Cops don't chase dead men. Or at least that's what outlaw Joe Walker thought.
It seems Walker planted headstones with his own name on them throughout the San Rafael Swell, presumably in a shallow attempt to convince lawmen he was really dead and they should stop chasing him.The lawmen stopped chasing him all right. But only after they riddled his body with bullets as he slept in his bedroll near Green River.
Today, Joe Walker's resting place is in the Price Cemetery. But almost 100 years after his violent death, the story of Joe Walker continues to unfold.
The Bureau of Land Management has located one grave in the San Rafael Swell that bears Joe Walker's name and an 1897 date - the year before he was actually killed. And there are reports of a second grave with Walker's name along the San Rafael River near Buckhorn Wash.
"We dug into one where we should have found a body and we hit bedrock about three or four inches down," BLM archaeologist Blaine Miller said. "You couldn't have buried anyone there if you had wanted to."
There is nothing in any written history of the time that anyone actually believed Walker was dead before the May 13, 1898, shootout.
Buried alongside Walker in the Price Cemetery is the body of a Wyoming cowboy who happened to be camping with Walker - a young man mistaken by the posse for Butch Cassidy.
Historians are still divided as to whether the man, Johnny Herring, was an innocent victim of a gun-happy posse orwhether he was indeed an outlaw. But at the time, local lawmen were convinced they had bagged the infamous Butch Cassidy.
They still thought it was Cassidy six days later when the Eastern Utah Advocate reported: "Cassidy and Walker after emptying their revolvers started to run. Walker fell about 60 feet from the bed with a bullet through his head and another pierced his heart. Cassidy fell shortly after with a bullet through his heart."
The colorful account made good reading, but may not have been true. Other historians, basing their accounts on medical reports after the shootings, say both men were killed in their bedrolls before they had a chance to reach for their guns, and that the bullets pushed fabric from the bedrolls into the wounds that killed the two men.
While local officials were emphatic the dead man with Walker was Butch Cassidy, the two men who surrendered at the scene insisted it was Johnny Herring.
The warden of the Wyoming State Penitentiary, who knew Cassidy from a prison stint served there, actually traveled to Price, exhumed the body and determined it was not Butch Cassidy.
Local legend has it Butch Cassidy even sneaked into Price to view his own remains, which were put on public display along with Walker's. Newspapers of the day ran photographs of the dead men as a "warning" to the Robber's Roost gang.
Today, nothing really is known about Johnny Herring, only his name and that he was from Wyoming. The two men who survived the shootout said Herring had rode into camp the night before.
Butch Cassidy may have been alive and well, but Walker, one of the most famous outlaws of his day, was still quite a prize.
According to historians, Walker first showed up in Price, claiming to be related to one of the most prominent families in the area. The family dismissed his persistent claims, and in 1895, in a fit of anger, Walker shot up the entire town of Price.
The Texan, in his 40s, then fled to Robber's Roost where he began a career of cattle rustling and horse stealing. In March 1897, Walker was suspected of taking three horses belonging to J.M. Whitmore of Price, and of the same family to which Walker had earlier claimed a blood relationship.
A posse followed Walker into the San Rafael Swell, but Walker escaped. But not before shooting and seriously wounding Sheriff Azariah Tuttle.
A couple of months later, Walker and Butch Cassidy joined forces for a particularly daring robbery in Castle Gate, north of Price, of $7,000 in gold. While Cassidy and another bandit, Elza Lay, robbed the mine office, Joe Walker was cutting telegraph lines near Helper to prevent authorities from sounding the alarm.
It seems the end for Walker came after he robbed two cowboys of 25 head of cattle and their two saddle horses. The cowboys walked to Price and summoned help, and a posse of 11 men - including J.M. Whitmore - was dispatched.
They found Walker and three other men sleeping in an unguarded camp in the Book Cliffs.
The actual circumstances of Walker's death remain shrouded in cowboy romanticism. Serious question exists among modern historians about Whitmore's role in the killing and about whether the men were shot in cold blood without a warning to surrender.
In keeping with local tradition, Walker and Herring were buried outside the bounds of the Price Cemetery. But the cemetery expanded, eventually surrounding the unwelcome outlaw graves.
A stone engraving with historical background now marks the graves.