When you meet South Jordan Middle School social studies teacher Chris Voorhees, his passion for history is clear. And for him, studying some old pictures of land his family owns in central Utah launched this inquisitive teacher into an extensive personal research project that could alter the history about one notorious Utahn.
Legendary stories of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and the Wild Bunch are widely known. Butch’s real name was Robert Leroy Parker. He was born in Beaver, UT in 1866, the oldest of 13 children. Butch’s family came to Utah as pioneers and eventually settled near Circleville, UT. He turned to a life of crime in his late teens, eventually becoming a bank and train robber, horse thief and cattle rustler. An award-winning 1969 motion picture loosely details the story of Butch and Sundance.
The history about these criminals has been largely settled for years. However, Mr. Voorhees’ personal research, assisted by fellow SJMS social studies teacher Brett Freeman, may put a kink in the timeline and could potentially alter history books.
While researching some pictures found at BYU, of his family’s property near Indianola, UT, Chris ran across a photo that by all appearances is from the fall of 1901. The picture is of a railroad crew that was working on a rail line which cut through the property Chris’ family currently owns. Looking closer at the picture, and with the help of a forensic artist who specializes in facial recognition, he discovered that two of the individuals in the photo bear an uncanny resemblance to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, based on other known pictures of the outlaws.
At issue is that most historians believe Butch and Sundance left the United States for Argentina in February 1901, along with Sundance’s companion Etta Place. However, if the picture Mr. Voorhees discovered truly depicts the wanted criminals, the long-held belief of historians that they left the country in early 1901 comes into question. This could shake up some of the historical literature about the infamous Utahn and his sidekick.
Jordan School District truly appreciates teachers like Mr. Voorhees and Mr. Freeman who go above and beyond to be great role models to their students and follow their passions.