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Outlaw Loot in Flagstaff

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Canyon Diablo

Canyon Diablo

 

Flagstaff Outlaw Loot

Legend has it that upon a mountain ledge overhanging the City of Flagstaff, Arizona is buried an approximate $125,000 taken from a stage coach in 1881. 

Thirty-five miles east of Flagstaff at Canyon Diablo, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was the end of the line for those heading to California.  As the stage coach passengers waited, four canvas mail bags were unloaded from the train to the westbound coach.  Onlookers watched as the mail bags were transferred from the train to the boot of the coach, noticing that two of the bags appeared to be particularly heavy. 

 

San Francisco PeaksOnce the baggage was loaded, the coach headed north out of Canyon Diablo before swinging west onto the California-Santa Fe Trail.  Headed to Flagstaff, the passengers and baggage would meet the next stage en route to another railroad at Needles, California.  The elevation between Canyon Diablo and Flagstaff is extreme and the team of horses climbed steadily along the San Francisco Peaks until they reached a flat divide.

 

Suddenly, five riders surrounded the coach leveling their six guns at the passengers and the crew.  The bandit leader immediately motioned two of the outlaws to the back of the coach, where the two lifted out the two heavy mail sacks, dropping them to the ground.

 

Without robbing the stage passengers, the coach was sent on its way and reached Flagstaff at about 5:00 p.m.  Flagstaff, no more than a collection of wooden shacks at the time, consisted of only 2 stores and 5 saloons, one of which served as the local stage station.

 

The terrified passengers disembarked, talking excitedly about the stage hold-up.  Nearby, the station agent visibly paled as he listened to the account and pulled the stage master aside.  Still confused as to why any outlaws would be interested in nothing but mailbags, the stage master quickly learned that the two bags taken contained a shipment of gold and silver bound from an Albuquerque Bank to a San Francisco Bank.  The Stagecoach Leader could do more than stare at him in disbelief.

 

The Station Manager explained that Wells Fargo, who had been plagued by a rash of recent stage coach robberies, had attempted to fool any future bandits by packing the gold and silver into two-five gallon whiskey kegs in each bag.  Seemingly, these outlaws had an inside track to Wells-Fargo’s plan.

 

 

A posse was immediately formed but the bandits were far ahead of any pursuers. Wells-Fargo, no doubt embarrassed by their ill-conceived idea, demanded the help of the U.S. Army and a patrol of the 6th US Cavalry picked up the bandit trail with the help of two Indian scouts.  The twelve-man cavalry followed the robbers to an elevation of 8,500 feet to what was later known as Veit Spring.  A log cabin was spotted ahead where five saddled horses were tethered to a pole corral.

As the posse approached, the bandits prepared to mount when the troopers rushed them.  The outlaws opened fire, which was returned by the cavalry.  In the end, all five outlaws lay dead.  After the gunfight, the bandits’ horses and equipment were gathered up and the cabin was searched, but no loot was found.  Word, of course quickly spread, and the very next day more than a dozen men arrived at Veit Spring searching for the hidden loot.  The entire area was searched and dug up, but still nothing was found.  Within a few months the robbery was all but forgotten to most.

Stagecoach Robbery, 1902
 

However, property owner, George Veit diligently searched for the stolen treasure for almost thirty years – digging all over the slopes, the dirt floor of the cabin, around the spring and in the nearby perpetual ice caves.  But he never found the cache.  Family members and other treasure hunters followed but to date no one has ever claimed to have found the treasure.

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February, 2010.

 

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