Posts Tagged With: legends of the west

The Legend of Black Bart

Born Charles Boles, Black Bart was known for being a skinny, short and bald, man. To enhance his qualities he took on a supernatural look. He wore a long white linen duster over his clothes, and a flour sack with cutout eye holes over his derby-topped head. Never owning a horse, he walked to his crimes, carrying a shotgun so old and rusty that it wouldn’t shoot. In fact, the weapon was never loaded. Black Bart always worked alone, although he would frequently create decoy gunmen for back-up, placing wooden sticks on boulders to stimulate their rifles. Bart’s strategy was deceptively simple psychology. He would wait at a dangerous bend in the road where the stage was forced to creep along slowly. At just the right moment, he emerged as an apparition in the deepening twilight.  As a gentleman bandit he plagued the stage lines of Wells Fargo and Company for over eight years during the 1870s and 80s. He relied on his quick feet for getaways, melting ghost-like into the brush. His deep, and hollow voice and polite confident manner added to this ghostly effect. Demonstrating a squeamish sense of humor, he frequently left a poem handwritten on foolscap paper in the emptied strongbox, which infuriated Wells Fargo officials. The two most often quoted of these Poems were;

First at the scene of the August 3, 1877, holdup on a stage traveling from Point Arena to Duncan’s Mills it Read:

I’ve labored long and heard for bread
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you’ve tread
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
—Black Bart, 1877  The  P O 8

The second verse was left at the site of his July 25, 1878, holdup of a stage traveling from Quincy to Oroville. It read:

Here I lay me down to sleep
To await the coming morrow
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow

Let come what will, I’ll try it on
My condition can’t be worse
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis money in my purse.
—Black Bart The  P O 8

The Legend begins in late 1849, when Boles and two of his brothers, David and James, took part in the California Gold Rush. They began mining in the North Fork of the American River in California. Boles mined for only a year before returning home in 1852. He soon made a second trip to the California goldfields, accompanied by his brother David and another brother, Robert. Soon after their arrival tragedy struck and both David and Robert became ill and died in California. After mining for two more years Boles then moved to Illinois, changing the spelling of his surname to Bowles and marrying Mary Elizabeth Johnson. They had four children. By 1860, the couple had made their home in Decatur, Illinois.

The American Civil War began in April 1861. Bowles enlisted in Decatur as a private in Company B, 116th Illinois Regiment, on August 13, 1862. He proved to be a good soldier, rising to the rank of first sergeant within a year. He took part in numerous battles and campaigns, including the Battle of Vicksburg, where he was seriously wounded, and Sherman’s March to the Sea. On June 7, 1865, he was discharged in Washington, D.C., and returned home to Illinois. He had received brevet commissions as both second lieutenant and first lieutenant. After the long years of war, a quiet life of farming held little appeal to Bowles, and he yearned for adventure.
By 1867, he was prospecting again in Idaho and Montana. Little is known of him during this time, but in a letter to his wife in August 1871 he mentioned an unpleasant incident involving some Wells, Fargo & Company employees and vowed to extract revenge. He then stopped writing, and after a time his wife assumed he was dead, which is thought to have been the beginning of his criminal career. Over the next eight years Bowles was known for nearly 30 robberies in Oregon and Northern California, taking the names Black Bart, Charles Bolton, C.E. Bolton and Charley to his friends.

Bart was a Gentleman robber, on his first robbery in Calaveras County one of the passengers was so frightened she tossed out her purse. Bart returned the purse to the Woman and saying “Madam, I do not wish your money, in respect I honor only the good office of Wells Fargo.”

Bart’s list of crimes date from 1875 to 1883 to his capture:

1. July 26, 1875, Calaveras County: Robs stage en route to Milton, four miles from Copperopolis. Taken: $160 in gold notes and contents of a U.S. Mail pouch.

2. Dec. 28, 1875, Yuba County: North San Juan to Marysville stage. Taken: Unknown.

3. June 2, 1876, Siskiyou County: Nighttime robbery on the Roseburg, Oregon, to Yreka, California, route. Taken: $80 plus mail sack contents.

4. Aug. 3, 1877, Sonoma County: Between Fort Ross and Duncan Mills, on Russian River. Taken: $300 in gold coins and a $305 check. Poem: First poem.

