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ly a bit of doggerel verse, written in a
firm, cultivated hand, properly spelled
and punctuated. And signed
"Black Bart, the P08."
That was the-scene and the action,
late In 1877, of the first of the most
daring series of single-handed hold
ups in the whole hiBtory of the "wild
I write "single-handed" advisedly
for express detectives and post-
office inspectors, seeking clews, dis
covered that the figures In the chap
arral the "boys" who were ordered
not to shoot were Just sticks
draped with Jute bagging and topped
with, slouch hats.
Perfectly good bandits, though, in
the mountain twilight!
"All criminals are cowards" is a
police maxim. Rare is the thief who
dares to rob alone rarer yet one
who robs unarmed. But there was a
thief who robbed alone whose only
weapon was a pair of field glasses!
Twenty-three times in the next six
years "Black Bart" lined up his
dummy "boys" in the chaparral in
the Siskiyou mountains, on the Ore
gon trail, back in his earlier haunt
in the Sierras. AlvCays scrupulously
polite to the ladies, not once offering
violence, always leaving his "card
a scrap of doggerel signed "Black
Bart the po8."
His express robberies netted him
tens of thousands nobody knows
what treasure he got from the mails.
Rewards for his capture were un
claimed. He was a bandit more cun
ning than the thief-takers. Only
once was a driver able to describe
him an American, about 50 years
old, with long gray hair, thin face,
deep-set eyes, prominent teeth and
dignified bearing. His language in
dicated education and good breeding.
Caution and courage go hand-in-hand
and "Black Bart" was caution
personified. With his field glass he
would watch a stage for hours no
difficult task in a mountain country
until certain none of the passen
gers' were armed. Then the quick ,
ambush, the rifled "box" and always
the disappearance without a trace
always until the laBt time.
Accident catches more-crooks than
all the detectives!
On Nov. 3, 1883, it was accident
that a boy of the neighborhood rode
on the box with McConnell, driver
of the Yosemite mail stage, between
Milton and Sonora. An accident, too,
that the boy had a gun.
Near Sonora the boy dropped off.
A few minutes later "Black Bart"
cried "Hands up!"
"Where is the fellow with the
gun?" he asked McConnell. The
driver explained as "Black Bart"
started off with, his booty $4,400
gold in the express and mail sacks,
$550 in coin from the passengers.
But accident again the boy
McConnell grabbed the rifle and
fired four shots at the retreating
bandit. Next day detectives found,
beside -a camp fire, a blood-stained
cuff and on the cuff were laundry
Here was the first real clew. They
searched thp laundries of every Cali
fornia city, and so, at last, they found
"Black Bart the po8." A quiet, In
offensive man, E. C. Bolton, living in
an unpretentious San Francisco
boarding house. A "mining man"
so he explained his frequent ab
sences. Identified as "Black Bart" he
confessed the last robbery, but de
nied the others.
TWO BLACK BART P08
But when Bolton went to San
Quentin "Black Bart the po8" ceased
Born at Decatur, 111., he had served
with gallantry in the civil war. His
mates in the 160th Illinois regiment
knew him as "Whistling Charlie." A
teetotaler, well educated, a good
"mixer," an entertaining story teller
able to earn more than a good liv
ing In any honest work, the motives
that drove him to robbery are still
his own mystery. No other crimes
were ever traced to him and after