For a while,
train robbery was popular in
despite a statute passed, though never enforced, making the crime
punishable by death. One of the most daring train robberies occurred about
midnight, September 9, 1899. Express Messenger Charles Adair, who had
killed an over adventurous train robber on the same run the year before,
stepped to the door as a westbound Southern Pacific Express train reached
the small station of Cochise. As he looked out it was into the muzzle of a
revolver and he and the train crew were soon lined on the platform
with their hands in the air. The express car was detached and run a couple
of miles westward. The messenger was known to be ignorant of the safe
combination so the safe was opened with dynamite. The loot was rich,
comprising a bag full of gold and currency with value of at least $10,000.
The four men involved fled into the Chiricahua Mountains,
unsuccessfully followed by posses headed by Sheriff Scott White and
The truth concerning the Cochise robbery came out a few
months later on February 21, 1900, following a supplemental train robbery,
that of the express car of a Benson-Nogales train, which was held up at
The hero of the affair was Express Messenger
Jeff D. Milton, who fought until
incapacitated by a bullet wound that terribly shattered an arm. The
wounded messenger, who was given the highest praise for his defense of his
trust, in previous days had been a cattle association detective, a customs
inspector and chief of police at El Paso,
The bandits numbered five. One of them was captured the next morning six
Tombstone, where he had fallen from his
horse and was abandoned by his companions. He was
Jack Dunlap, alias Three-Fingered Jack, a
well known cowboy horse thief. He died a few days later in the
Tombstone hospital, having received a
buckshot load from Milton's shotgun.
In a pass of the Dragoon Mountains Sheriff Scott White
captured three of the others, who proved to be the leader, Bob Burns and
John and Lewis Owens. With them was the booty, which consisted of only 17
Mexican pesos. The robbers had expected that the Fort Huachuca payroll
would be in the express car safe. Soon afterward the score was made
complete by the arrest at Cananea of Tom Yoes, alias "Bravo John" who had
been shot in the leg.
Jack Dunlap died, he gave the officers
the first information concerning the Cochise robbery, implicating
Constable at Wilcox and William Downing, a well-to-do cattleman. There was
some humor in the situation owing to the fact that
had been one of the noisiest and most active pursuers of the train
William L. Stiles, Deputy Constable at
confessed the details of the whole affair. He and another cowboy, Matt
Burts, did the work alone, but the job was planned and supplies for it
were furnished by
had provided the dynamite, secured by breaking into a Wilcox powder house.
Immediately after the job was done, the spoil was taken to
and Downing at Wilcox for division.
received only $480 for his share and consequent dissatisfaction is said to
have been the reason for his confession. It is evident, however, that
suffered from remorse, though not for his crimes.
merely a witness for the Government,
was allowed some liberty. He repaid their confidence in April, 1900
by entering the
Tombstone jail and after shooting the jailer
through the leg, releasing
and "Bravo John."
to leave and Burts, who had been arrested in
happened to be outside at the time with a deputy sheriff. So the trio hung
upon them all the weapons they could find in the sheriff's office and took
to the hills on stolen horses.
They were next heard of at
ranch near Wilcox, where they made an announcement that they proposed to
rob a few more Southern Pacific trains. When the Tombstone Prospector
criticized the sheriff's office in connection with the escape, the
sheriff's brother replied by hammering Editor Hattich over the head with a
revolver. In addition to various rewards offered by the sheriff and
territorial authorities, W.C. Greene offered $10,000 for the capture of
the two outlaws, who were understood to have dislike Greene immensely.