5. July 25, 1878, Butte County: Quincy to Oroville stage. Taken: $379 in coins, $200 diamond ring, $25 watch and mail sack cash. Poem: Second poem.

6. July 30, 1878, Plumas County: LaPorte to Oroville stage. Taken: $50 in gold, a silver watch and mail sack cash.

7. Oct. 2, 1878, Mendocino County: Cahto to Ukiah stage. Taken: $40, a watch and money from mail sacks.

8. Oct. 3, 1878, Mendocino County: Covelo to Ukiah stage. Taken: Unknown.

9. June 21, 1879, Butte County: Stage from Forbestown to Oroville. Taken: Unknown.

10. Oct. 25, 1879, Shasta County: Nighttime robbery on the Roseburg, Oregon, to Yreka-Redding, California, stage. Taken: Undisclosed sum from Wells Fargo and $1,400 from mail pouches.

11. Oct. 27, 1879, Shasta County: Alturas to Redding stage. Taken: Unknown.

12. July 22, 1880, Sonoma County: Point Arena to Duncan Mills stage. Taken: Undisclosed sum. Whether robber was Black Bart remains a point of contention.

13. Sept. 1, 1880, Shasta County: Weaverville to Redding stage. Taken: A little more than $100.

14. Sept. 16, 1880, Jackson Cty. OR: Second nighttime robbery of Roseburg, Oregon, to Yreka, California, stage, occurring one mile north of state line. Taken: Approximately $1,000.

15. Sept. 23, 1880, Jackson Cty. OR: Roseburg, Oregon, to Yreka, California, stage, robbed three miles north of border. Taken: Nearly $1,000 and mail sack.

16. Nov. 20, 1880, Siskiyou County: Roseburg, Oregon, to Redding, California, stage, south of state line. Taken: Unknown.

17. Aug. 31, 1881, Siskiyou County: Final robbery of Roseburg, Oregon, to Yreka, California, stage. Taken: Unknown.

18. Oct. 8, 1881, Shasta County: Midnight robbery of Yreka to Redding stage, near Bass Hill. Taken: $60.

19. Oct. 11, 1881, Shasta County: Alturas to Redding stage stops at Montgomery Creek for harness repair and is robbed again. Taken: Unknown.

20. Dec. 15, 1881, Yuba Count: Downieville to Marysville stage. Taken: Wells Fargo reports “small loss.”

21. Dec. 27, 1881, Nevada County: North San Juan to Smartsville stage. Taken: Wells Fargo reports “small loss.”

22. Jan. 26, 1882, Mendocino Cty.: Ukiah to Cloverdale stage. Taken: Unknown.

23. June 14, 1882, Mendocino Cty: Willits to Ukiah stage. Taken: Estimated $300 and mail sack contents.

24. July 13, 1882, Plumas County: Shotgun blasts foil Black Bart at LaPorte to Oroville stage. (A buckshot pellet creases the robber’s forehead, leaving a deep scar.)

25. Sept. 17, 1882, Shasta County: Second robbery of Yreka to Redding stage at Bass Hill. Taken: Thirty-five cents.

26. Nov. 23, 1882, Sonoma County: Lakeport to Cloverdale stage. Taken: $475 and several mail sacks.

27. April 12, 1883, Sonoma County: Lakeport to Cloverdale stage robbed again. Taken: $32.50 and mail sack contents.

28. June 23, 1883, Amador County: Stage from Jackson to Ione. Taken: $750 and mail sack contents.

29. Nov. 3, 1883, Calaveras County: Sonora to Milton stage is stopped at site of first Black Bart holdup in 1875. Taken: Possibly $4,764.

