, the girlfriend of The Sundance Kid, played by Robert Redford.  But who was Etta Place? To this day, no one really knows. 

The things we know for certain about Etta are very limited.  Her birth date is unknown though Pinkerton Detective Agency reports place it between 1878 and 1882.

Her real name is not known.  The maiden name of the mother of Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) was Place but no one knows if Etta was a relative or merely took the name.  And Sundance and Etta may or may not have been married.

In the movie she's portrayed as a schoolteacher but it's considered more likely that Sundance met her in a Texas bordello in 1900.

We do know that in February 1901 they were in New York City where the picture above was taken and from which they sailed to Argentina (not Bolivia as depicted in the movie) where they purchased land and began ranching.  Place owned 2500 acres herself becoming the first female landowner in the country which had just changed its laws to allow women to own land.

It's known that in 1902 and 1904 Sundance and Etta made return trips to the United States evidence of which was later uncovered by the Pinkertons.

Also considered reliable is that in 1906 Etta returned alone to the United States, landing in San Francisco.  It is speculated that as the Pinkerton's grew closer to Butch and Sundance and they fled to Bolivia she tired of life on the run.  Butch and Sundance died in a Bolivian shootout in 1908.

The last semi-reliable sighting of Etta was in 1909 when a woman matching her description visited the American counsel in Valparaiso, Chile seeking help in obtaining a death certificate for Harry Longabaugh.

After that, she disappears.

There are many theories about what happened to Etta and her real identity, but that's all they are - theories, none of which convince THC.  The best summary can be found at CriminalElement.com.

THC is also pretty confident that Etta never rode on a bike with Butch Cassidy while someone sang Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head.

4 comments:

  1. I am pretty certain that I have found Etta before South America. Still looking for her after South America.

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  2. I am her 3x great granddaughter.My aunt has the genealogy to prove it. Her birth name was Clara Etta Richardson. Her first marriage was to a Mr.Jhonson. She was a widow and a mother when she met Sundance. She left her two girls (Marie, her oldest, was my grandpa's grandmother) in a boarding home while she rode around with Sundance. Her last married name was Richter. She died around 1965, making her age estimate 87 at the time. Her daughter Marie died in 1970 of cancer at the age of 75.

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    1. Ps- I have a few more pictures of her that aren't on the internet, and the family bible.

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