Tuesday, December 2, 2014

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.
Published by American West Publishing House, Issue No. 8, 1961


  1. What a fun post! I love hearing about the history you share, I always learn something from it.

  2. Thanks, Deb. I especially like this post because my character in the book I am writing now is sort of like Black Bart. The gentle bandit....

  3. Good ol' Black Bart. We named our son Bart and called him "Barty-Baby-Boy" until he was old enough to threaten to leave home if we did not stop!
    I love the story of Black Bart. Wouldn't you have loved to see the look on those ladies' faces when they learned his real persona.
    Thanks for this entertaining--and informative post--it helped cheer up a very dark and gloomy day.

  4. I chuckled at your son's nickname. I just loved this story, too. A gentleman bandit - and yes, I can imagine those ladies were shocked and they seemed to forgive him, too.

    Thanks, Celia.

  5. Too funny about Wells Fargo LOL. Great post, Paisley. Your posts are always so interesting and informative.

    And I'm laughing out loud, Celia, about Barty-Baby-Boy."

    Hugs to all...

  6. Thank you, Tanya. I used a bit about Bart in my current hero. He may have been a robber, but he did it with so much class. :)


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