George Parrott, who was also known as Big Nose George, was a small time cattle rustler and highwayman in the American Wild West in the late 19th century. He was reputed to have a large nose, hence the nickname.
Big Nose and his gang enjoyed a successful career robbing freight wagons and stage coaches. In those days, all business transactions were done in cash, and coaches often carried large amounts of paper money especially during paydays.
One day back in 1878, Big Nose’s gang decided to try their luck on a Union Pacific train that was carrying payrolls for its employees.
They found a lonely stretch of tracks near Medicine Bow River, in Wyoming, loosened a spike in the rails and waited for the train to arrive. But a sharp-eyed railroad employee spotted the tampered rail, repaired the damage and alerted lawmen before the train could arrive.
Big Nose George and his men fled to Rattlesnake Canyon at the base of Elk Mountain. Hot on their heels were two law enforcement officers— Wyoming deputy sheriff Robert Widdowfield and Union Pacific detective Tip Vincent.
When the officers arrived at Rattlesnake Canyon, they saw the ashes of a campfire that was hastily stamped out. As Widdowfield stooped to feel the ashes to see how recent the fire was, a shot from the bushes stuck him in the face killing him instantly. Vincent turned and tried to run but was shot next.
The Union Pacific Railroad immediately put a bounty of $10,000 on the head of Big Nose George. This was later doubled to $20,000.
George and his men remained at large for the next two years, until Big Nose got drunk in a bar in Miles City, Montana, and boasted of the killings at Elk Mountain. He was arrested and hauled back to Rawlins, where a trial court found him guilty and sentenced to hanging.
Ten days before the scheduled execution, on March 22, 1881, George Parrott made an attempt to escape. Using a pocket knife, he sawed through the rivets on the heavy leg shackles that bound him and struck jailer Robert Rankin in the head cracking his skull. Despite being injured, Rankin managed to call out to his wife, Rosa, who grabbed her husband’s pistol and ordered George Parrott to return back to his cell.