George “Big Nose” Parrott

George “Big Nose” Parrott was an outlaw and cattle rustler.  He was known for banditry and murder and being made into a pair of shoes!

In 1878, Wyoming deputy sheriff, Robert Widdowfield, and Union Pacific detective, Tip Vincent were ordered to track down Parrott and his gang.  The outlaws were wanted for a botched train robbery and were spotted near Rattlesnake Canyon near Elk Mountain.  The law enforcement officers were hot on their trail when the gang heard them.  The robbers quickly put out their fire and hid in the bushes nearby.  When the officers happened upon the camp, they realized the fire coals were still hot.  The gang opened fire and Widdowfield was shot in the face.  Vincent tried to escape but was shot before he made it out of the canyon.  Parrott and his gang stole the officers weapons and one of the horses before covering the bodies and leaving the scene.  Once the murders were discovered, a $10,000 reward was offered and later doubled to $20,000.

A few months later, “Big Nose” and his gang were in Milestown (which is present day Miles City, Montana.)  They continued their robbing ways and, of course, consumed large amounts of alcohol.  During one of their drinking binges, “Big Nose” George and his second in command, Charlie Burris (a.k.a. “Dutch Charlev), were bragging about the killing of the two law enforcement officers, thus identifying themselves as men with a price on their head.  The two men were arrested and Parrott was returned to Wyoming to face the murder charges.  After the trial, he was sentenced to hang on April 2, 1881.  He tried to escape while being held at the jail in Rawlins, Wyoming.  He was able to use a piece of sandstone and a pocket knife to file the rivets on his shackles.  On March 22, he hid in the bathroom until jailor Robert Rankin entered the area.  Parrott struck Rankin over the head with his shackles, fracturing his skull.  Rankin managed to call out to his wife for help.  She grabbed a pistol and persuaded Parrott to return to his cell.  While Rankin was recovering, a group of 200 masked men (who heard of the escape) burst into the jail, held Rankin at gun point, stole the keys, and took “Big Nose” Parrott out of his cell.  The mob strung Parrott from a telegraph pole and lynched him.

Two doctors (Thomas Maghee and John Eugene Osborn) took possession of Parrott’s body after his death to study his brain for clues to his criminality.  The top of Parrott’s skull was sawed off and was presented to 15 year old Lillian Heath, Maghee’s medical assistant.  Heath went on to be the first female doctor in Wyoming and is said to have used it as an ash tray, pen holder, and a door stop.  Parrott’s skin was sent to a tannery in Denver and was made into a pair of shoes and a medical bag.  They were kept by Doctor Osborne, who wore the shoes to his inaugural ball after being elected as the first Democratic Governor of Wyoming.  The rest of Parrott’s dismembered body was kept for about a year in a whiskey barrel filled with a salt solution while the experiments continued.  The barrel was then buried behind Maghee’s office.

Photo from the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins

 

In 1950, construction workers unearthed a whiskey barrel while working on the Rawlins National bank.   The barrel was filled with bones,  a skull with the top sawed off,  and the shoes said to have been made from Parrott’s thigh flesh.  Dr. Lillian Heath, who was in her eighties, was contacted and her skull cap was sent to the scene. It was found to fit the skull in the barrel perfectly, and DNA testing later confirmed the remains were those of “Big Nose” George Parrott.  Today the shoes made from the skin of Parrott are on permanent display at the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins.   The shackles used during the hanging of the outlaw, as well as the skull cap, are on show at the Union Pacific Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. The medicine bag made from his skin has never been found.

 

Photo from the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins
 
 

 





 

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