Old West Lifestyle & Stories


On November 3, 1883, the law almost caught California’s most infamous stagecoach robber called Black Bart.  Although he managed to make a getaway, he dropped evidence that eventually sent him to prison.

Black Bart was born Charles E. Boles around 1830.  He abandoned his family for the gold fields of California.  When he failed to strike it rich as a miner, he turned to a life of crime.

By the mid-1850s, Well Fargo stagecoaches in Northern California transported not only passengers, but money as well.  Because they traveled isolated areas, the stagecoaches became favorite targets for bandits.

It’s believed Boles committed his first stagecoach robbery in July 1875.  Wearing a flour sack over his head with holes cut for his eyes, 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.  He 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.

Known as Black Bart…the name of a western novel character…Boles embarked on a series of stagecoach robberies.  He never shot anyone nor robbed a single stage passenger…his shotgun wasn’t even loaded.  He gained fame for his daring style and the occasional short poems he left behind, signed by “Black Bart, the Po-8.”

During the robbery that took place on this date Boles was wounded and left behind a handkerchief with a laundry mark.  A Wells Fargo detective searched the San Francisco laundries until they found the laundry that led to Boles.  The detective found he was a dignified elderly man that everyone though was a mining engineer.

Arrested and tried, Boles pleaded guilty and received a sentence of six years in San Quentin prison.  The “Po-8” bandit stole only about $18,000 during the eight years of his criminal career.

There are stories that say when Boles got out of jail Wells Fargo agreed to pay him $200 a month not to rob any more of their stages.

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