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Was Duchesne farmer the Sundance Kid?

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 17 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

The grave of William Long, who some believe was actually the Sundance Kid of outlaw fame, is opened so that Long's remains can be exhumed for DNA testing. Long died and was buried in Duchesne.

Craig Ashby, Uintah Basin Standard

DUCHESNE — Is a farmer who died here in 1936 actually one of the Old West's most legendary outlaws?

Etta Forsyth isn't so sure.

Forsyth is the step-granddaughter of William Henry Long, the man whose remains were exhumed from the Duchesne City Cemetery in December for forensic testing to determine whether he is really Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid.

Forsyth, 91, still refers to Long as her "Uncle Billy."

"When Grandma married Bill Long, all the kids by Silas Morrell were older and I think they called him Uncle Billy," Forsyth said. "So we all called him Uncle Billy."

Long married Morrell's widow, Luzernia, in November 1894. She was 36 and had six children from her first marriage, including Forsyth's mother Clara. Long listed his age as 27 on the marriage license filed in Wayne County, which is seven years younger than he should have been, according to the birth date listed on his headstone. (The Sundance Kid was 27 in 1894.)

Clara Morrell would later marry I.G. Robison and give birth to Forsyth and five other children. Forsyth said Long worked for her father on his ranch near the Henry Mountains in central Utah earning $2 a day.

"He'd sit you on his knee and hum to you," Forsyth said. "I can't see how he was a mean man. He was an outlaw, we knew that right from the first, but I don't think he was Sundance."

Long was a good cook who kept a clean house and doted on his wife, according to Forsyth, who was 19 when he died. He was also an accomplished marksman, able to shoot the heads off nails on the family garage with a pistol. It was a pastime he engaged in with his son-in-law, Robison, who served as Wayne County sheriff from 1913 to 1915.

Forsyth said she never heard Long talk about his past.

"If he did, he talked about it to my dad," she said. "Dad couldn't say anything, he was the sheriff."

Still Long did, on at least one occasion, display a propensity for violence. The Oct. 24, 1901, Deseret News reported that Long had pistol-whipped a relative in a dispute over irrigation water. The gun had discharged during the incident, grazing the man's head.

"Uncle George was a water thief," Forsyth said when asked about the incident. "He lived right by the canal and he got (the water) first."

Long, fearing that he'd mortally wounded the man, fled Fremont and vowed never to return if the man died. When he survived, Long returned.

Forsyth said her grandparents later moved to Duchesne at the urging of their daughter, Evinda, who had married a man from the Uintah Basin. She said her father told her Long was gone for two weeks and came back with the money to pay off the land for the family's new ranch.

"He had something hid up to Fish Lake," said Forsyth, who taught in the Granite School District for 20 years.

"Butch Cassidy's nephew was one of my students," she said. "He told me Butch died on his mother's porch, not in South America."

Diann Peck, Forsyth's daughter, said she's found census records that list Luzernia Long as the head of household during the years that Butch and Sundance were living in South America. There are also at least two instances of Luzernia Long purchasing property in her husband's name during the same time.

"I think he and Butch figured on going to Bolivia and making some money," Peck said, "and I think they did."

Historians say Butch and Sundance left the U.S. in 1901 for South America with Sundance's common-law wife, Etta Place. That couple's union would have occurred after Long had married Luzernia, something that doesn't surprise Forsyth.

"I think he was still kind of an outlaw when he went and married (Place)," she said, seeming to concede, at least for a moment, that Long and Sundance may have been the same man.

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