The Infamous Stagecoach Robber: Black Bart

Black Bart is one of many infamous robbers from the days of the wild west. According to reports, he was born sometime around 1830 in the state of New York under the name Charles E. Boles. When the California gold rush started in 1848, Boles decided to abandon his family and friends and head out west with intentions of striking it rich, even though he was still a young man at the time. However, he failed to realize it was going to be significantly more difficult to mine the gold than he expected. Instead, he turned to a life of crime, mainly consisting of stagecoach robberies.

During the gold rush, Wells Fargo wagons and stagecoaches were responsible for transporting a great majority of the gold back East. It wasn’t long until outlaws started to realize this, and soon Wells Fargo became the favorite target for many bandits in the area. Over the course of 15 years, the company reportedly lost $415,000 worth of gold to robbers. Which doesn’t seem like a ridiculous amount of money, but the estimated equivalent in today’s money is well over $12 million.

According to reports, Black Bart committed his first robbery in July of 1875 and it has a unique story behind it. He wore a flour sack as a mask with two holes cut out for his eyes and a fancy black derby hat when he intercepted a Wells Fargo stage near the mining town of Copperopolis in California. The guards riding along on the stage noticed two gun barrels sticking out of the bushes and immediately handed over the strong box. Without hesitation, Bart smashed open the box, grabbed the gold and took off running while his “gang” stayed behind with guns drawn on the guards, or so they thought. It turns out upon closer inspection, they realized what they thought were gun barrels was actually two sticks tied to a tree.

The interesting part about Black Bart is that he never robbed the passengers of the stage, nor did he ever kill anyone during said robberies. During his eight-year career as a robber, he managed to acquire as much as $18,000 (approx. $410,000 today). Wells Fargo was so determined to catch him specifically, they tasked their private police force to track him down and capture him, dead or alive. It took them a few years, but eventually, the Wells Fargo detectives finally caught up with Bart On November 4th, 1883. He was arrested and later sentenced to six years in the San Quentin prison, However, he only served four of those years before he was pardoned.

President Hayes rode in this Stage which was robbed by Black Bart just three days prior.
Photo: wellsfargohistory