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Laura Bullion, "The Thorny Rose"

Updated on June 30, 2015

Wild Bunch

Laura Bullions’ mother was German, and her father, a Native American. She was born in Knickerbocker, Texas near Mertzon in Irion County, around 1876. The actual date is unknown. Sources record her father as Henry Bullion and Fredy Byler as her mother.

Laura’s father was an outlaw running with the likes of William Carver "News Carver" and Ben Kilpatrick "The Tall Texan." Both later became members of the infamous “Wild Bunch” gang. Therefore it was inevitable Laura would eventually meet up with them, which she did around 13 years of age. Her aunt, Viana Byler, married Carver in 1891. But the marriage was short lived as she died soon after from fever.

Following his wife's death Carver became involved with female outlaw Josie Bassett, sister to Cassidy's girlfriend Ann Bassett. However, at 15, Laura became romantically involved with Carver.

Bullion also worked as a prostitute for a time, until reaching the age of either 16 or 17. She is also believed to have returned to prostitution from time to time, working mostly in Madame Fannie Porters’ brothel in San Antonio, Texas, a regular hangout for the gang. A report of her arrest in St. Louis, Missouri in 1901 states her occupation as a prostitute.

Carver-Kilpatrick

When Laura first became involved with Carver, he was riding with Tom Ketchum, leader of the notorious "Black Jack Ketchum" gang. Being an adventurous sort, Laura wanted to join the gang. However, Carver wasn’t too keen on the idea. Later, while a on the run from the law in Utah, Carver signed on with the Wild Bunch gang, led by Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay.

The Wild Bunch nicknamed Laura "Della Rose," a name she got after meeting Kid Curry's girlfriend Della Moore. She was also known as "Rose of the Wild Bunch." Throughout her lawless career and afterwards, Laura was to use many aliases. In an arrest report dated November 6, 1901 her name is recorded as "Della Rose" with aliases Clara Hays and Laura Casey and Laura Bullion. Her profession was again listed as a prostitute.

A New York Times article at the time of her arrest states she was: "…masquerading as Mrs. Nellie Rose." The article continues casting a suspicion Laura might have taken part in a Montana train robbery "disguised as a boy." The article cited the Chief of Detectives as saying: "I wouldn’t think helping to hold up a train was too much for her. She is cool, shows absolutely no fear, and in male attire would readily pass for a boy. She has a masculine face, and that would give her assurance in her disguise."

In the early 1890s, Carver began a relationship with a prostitute named Lillie Davis, whom he had met while at Fannie Porter's brothel in San Antonio, Texas. In turn, Laura became involved with Ben Kilpatrick. As the gang robbed trains, Laura’s main contributions was selling their stolen goods and ensuring they had ample supplies and horses.


By 1901, Laura was back with Carver, but had occasional flings with other members of the gang. When Carver was killed by lawmen, on April 1, 1901, she went back to Kilpatrick. The two moved on to Knoxville, Tennessee where they rejoined Della Moore and Kid Curry. The group remained together for a few months stayed until Della was arrested for passing money linked to one of the gang’s robberies.

On November 6, 1901, Laura was arrested for "forgery of signatures to banknotes" at the Laclede Hotel in St. Louis. She had $8,500 worth of robbed banknotes in her possession, stolen in the Great Northern train robbery. The law soon tracked down Kilpatrick but Curry managed to elude capture. However, during his escape on December 13, 1901, he killed two policemen. The arrested pair was convicted of robbery. Bullion was sentenced to five years in prison while Kilpatrick received twenty years. She spent three and a half years before being released in 1905. Kilpatrick was released in 1911.

Although Kilpatrick had stayed in contact with Bullion by writing letters, by the time he was released in 1911, she had been cavorting with at least four other men. The two never saw each other again. It was just as well, since Kilpatrick was killed robbing a train on March 13, 1912. By that time, the Wild Bunch gang had dissolved. The members were either in prison, dead or had served their time and moved on to other things.

Laura turned up next in Memphis in 1918, using the aliases "Freda Lincoln", "Freda Bullion Lincoln" and "Mrs. Maurice Lincoln." She claimed to be a war widow, her late husband having been Maurice Lincoln. She also subtracted ten years from her actual age claiming to be born in 1887.

She spent the remaining 43 years of her life in Memphis working as a seamstress, drapery maker, dressmaker and interior designer.

Laura died of heart disease at the Shelby County Hospital on December 2, 1961. She was the last surviving member of the Wild Bunch gang. On her grave marker at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, she is identified as "Freda Bullion Lincoln" and "Laura Bullion." Her epitaph, "The Thorny Rose" refers to a nickname used in her Wild Bunch days.

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      Jill Spencer 

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