Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Five Hundred Dollar Reward

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
Wells, Fargo & Co. Will pay Five Hundred Dollars for the arrest and conviction of the robber who stopped the Quincy Stage and demanded the Treasury Box, on Tuesday afternoon, August 17th, near the old Live Yankee Ranch, about 17 miles above Oroville. By order of J. J. Valentine, Gen'l Supt., Rideout, Smith & Co., Agents. Oroville, August 18, 1875.
Old-timer's say Black Bart was a courteous and jovial fellow who would rise early, eat a hardy breakfast in the hotel dining salon, and take his usual stroll through town, tipping his fancy felt derby to the ladies. On occasion he would walk to the Ohio Stables on the corner of Huntoon and Miners Alley to rent a horse for the day or so. Unbeknown to Mr. Stevens, the proprietor, he was fanning the countryside reconnoitering for his next daring performance, commencing with the dramatic line: ”Throw down the box!"
Black Bart's favorite hangout was in the smoke-filled poker hall over Sam Mullen's Gem Saloon. It was there that Bart accumulated the latest news about various gold shipments. As the story goes, he was a frequent loser. As it turned out he was laying the groundwork for much higher stakes, for he was of the opinion that a man who was winning at cards was much freer with his conversation than one who was losing. Once again he preferred a table close to the back window for easy access over the rooftops and down into the relative safety of Miners Alley.
Black Bart spent approximately three months in Oroville at a time. Then he would bid adieu for parts unknown. He invariably returned about three months later for a similar period of time. Gradually he became one of the most respected men about town. The rumor went that he was a prominent San Francisco investor who came to look over private mining interests in the territory. He was invited to many of the town's gala affairs and was intimate with practically every citizen of consequence.
Bart was also known as an intellectual, for he spent much of his time reading in the little volunteer library which was set up by the ladies of Oroville at the Union Hotel. In fact, so well informed was he on literature that he was asked by the ladies to serve on their committee, an honor which he graciously accepted. Imagine the shock in 1883 when his picture was circulated in Oroville with the following caption beneath: ”Black Bart--Notorious Outlaw Is Finally Captured!" Chagrin must have filled every corner of the ladies' committee room as they endeavored to replace their departed member.
After his release from San Quentin for good behavior, Black Bart returned to Oroville, where he was received with open arms--a hero no less, for robbing Wells Fargo express boxes was no small achievement, especially when it was done with an empty gun. Already he was legend, and Orovillains delighted in the fact that such a character was an integral part of their fabulous history. Nonetheless, the sheriff did keep close tabs on Bart's activities when he paid the town a visit. However, most were convinced that Mr. Boles, as he was now called, would live up to his words, given in reply to a reporter who questioned him about his literary career: ”Young man, didn't you hear me say I would commit no more crimes?"
A few weeks after his last visit to Oroville Mr. Boles disappeared from the annals of the West and was never heard from again. Even Wells Fargo, reputedly to have placed him on a small pension to avoid further embarrassments, could not locate his whereabouts.
True West June, 1955

19 comments:

  1. Black Bart is a fascinating character. Fun post!

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  2. Thanks Paty. As I read it I found a new twist to my new story. He would have been fun to spend an hour with.

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  3. It's interesting that the ladies of the literary society wanted him as a member..or speaker. Funny. He was a great character, wasn't he. I'm trying to think if a movie was ever made about him. Do you know.
    My son's name is Bart--but I didn't name him after an outlaw.
    I enjoyed reading about him, and the photo is great.

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  4. Paisley, This was very interesting. I always thought Black Bart was a fictional character ... like the villain who would tie women to railroad tracks in all those silent nelodramas. lol. Sounds like Bart was a nice man (despite his crimes). I loved the fact he was so literary . I do have a question. Where was Oroville?

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  5. Paisley, what a great post. I learned quite a bit more about Black Bart.

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  6. Interesting story Miss Paisley. Sounds a little like your Declan if you ask me.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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  7. Thanks Celia. When I grew up there was an old cemetery at the end of our street. People used to tell us Black Bart was buried there, but from the sound of this I don't think it was true. Just probably told us that to keep us out of the cemetery. I sort of started liking the guy by the time I finished reading the accounting.

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  9. Ashley, Oroville was and still is located about 100 miles north of Sacramento close to Chico. It's in the valley.

    I loved that he liked spending time in the library, too. Guess he had plenty of spare time since he wasn't exactly a working man. ;)

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  10. Appreciate you dropping by today, Caroline. I would love to have a character with this man's traits.

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  11. I can see Declan in this man's story a wee bit, too, Patricia. They both liked reading. :) Appreciate your support today.

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  12. Reading this post had me thinking of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

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  13. You're right, Angela. I hadn't thought about that movie. Thanks for coming by.

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  14. Thanks for sharing. Black Bart was such an interesting character. Seems like he was a walking contradiction. :-)

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  15. Thanks Jennifer. I loved this story when I read it.

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  16. I loved learning more about Black Bart. He's such a complex character. There were so many characters roaming the gold country back then.

    Hmmm, there's a few of them roaming Hangtown right now!

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  17. Hi Cindy. One of those charmers is Doc who drives the stagecoach. I used to love seeing the characters in Placerville when I worked in the art gallery. Thanks for your support.

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  18. Oh, I sure love learning about these historical characters. And it's always fun to include/allude to them in our stories! Great photo.

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  19. Hi Tanya. I agree - it's fun to learn about their lives and get ideas on how we write our stories. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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