The last holdup took place on November 3rd, 1883, at the site, fittingly enough, of his first holdup, on Funk Hill, just southeast of the present town of Copperopolis.  Black Bart, who had only a few run-ins with armed messengers, was ill prepared for his chance encounter with a hunter, 19-year-old Jimmy Rolleri. Armed with a Henry rifle for his deer hunt, Rolleri had been dropped off on the way up Funk Hill by Sonora-Milton stage driver Reason McConnell, who continued up the incline. Near the top, Black Bart, lying in wait, made his move. At gunpoint, he ordered McConnell to unhitch the horses and continue up the hill while Black Bart went to work on the Wells Fargo box bolted to the floor of the coach. While proceeding with the horses, McConnell spotted Rolleri and signaled to him. Once McConnell informed Rolleri of the situation, the hunter handed over his rifle. McConnell fired twice at Black Bart, missing him both times. Rolleri took the rifle and fired, winging Black Bart in the hand. The gentleman bandit fled, he left behind several personal items, including a pair of eyeglasses, food, and a handkerchief with a laundry mark F.X.O.7. Wells Fargo Detective James B. Hume trailed Black Bart since his stage coach robberies began (who allegedly looked enough like Bart to be a twin brother, mustache included)  found these several personal items at the scene. Using all the evidence, statements, and eyewitness accounts on Black Bart he and Wells Fargo detective Henry Nicholson Morse contacted every laundry in San Francisco, seeking the one that used the mark. After visiting nearly 90 laundry operators, they finally traced the mark to Ferguson & Bigg’s California Laundry on Bush Street. They were able to identify the handkerchief as belonging to none other than Black Bart, who lived in a modest boarding house.

It should be noted that there is a manuscript written some 20 years after the robbery by stage driver Reason McConnell in which McConnell says that he fired all four shots at Bowles. The first was a misfire, he thought the second or third shot hit Bowles, and he knew that the fourth one hit him. Bowles only had the wound to his hand, and if the other shots hit his clothing, Bart was unaware of it.

Bart described himself as a “mining engineer” and made frequent “business trips” that happened to coincide with the Wells Fargo robberies. After initially denying he was Black Bart, Bowles eventually admitted that he had robbed several Wells Fargo stages but confessed only to the crimes committed before 1879. It is widely believed that Bowles mistakenly believed that the statute of limitations had expired on these robberies. When booked, he gave his name as T.Z. Spalding. When the police examined his possessions they found a Bible, a gift from his wife, inscribed with his real name.

The police report following his arrest stated that Black Bart was “a person of great endurance. Exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances, and was extremely proper and polite in behavior. Eschews profanity.”

Wells Fargo pressed charges only on the final robbery. Under the name T.Z. Spalding, Black Bart was convicted and sentenced to six years in San Quentin Prison, but his stay was shortened to four years for good behavior. When he was released in January 1888, his health had clearly deteriorated owing to his time in prison. He had visibly aged, his eyesight was failing, and he had gone deaf in one ear. Reporters swarmed around him when he was released and asked if he was going to rob any more stagecoaches. “No, gentlemen,” he replied, smiling, “I’m through with crime.” Another reporter asked if he would write more poetry. Bowles laughed and said, “Now, didn’t you hear me say that I am through with crime?”

Black Bart’s end is in keeping with the way the romantics of his day would have wanted it. Charles Bowles never returned to his wife, Mary, in Hannibal, Missouri, after his release from prison. However, he did write to her after his release. In one of the letters he said he was tired of being shadowed by Wells Fargo, felt demoralized, and wanted to get away from everybody. In February 1888 Black Bart left the Nevada House and vanished. Hume said Wells Fargo tracked him to the Palace Hotel in Visalia. The hotel owner said a man answering the description of Bart checked in and then disappeared. The last time the outlaw was seen was February 28, 1888.

On November 14, 1888, another Wells Fargo stage was robbed by a masked highwayman. The lone bandit left a verse that read:

So here I’ve stood while wind and rain
Have set the trees a-sobbin,
And risked my life for that d***ed box,

That wasn’t worth the robbin.

Detective Hume was called to examine the note. After comparing it with the handwriting of genuine Black Bart poetry from the past, he declared the new holdup was the work of a copycat criminal. There were rumors that Wells Fargo had paid off the aging bandit and sent him away to keep him from robbing their stages. However, Wells Fargo denied this. Some believe that Bowles moved to New York City and lived quietly for the rest of his life, dying there in 1917, though this was never confirmed. Others believe the unlikely tale that the former poet bandit with failing eyesight had gone to the wilds of Montana or perhaps Nevada for another try at making a fortune.

Nevertheless, the vanishing of Black Bart is a mystery, a legend that looms over the west, like a gentle mist across the sky. Undoubtedly the way Black Bart would have wanted it.

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Categories: Civil War, History, Legend Series, Western, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Legend Series Captain Sam Sixkiller Indian Territory

The History of Sam Sixkiller an outstanding lawmen of the Indian Territory.

