Ruggles Brothers Loot in
John and Charles Ruggles came from a respected
family in Tulare County,
California. Handsome men, Charles attended college but John was seemingly a "problem”
from a young age. The boys' father had high hopes for Charles but
little faith in John as he was already in trouble with the law, arrested
and imprisoned for robbery, while still a very young man. However, about
the time Charles graduated college, John was released from prison and
began to corrupt his younger brother, who had never committed a crime.
He soon talked Charles into making his living
the "easy way” by robbing a stagecoach. On May 14, 1892, the pair
lay in wait for the Redding & Weaverville Stage just outside of Redding,
intent upon taking a strong box filled with some $5,000 in gold coins.
As the stage headed east
in the late afternoon on what is now Middle Creek Road, from Shasta to
Redding, it was driven by John Boyce. Its only passenger was
George Suhr, who was riding up front with the driver. However,
the stage guard, who also acted as the stage messenger, Amos "Buck”
Montgomery, was riding inside the coach. When the stage came to
a sharp curve in the road it slowed and out of the trees stepped
Charles Ruggles. Wearing a long coat and a bandanna covering
his face, he was pointing a shotgun at the driver. When he ordered
Boyce to stop the stage and throw down the strong box, Boyce
immediately complied, heaving the heavy box to the ground.
Stagecoach with guard sitting on top.
This image available for photographic prints
simultaneously, a blast sounded from inside the coach as Montgomery
fired his shotgun riddling Charles in the face and upper body with
buckshot. As the bandit fell, he returned the fire, hitting both
Boyce and Suhr in the legs.
Suddenly, John, who
was hidden nearby, retaliated by firing shots into the stagecoach. He
hit Montgomery who would die just hours later from his wounds.
Frightened by the blasts, the horses took off running, pulling the
stage behind them.
John, believing that his brother was
dying, grabbed the heavy strongbox, hid it nearby, and fled. As
soon as the stage reached "civilization” to tell their tale, a posse
was immediately formed who quickly found Charles. Though
severely wounded, they took him to the Redding jail where he was his
injuries were treated.
John made a clean
getaway for a short time, winding up at his aunt’s house in Woodland. However, when she learned that he had robbed a stage and killed a man
she kicked him out and reported him to the local sheriff. Six
weeks after the robbery, on June 19th, John was arrested while sitting
in a restaurant in Woodland. Returned to the Redding jail, John
was surprised to find his brother very much alive and recovering from
In an effort to save himself and his
brother, John told the authorities that the stage guard, Montgomery,
was in cahoots with them. He also revealed where he had hidden
the gold, telling authorities that he had hidden it in Middle Creek. Attached to the strong box was a floating device that came within a
foot of the top of the water that would help him in finding it later.
Both John and Charles being handsome and charming, before long they drew the attention of
the local ladies who began pamper them. Some brought cakes and
fruits, others gave them flower bouquets, and allegedly, the pair even
received offers of marriage.
This, of course, enraged
the local men who were already upset over the killing of Montgomery. On the evening of July 24, 1892, a
vigilante mob of some 40 men stormed the jail. The lone jailer,
George Albro, could do nothing as the men blew open the safe that held the
As the lynch mob forcibly
took the pair from the jail, John Ruggles offered to divulge the location
of the stolen loot if the mob would free his brother. "Spare Charley
and I will tell you," John Ruggles was quoted as saying.
But the lynch mob
wouldn’t hear of it, dragging the men to a tree next to the Redding
Blacksmith shop at the northwest corner of Shasta Street and the railroad
tracks. John was 33 years old, Charles, just 22.
Middle Creek in Shasta County, California
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Hanging of the Ruggles brothers on July 24, 1892.
Photo provided by the Mandell Family.
The next morning, Redding residents found the
two bandits hanging by their necks. The bodies stayed there for
three days as passengers on nearby trains viewed their gruesome remains.
In a local newspaper
editorial, it said that justice had been fairly meted out and further:
It was a disagreeable job, but under the
circumstances appeared to be necessary for the public good and is an
example to the courts.
As to the stolen
an express pouch was later found near Lower Springs with all the letters
intact; however, the gold was never recovered. Middle Creek is
about six miles west of Redding, California.
Kathy Weiser/Legends of
America, updated May, 2017.
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