I-Team: Famous outlaw connections revealed at family reunion

LAS VEGAS - Every family has its dark secrets, an uncle or cousin no one wants to talk about?

You’re about to hear the story of a family whose relatives include many of the most notorious desperadoes in American history.

Two hundred members recently gathered for their first family reunion in 100 years and they invited the I-Team to join them.

There’s a line in a classic Western movie, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."  For the Duncan family, legend and fact have collided often. Until their reunion, many had no idea they were related to so many famous outlaws, or that their patriarch was himself an associate of the infamous Hole in the Wall gang.

If any ghost riders in the sky needed an excuse to converge, the Duncan family reunion at the Diamond Bar Ranch was it. 

Two hundred relatives from all over the country gathered over three days at the ranch and in nearby Kingman to swap stories, learn history, and meet kin they never knew they had. Until he read a newspaper article about the reunion, Lynn Morphew had no idea he was related to the family patriarch, George "Tap" Duncan.

"Then I started reading about Tap Duncan and the history and I'm a little overwhelmed, I must admit pretty exciting," Morphew said.

Cowboy rancher Tap Duncan built the Diamond Bar spread into the largest ranch in the country -- 1.4 million acres at one point. He was a pillar of the community in Kingman, where people tended to overlook his colorful past.

"You can write this down guys. Nothing changes more than the past," said Bob Boze Bell.

Western historian Bob Boze Bell not only wrote about the Duncan clan, he’s related to them. He says family members are often the last to know the truth.

"Think about it. Did your dad ever sit you down and go, well, we had these gals and we did all this illegal stuff and then we killed a guy. "Your dad’s not going to tell you that story. "There’s an old saying. A typical Westerner will punch you in the mouth if you call his dad a crook, but he’ll preen a little bit by telling him that his grandpa was an outlaw," Bell said.

The Duncan clan came from San Saba, Texas, once the edge of the frontier. Their neighbors  and eventual kin were the Ketchums, as in Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, the infamous outlaw who, history books tell us,  met his fate at the end of a rope which by the way is the same fate that befell Tap Duncan’s brother Dick.

Oh, but there’s more.

"Now the Duncans are related by marriage to the Jesse James family. They are related several times over to the Ketchum family and the Ketchum family were a big part of the Hole in the Wall gang," Michelle Drumheller, reunion organizer and Duncan family member.

The Hole in the Wall gang, as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. One branch of the family married into the Parkers, that’s Butch Cassidy’s real name. At times, family members gave sanctuary to outlaws on the run.

"They’d camp down by the water. Grandma Duncan, she’d put supplies together for the outlaws," said Kevin Stockbridge.

In every family, there are the white hats and the black hats. At the reunion, everyone could trace their roots via genealogy charts.

Another branch of the tree married into the James gang.

"They grew up with both Frank and Jesse James and then rode with them and Quantrill. They were pall bearers for both Frank and Jesse James.

However, there are some elements of the family that still don’t want to acknowledge it?


Bob Lane’s grandmother told him a little bit about his great Uncle Jack, a wild buckaroo who coincidentally was in South America at the same time as Butch and Sundance.

The only thing she would ever say was that he died in South America where he fell from a train, and he was in South America chasing diamonds, she said. That was the story.

 


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