Researched By Shotgun Bo Rivers @shotgunborivers

I read in a recent comment somewhere, some questions raising about who Sam Sixkiller was, and decided since I am also Native American that I would do some searching online about the man. I thought what a name to use as a character in a story Sam Sixkiller, however it would be hard to use a true outstanding lawman in a story, if I knew nothing about him. So far this is what I have found, some of which I have quoted, so not to mislead the story of such a wonderful icon of the wild west, and of the Indian Territory.

The story of the frontier Indian police in the history of Oklahoma is very important. It is one of the unsung stories in the annuals of law enforcement in the Wild West. Oklahoma, prior to statehood, was known as Indian Territory, and after 1889, Oklahoma Territory was added. Today, the most commonly thought of lawmen who worked the territories were deputy U.S. marshals. However, the Indian police were there and were probably as important if not more so.

Longhorse Police Captain Sam Sixkiller

As early as 1808, the Cherokee Nation passed an act appointing “regulators” to suppress horse stealing and robbery, to protect widows and orphans, and to kill any accused person resisting their authority. This action was taken when the Cherokees were located in the South U.S., before the “Trail of Tears.” Indian Territory, later Oklahoma, initially was made up of the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. After the move to the west, during the 1830’s and 1840’s, the Indian nations set up their law enforcement system and judicial courts similar to what they had in the East. The Indians were called the Five Civilized Tribes because they had adopted many of the customs and traditions of the Europeans, including African chattel slavery for agricultural development. The only nation that had a different scenario initially was the Seminole Nation which had embraced African fugitives slaves as their allies against the U.S. government.

One of the first outstanding Indian police officers was the legendary Cherokee, Sam Sixkiller. Sixkiller at the age of nineteen joined a Union Indian artillery company under the command of his father, 1st Lt. Redbird Sixkiller, during the Civil War. In 1875, Sixkiller was appointed high sheriff of the Cherokee Nation and warden of the National Penitentiary. On February 12, 1880 Sixkiller became the first captain of the United States Indian Police headquartered at Muskogee, Indian Territory. As captain, Sixkiller had forty men under his command. Besides this position, Sixkiller also held a commission as a deputy U.S. marshal and a special agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Sixkiller’s duties included policing the streets of Muskogee, one of the most dangerous towns in the “Wild West.” There were more lawmen killed in a fifty mile radius of Muskogee than anywhere west of the Mississippi River during the frontier era.

Sixkiller’s main problems were the whiskey bootleggers, cattle thieves, murders, rapists, timber thieves, land squatters, train robbers, card sharks, and prostitutes servicing the railroad towns. During his six years as captain, Sixkiller was wounded once. It is reported that he killed a bootlegger from Missouri named Solomon Copple. Copple was attempting to peddle whiskey in and around Muskogee. Sixkiller cornered him outside of town. Copple tried to resist arrest and Sixkiller using his pistol, killed him.

The most famous Indian Territory outlaw that Sixkiller subdued was the notorious Creek Freedman, Dick Glass. Glass had a gang that operated throughout the Indian Territory. They stole horses in the Indian nations and exchanged them for illegal whiskey in Texas, bringing the contraband back across the Red River to be sold at a substantial profit. In June of 1885, Sixkiller put a posse together that included the equally renown Indian lawman Charles LeFlore. They set an ambush for Glass and his gang near Colbert in the Chickasaw Nation. The gang had a full supply of whiskey and were northbound. They rode tight into the trap set by the lawmen. Glass pulled his pistol, but caught a full charge from Sixkiller’s shotgun that put him out of action, permanently. The rest of the gang were either killed or arrested shortly thereafter.

On Christmas Eve, 1886, Sixkiller was off duty and unarmed. Feeling a little under the weather, he made a trip to downtown Muskogee to pick up some medicine. He was met by two dastardly malcontents bent on mayhem: Dick Vann and Alf Cunningham. Sixkiller was stepping up on the platform on the north side of the Patterson Mercantile Store. Vann and Cunningham, with a shotgun and pistol, fired on him without notice; supposedly they held a grudge for a previous run-in they had with the lawman. Sixkiller fell to the ground mortally wounded, and Vann and Cunningham made good their escape on fast ponies.

