History Moment 7 of 20

by | Jun 24, 2024 | History Moments | 0 comments

Elza Lay (named William Ellsworth at birth in 1868) was a close outlaw friend to Butch Cassidy. Many people consider Elza to be Butch’s best friend. Elza participated in many robberies with the Wild Bunch. He first met Butch Cassidy in 1889, while working on a ranch in Wyoming and became close friends with Butch.

For a while, Elza dated Josie Bassett (born January 17, 1874), One of the famous daughters of Herb Bassett who would often sell outlaws beef and horses. He also worked for a short time on Matt Warner’s ranch and participated in his first robbery with Matt.

In 1896, Elza married Maude Davis, a local girl from the Ashley area. Maude is supposedly one of only five women to have ever been inside the Robbers Roost in Southern Utah. Occasionally Maude’s family would help hide the outlaws when they were in town.

On August 13, 1896 Savvy Cassidy, Elza Lay, and Bob Meeks robbed the Montpelier Bank in Idaho. Later that month, Uintah County Sheriff John T Pope heard a rumor that Elza and Butch were staying at the Davis home and wanted to apprehend them. Sheriff Pope rounded up a posse and headed to the Davis home to investigate and hopefully capture the outlaws. Pope sent one of the posse members inside the home with the facade of hiring the son Albert to do some work for him and to scope things out. In the meantime, one of the young sons was able to run to the cabin where Elza was hiding and warn him before the posse could reach him. The posse then left and saw young Albert Davis on the steps of the Overholt Saloon. When Albert saw the posse he ran inside and warned Butch of the pending posse. Butch was able to escape out the back.

History from the Uintah County History Center — The Outlaw Trail Journal

History Moment 7 of 20