Posts Tagged With: legends

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.

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

Writers of the West: Remembering Louis L’Amour

Writers of the West: Remembering Louis L’Amour. By Jean Henry Mead. I read this blog and loved it, hope all of my readers, and fellow Western Writers can enjoy it as I did.

Categories: Western, Writing Technique | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Legend Series (The legend of John Van Guilder ” Toanunck”

John Van Guilder was a Mahican Native American, his Native American name was Toanunck, a man whom in 1724 signed the great treaty of the Mohican tribe, at which all the bands not by that time exterminated by the wars and genocide privately conducted against them by the traders and settlers were gathered. A missionary group established itself at what became known as Stockbridge Massachusetts, about 12 miles by the Indian trail or up the Housatonic River from Toanunck house. The mission offered refuge and influence to protect the Indians. They sought peace and treated for peace, but not without securing for Van guilder a reservation of substantial proportions on his own grounds. It ran from four miles west of the Housatonic River almost to the Hudson River.

The Original Mission House

The Original Mission House in Stockbridge Mass.

The other Mahican bands accepted Christianity, and the die was cast for their exodus to lands west of the Mississippi River as part of the great ethnic cleansing of the Atlantic coastal region of North America.
On November 15, 1756, Toanunck had too much of Robert Livingston’s arrogant pretensions as Lord of the Manor. He bullied the Indians into either serving as his quasi-slaves, or getting off “his” land, out of which, Van Guilder’s reservation actually took the lion’s share. Mutually aggressive words were exchanged between one of Livingston’s many tenant farmers. At which time Livingston roused the Sheriff, who deputized some other of Livingston’s men and they set out to confront and eject Van Guilder.
The Albany sheriff and Livingston posse, said to be unarmed, again attempted to evict several tenants, and destroy their houses. One of the tenants was apparently a good friend of Mohican John Van Guilder, who with two of his sons and a settler soon arrived on horseback at the tenant’s place.
The Van Guilder or Toanunck’s party was armed with guns, bayonets, and tomahawks, and Van Guilder threatened to kill some of the posse if they touched the house. The sheriff ordered his men to arrest them, and as the posse approached, the Indians gave a war cry. Van Guilder leveled his gun, and in self-defense shot and killed one of the deputies, then fled with his sons and his friend.
The sheriff’s men quickly captured “Toanunck”, one of his sons, and the settler, took them to the Albany jail, and put them in irons. It was rumored that Van Guilder’s other son vowed to involve the Stockbridge Indians, to capture one of the posse dead or alive, and to burn down Livingston’s house.
The most ancient and august of the Mahicans at the Stockbridge Mission wrote to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District of North America Sir William Johnson demanding immediately of “Toanunck’s” release into the custody of the Mahican tribe, on the ground that since the alleged crime had taken place upon territory for which no Indian treaty of cession could be produced, the Governor of New York had no jurisdiction to hold them or to put them on trial. Constitutionally the deal was that
the Indian tribes and the Crown colonies each had the jurisdiction and the responsibility to take care of their own and not to disturb the peace established by the constitution and the treaties under the constitution.

After a heated exchange, or at least as heated as words get in diplomatic communiques, Sir William persuaded the Governor that if he did not release the Van Guilders what was left of the Mahican tribe was joining with the Mohawk tribe and possibly the entire
Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Iroquoian speakers to join with the Algonquian speaking Mahicans and their allies throughout north-eastern North America. This was pretty crucial since at that very juncture of history the Seven Years War was about to get serious as a globally significant military event.

The point is, the world could well be a different place if the Governor of New York had not capitulated to the demand of the Mahican tribe to release the Van Guilders. Every part of the global struggle that was the Seven Years War was crucial to the success of Great
Britain and, by extension, to the United States and Canada that are the British Empire’s successors to British North America. The other critical players in the Seven Years War also included and certainly stood to affect the long-range interests of the “great maritime powers of Europe” that created the “doctrine of discovery” agreement that is the bedrock of the commerce, defense and treaty clauses of the several constitutional democracies that constitute today’s American Empire of Commerce.

This information was researched, and found to be truthful, however there may be certain mistakes, due to the fact that there was very limited information about this story, however all in all there is a little old west in the northeast as well. I thank Jackie Gordon for telling me this story so that I could research it, and depict a legend as this man was.

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: