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California Stage Robber: Black Bart

Black Bart "Hits" in Shasta County:

25 October 1879, Black Bart performed his tenth robbery in the state on the Roseburg, Oregon-Yreka-Redding run, between Bass Station and Buckeye. This was a night robbery. Only a small amount was reported lost in the robbery of the Wells Fargo box, but an estimated fourteen hundred dollars was taken in cash from the mail pouches. Jim Smithson was the driver.

Two days later on 27 October 1879, Black Bart performed his eleventh robbery while in Shasta County on the Alturas-Redding stage road, twelve miles northeast of Millville near the Canyon House. An undetermined amount of money taken from express box and mail pouches. Bandit fled west toward Sacramento River and town of Red Bluff, fifty miles away. Ed Payne was the coach driver.

His 12th robbery was in Sonoma County, and then he hit again in Shasta County. 1 September 1880, on the Weaverville-Redding road near Last Chance Station, on Trinity Mountain. The bandit ordered stage driver Charley Creamer [sp] to throw down the express box and mail sacks, then unsuccessfully attempted to open an iron box attached to the stage while he held creamer at gun point beside his team. Wells Fargo's loss amounted to little more than one hundred dollars. Contents of the mail pouches unknown.

Robberies 14 and 15 were in Jackson County, Oregon; numbers 16 and 17 happened in Siskiyou County. Then he was back in Shasta County for numbers 18 and 19.

8 October 1881, Black Bart hit on the Yreka-Redding Road at Bass Hill, fourteen miles north of Redding, at midnight. He took advantage of bright moonlight to halt the stage and force the driver, Horace Williams, off the stage while he smashed the Wells Fargo box. Loss for Wells Fargo, $60.00.

11 October 1881, The Alturas to Redding Stage was being driven by Lewis Brewster. As Brewster was stopped at Montgomery Creek to make a harness repair, Black Bart approached and asked for the Wells Fargo express box. The loss was undisclosed.

Coming over from Plumas County where he made his 24th robbery, Black Bart again visited Bass Hill. Here he made his second holdup of driver Horace Williams, and his 25th in his career on 17 September 1882. Unknown amount from the mail pouches, but a mere 35 cents from the Wells Fargo Express!

It seems as though Charles Boles, alias Charles E. Bolton, alias Black Bart enjoyed robbing stages in Shasta County. He must have made more money than known as he took the time and risk to carry out six robberies in our area. - Information from Black Bart Boulevardier Bandit by George Hoeper, 1995.~

1967, Black Bart Rock near Willits in Mendocino County, is so named for the robbery of a mail stage here by the elusive road agent, "Black Bart,"a lone highwayman, traveling on foot, who robbed 27 coaches in the Sierra and Coast Range mountain country between 1875 and 1883. Always polite, fastidiously dressed in a linen duster and mask, he used to leave behind facetious rhymes signed 'Black Bart, Po-8," in mail and express boxes after he finished rifling them. A laundry mark on a handkerchief dropped near the scene of one robbery in Calaveras County eventually led pursuers to San Francisco, where "Black Bart" was discovered to be the highly respectable Mr. Charles C. Bolton, ostensibly a mining engineer who frequently made trips to the mines. A stay in San Quentin from 1883 to 1885 cut short his career. ~ Taken from California, A Guide to the Golden State, American Guide Series, Completely revised, 1967.~

1980, W. H. Hutchinson, a professor at Chico State when I was there, (I graduated in 1972), wrote a book entitled CALIFORNIA The Golden Shore by the Sundown Sea in 1980 and I was able to pick up a revised edition from 1984 in a used bookstore in Fort Bragg, California. I quote here, his words about the legendary stagecoach robber, Black Bart.

" Black Bart - who signed himself 'The P O 8,' in a truly awful pun - was one Charles E. Bolton, or Boles, who holds the distinction of staging the first successful stagecoach robbery in the state, and this not until the early 1870's. He was a mild-mannered little man of incredible endurance, who lived most of the time in San Francisco, enjoying its amenities, and only took to the road when his purse was becoming bare. He told his friends in the city, including members of its police force, that his absences were occasioned by having to look after his 'mining properties' in the mountains.

Over a span of years, he robbed about twenty-six stages, never killing anyone, never wounding anyone, never retaining ladies' purses, and always using an unloaded shotgun as his means of moral suasion. Legend holds that in each looted treasure box, he left a derisive bit of doggerel, or 'P O 8-try' (poetry). Wells Fargo, which bore the brunt of his extractions, has but two of these verses, and his reputation as a practicing poet seems to have been exaggerated. The following sample may support this premise:

'I've labored long and hard for bread

For honor and for riches

But on my corns too long you've trod

You fine-haired sons of bitches.'

Black Bart finally was apprehended because he dropped a handkerchief bearing a San Francisco laundry's mark.He had just stopped his last stage with the time honored shout of 'Throw down the box!' when he was shot in the rump by the rifle of a youngish rabbit hunter who was nearby. A hoary legend holds that Bart was released from prison on his promise not to commit any more crimes, including the writing of verse!'~

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