Big Nose George Parrot

George Parrot
George Parrot

George Parrot, whose real name was George Manuse was a small time rustler and outlaw with a large nose, hence the nickname. Big Nose had a notorious reputation for robbing freight wagons, stagecoaches in Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.  Afterwards he’d spend the money lavishly in Miles City.

One day back in 1878, he and a friend named Dutch Charlie decided to rob a train near Rawlins, Wyoming. They found a lonely stretch of tracks and were dismantling a rail when a Union Pacific trainman came along on a handcar.  The outlaws ducked in the bushes but the railroader noticed someone had been messing with the tracks so he high-tailed it down the tracks and stopped the train.

A posse was formed and headed out in pursuit of the erstwhile bandits.  A gunfight ensued and two lawmen were killed.  Legendary

U. S. Marshal John X. Biedler, a man hunter of renown took up the trail of the outlaws.

Dutch Charley and Big Nose George split up but the posse soon caught up with the Dutchman in Montana.  They brought him back to Wyoming where he fessed up his deeds.  Unsympathetic locals took Dutch Charley out and stood him up on a whiskey barrel, put a noose around his neck and draped it over the cross ties of a telegraph pole.  Someone asked Charley if he had anything to say before he met his maker and before he could say anything, the widow of one of the slain lawmen stepped out of the crowd and said, “No, the sob has nothing to say,” and she kicked the barrel out from under him.

Next they caught up with Big Nose George.  He confessed too and was sentenced to hang.  However George beat up a jail guard and tried to escape.  Fortunately, the jailer’s wife thwarted the escape.  When the locals got wind of the attempted escape they stormed the jail and hauled George over to a telegraph pole in front of a local saloon and strung him up.

Fans of cowboy artist Charlie Russell are familiar with a painting called “Unscheduled Stop” The painting depicts an outlaw with a mask covering and obvious large nose holding up a stage coach.  On a nearby tree is a wanted poster for Big Nose George.

They strung up big Nose George but that wasn’t the end of the story.  A local doctor, John E. Osborne took possession of the body and the first thing he did was make a death mask, maybe the only one ever done on a western outlaw, which is on display in a small museum in Rawlins.  Next, he sawed open George’s skull to see it his brain was any different from some less ruthless person.  It wasn’t.  Then he skinned Big Nose George and had the hide sent to a tannery in Denver with instructions to make him a pair of two-tone shoes, and a medicine bag. The rest of the outlaw’s remains were stashed in a whiskey barrel and buried.  These were found in the 1950s by construction workers.

The sawed-off top of George’s skull became a door stop for Dr. Lillian Nelson, Wyoming’s first female doctor. The skull and Dr. Osborne’s two-toned saddle shoes can be found today in the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, Wyoming.

Instead of an outlaw reforming and turning into a good guy, Big Nose George was an outlaw who turned into a pair of two-toned shoes and a medicine bag for a frontier doctor.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu