Black Bart Commits His Last Stickup


On November 3, 1883 the stagecoach robber known as Black Bart the Poet, did his last job. The prolific but polite robber was known to have committed 28 stagecoach robberies. He left self penned poems at several of the heists. He did them all by himself, without a horse (he was scared of horses) and without firing a shot. His victim each time was Wells Fargo. Bart apparently had a real grudge of an unknown origin against Wells Fargo. Bart, who’s real name was Charles Boles, was a down on his luck gold prospector and civil war veteran.

His life of crime started in 1875 when he robbed his first Wells Fargo stagecoach in Calaveras County, California. Bart duped the riders into thinking he was with an larger gang and removed the safe from the stagecoach. He committed robberies intermittently for the next 8 years, riding out from his home in San Francisco to do the robberies.

On November 3, 1883, he robbed a stagecoach again in Calaveras County. This time the safe was bolted into the floor of the stagecoach. As Black Bart struggled to free the safe, one of the drivers got to his shotgun and started shooting. Bart freed the safe and fled, but was shot in the hand. He escaped but did leave a few personal belongings behind including a handkerchief that had a laundry stamp on it.

Wells Fargo Detectives James Hume and Harry Morse took the handkerchief to every laundry in San Francisco in an attempt to identify the owner. One location recognized the item and said it belonged to an older man who lived in a boarding house nearby. The detectives had their man. Black Bart was captured and admitted to the robberies. He was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in jail. Shortly after his release he left home one day and was never seen again.

Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,
And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will, I’ll try it on,
My condition can’t be worse;
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis munny in my purse.

— Black Bart


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