July 26, 1875: On a mountain pass in Calaveras County, California, a man draped in a long, soiled duster (housecoat) with a flour sack festooned with two eye holes over his head, holds up a stagecoach, making off with the Wells Fargo strongbox and the US mail. Black Bart thus began his legendary string of robberies.
Charles E Boles or Bolton, a.k.a. Black Bart, was born in England in 1829 and migrated to the US when he was two. He led an adventurous life, traveling around the country, prospecting for gold and even serving in the Civil War, fighting with distinction and earning awards and promotions.
In 1865, he was discharged and moved to Iowa to farm. This existence did not suit his adventurous spirit and he took off to hunt gold again. He did not take his wife and children with him and they assumed he was dead when he stopped writing home. The four years from 1871-75 must have held some significant event that is lost to history because he emerged from these years as a robber.
He robbed stage coaches on 28 different occasions, stealing about $18,000 total from Wells Fargo. Legend states that during a hold up when a woman in a panic threw her purse out the window, he left it behind stating that he only stole from Wells Fargo. Twice, he left taunting poems in the emptied strongboxes. He was caught in 1883, after leaving a handkerchief with a laundry mark at the scene of the crime. He served four years of his six year sentence at San Quentin and after his release was never seen again.
“I’ve labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns too long you’ve tred
You fine-haired sons of bitches.” – Black Bart, 1877
“Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” – (Psalms 62:10), Bible
“It is a poor family that hath neither a whore nor a thief in it.” – proverb
“Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.” – Will Rogers
Also on this day, in 1803 the Surrey Iron Railway opened.