After the death of Captain Sixkiller, the United States legislature passed a bill, signed by the president, which made assault on an Indian federal policeman a federal crime. The document signed March 2, 1887, stated: “…any Indians committing against the person of any Indian policeman appointed under the laws of the United States, or any Indian United states deputy Marshal, any of the following crimes, namely, murder, manslaughter or assault with intent to kill, within the Indian Territory, shall be subjected to the laws of the United States relating to such crimes and shall be tried by the District Court of the United States.” It was a landmark case which increased the stature of Indian police officers in Indian Territory and elsewhere in the United States.

Credit to this story goes to By Art T. Burton from Lest We Forget and also to Legends of America.

 

I hope you enjoy the story as I did. Like I said, I left the story, and history alone, mostly to keep the truth and speculations in history intact, and to give credit to the author. Will I give Sam Sixkiller a spot in the Laramie’s Series, hey we’ll never know until it’s finished.  Happy Trails to all, Happy Monday.

Categories: History, Legend Series, Western | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Legend Series (The legend of Fort Dodge Silver)


Fort Dodge Silver lost treasure

In the year 1853, a freighting train of 82 wagons full of silver left Mexico up the Santé Fe Trail. An old Mexican freighter named Jesus M. Martinez, who was well known by many of the plainsmen of that day for his honesty and bravery was in charge, unfortunately, The Santé Fe Trail was well known to the Indians, also. Martinez was wise to the Indians ways though and corralled the wagons every night and posted guards to give the alarm should danger approach in the way of Indians, bandits, or prairie fires.                                                                                     

Sante Fe Trail

  One day, as they began making camp, Martinez decided to be especially alert throughout the night. All that day, Indians observed in the distance, which could mean trouble. As the sun set, the dogs began to make a fuss, which aroused the suspicion of Martinez, Indians lurked nearby. He called a meeting to decide what would be the best course of action to pursue, and it was decided to prepare for the worst. The men dug trenches and piled dirt, and wood around the holes for protection. When  finished, they laid in the ditches, as they waited with weapons cocked. The Indians made a dash for the camp. Prepared the Mexican’s had the greater advantage and shot so much lead into the attacker’s direction; the Indians were forced to fall back. When morning came, the first wave of Indians hit the Mexicans position with little to no effect. All throughout the night, the Indians continued and attempted to find a weak spot in the Mexicans fortifications. For five days the siege continued with few Mexicans being killed, but not nearly as many Indians who had sustained a huge loss of warriors. The Indians were crazed for blood and vengeance was sought for the brothers and chiefs who had been killed and would fight to the last warrior. The Mexicans had been in a comfortable position for the first few days but  were low on ammunition,  and the Indians were not about to stop attacking. On the sixth night, the Indians made a desperate attack  through the Mexicans lines, but were driven back.The rifles ceased fire for lack of ammunition. Once the guns were still, the band of bloodthirsty Indians swept over the camp, engulfing the brave Mexicans. During the ensuing struggle, only one man is known to have escaped the fight. Old Jesus Martinez somehow slipped away and hid himself while his men were  slaughtered. He remained in his hiding place until morning.

when he was sure the Indians were miles away,  he crept back to what was left of the camp. All around him lay the signs of battle. Dead men were scattered everywhere, wagons overturned and burned, their food and clothing covered the ground and all the animals had been run off.  After searching through the wagons remains, he finally found the silver they were carrying. untouched by the Indians, since it was of no value to them, compared with a good horse and rifle. Martinez carried twenty-one bars of silver, valued at $1000 each, to a spot a little ways from camp, and buried them so they would be safe until he could return with help to recover them. Satisfied that he had hidden the money as well as he could under the circumstances, he started out on foot for his home in Mexico. Shortly after arriving home in Mexico, he died, but not before telling his son of the massacre, and the whereabouts of the hidden silver. Several years passed before his son was able to travel to the site of the battle, which was about four miles west of Dodge City, Kansas. From the directions his father had given him, he located the area where the silver was buried and began shoving a wire into the ground hoping to hit the treasure. He spent several weeks searching, but became disgusted and quit when he couldn’t find anything of value. Young Martinez next traveled to Fort Dodge, where one night while drinking heavily, he told two men what he had been looking for. The word of a hidden treasure nearby spread like wildfire and soon half of Fort Dodge was looking for the silver. Old Martinez evidently hid the bags better than he thought, or his son confused the directions to the site, because no one has ever found as much as one coin.

Thanks to Legends of America, and http://www.gwizit.com for detailed and quoted info.

Categories: Western, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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