Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1883

Black Bart makes his last stagecoach robbery

On this day, authorities almost catch the California bandit and infamous stagecoach robber called Black Bart; he manages to make a quick getaway, but drops an incriminating clue that eventually sends him to prison.

Black Bart was born Charles E. Boles, probably in the state of New York around 1830. As a young man, he abandoned his family for the gold fields of California, but he failed to strike it rich as a miner and turned to a life of crime.

By the mid-1850s, stagecoaches and Wells Fargo wagons transported much of the huge output of gold from California. Often traveling in isolated areas, the Wells Fargo wagons and stagecoaches quickly became favorite targets for bandits; over the course of about 15 years, the company lost more than $415,000 in gold to outlaw robbers.

It is believed that Boles committed his first stagecoach robbery in July 1875. Wearing a flour sack over his head with holes cut for his eyes and a fancy gentleman’s black derby, he intercepted a stage near the California mining city of Copperopolis. When guards spotted gun barrels sticking out of nearby bushes, they handed over their strong box to Boles. He cracked open the box with an axe and escaped on foot with the gold, though his “gang” of camouflaged gunmen stayed behind. When the guards returned to pick up the box, they discovered that the “rifle barrels” were just sticks tied to branches.

Heartened by this easy success, Black Bart embarked on a series of stagecoach robberies. During the course of his criminal career he never shot anyone nor robbed a single stage passenger; he gained fame for his daring style and the occasional short poems he left behind, signed by “Black Bart, the Po-8.” Wells Fargo, however, was not amused–the company ordered its private police force to capture the bandit, dead or alive. After several years of searching and tracking down clues, Wells Fargo detectives finally located Boles.

Arrested and tried, Boles pleaded guilty and received a sentence of six years in San Quentin prison. He served just over four years and reportedly moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after receiving a pardon. All told, the “Po-8″ bandit had stolen only $18,000 during the eight years of his criminal career.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Panama declares independence

With the support of the U.S. government, Panama issues a declaration of independence from Colombia. The revolution was engineered by a Panamanian faction backed by the Panama Canal Company, a French-U.S. corporation that hoped to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with a ...read more

The Soviet space dog

The Soviet Union launches the first animal into space—a dog name Laika—aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft. Laika, part Siberian husky, lived as a stray on the Moscow streets before being enlisted into the Soviet space program. Laika survived for several days as a passenger in the ...read more

Thackeray completes Barry Lyndon

On this day in 1844, William Makepeace Thackeray completes The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century, which is published in Fraser’s Magazine. Thackeray was born in Calcutta in 1811. As a young man, he attended Cambridge but left without a degree, then drifted ...read more