On August 3 of 1877, a stage was making its way over the low hills between Point Arenas and Duncans Mills on the Russian River when a lone figure suddenly appeared in the middle of the road.Wearing a duster and a mask made from a flour sack, the bandit pointed a double- barreled shotgun at the driver and said, ” Throw down the box!”
“Ive labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns too long youve tred
You fine-haired sons of bitches.”
When the posse arrived later, all they found was a waybill with the above verse painstakingly written on its back, each line in a different hand.
Almost a year later, on July 25 of 1878, the PO8 struck again.A stage from Quincy to Oroville slowed to make a difficult turn a long the Feather River, the masked man stepped out of the bushes and asked that the box be thrown down.His soils included $379 in coins, a silver watch, and a diamond ring.Once again, when the posse reached the scene, all they found was a poem:
“Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,
And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will Ill try it on,
My condition cant be worse;
And if theres money in that box
Tis munny in my purse!”
Once again the lines were written in varying hands and the work signed “Black Bart, the PO8.”In order to make the highways safe once again, Governor William Irwin posted a $300 reward for the capture of the bandit, to which Wells Fargo & Co. added another $300.Another $20 contributed by the postal authorities.The reward went unclaimed for five years, during which Black Bart seemingly robbed at will.Often laying low for several months, Bart would suddenly go on a spree and rob three or four stages in as many weeks, and then vanish without a trace.Black Barts talent for covering great distances on foot in impossibly short times was no doubt a great asset in his life as a highwayman.
In another, and it turned out to be his last, stage robbery McConnell (the stage driver) turned his head to find the muzzle of a double-barreled shotgun looking at him.You see, Bart knew that this stage was carrying gold coins and gold amalgam with it.What Bart didnt know is that in the woods following the stage was a young hunter that had gotten off a few miles back to do some hunting.Ordering McConnell to unhitch the team and walk them up the hill, Bart then entered the stage and commenced to break open the chest.Meanwhile, Jimmy(the hunter) somehow managed to meet McConnell away from the stage.The two took cover and watched as Black Bart backed out of the stage with his loot.McConnell then “seized the rifle from the boy and open fire on the robber.”He missed, twice, after which Jimmy took the rifle and fired, causing Bart to stumble before disappearing into the brush.
Sheriff Ben Thorn of Calaveras County reached the holdup site that afternoon and organized the posse to search for clues.Among the items was a handkerchief full of buckshot, this would eventually would be his downfall.On the handkerchief in a corner was some small letters: F.X.O.7. , this was a laundry identification number.Sheriff Thorn took the evidence to Wells Fargo detective J. B. Hume in San Francisco, whereupon Hume turned the handkerchief over to special operative Harry Morse who immediately went to work on tracking the laundry mark.A week later, on November 12, the laundry was found and the owner of the handkerchief identified as one Charles E. Bolton.Bart was arrested and after lengthy questioning decided to confess to the robbery and show his captors where he had hidden the amalgam, hoping that this would make it easier for him when he came to trial.After the amalgam was recovered, Bart appeared on November 17 before Superior Court Judge C.V. Gottschalk at San Andreas.During his career as a highwayman, Black Bart robbed twenty-eight stages; when he was caught he confessed to only the last and was sentenced on the basis of that one alone.He received six years in San Quentin Prison.
Released from prison on January 21 of 1888, Charles E. Bolton disappeared from sight a few weeks later and was never seen again.He was also American Indian.