Big Dave Updyke - Crooked Sheriff of Ada County, Idaho
David C. Updyke was born in the vicinity of Cayuga Lake, New York, about 1830. Said to have been raised in an upstanding family that boasted some of the
leading citizens of New York, Updyke
was a black sheep.
In 1855, he went to
where he was employed for two years by the California
Stage Company as a stage driver. Three years later, he sailed to British
Columbia to look for another kind of work, but finding nothing there that
suited him, he soon returned to California
spending two years in Yuba County, then two years in Virginia City,
By 1862, word was
spreading of the rich gold finds in
and Updyke went first to Florence, then Warren, and by the fall he was
in Boise County where he worked a valuable claim on Ophir Mountain.
By 1864, he had saved more than $1,500 dollars and went to Boise City
where he bought a livery stable in the center of town. Though
had committed no known crimes up until this point, he had begun to
consort with a number of criminals. Before long, the livery
stable became the rendezvous site for some of the
most reckless bands of robbers and road agents.
Early stagecoach, 1913. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
However, this did not
stop David Updyke from being elected Sheriff of Ada County in March,
1864. Though many of his cohorts were ruffians, they were a
strong power in the Democratic party and Updyke
won the election by a small margin.
Before long, Updyke
was suspected of aiding in the circulation of stolen gold dust, as
well as participating in a stage robbery near Boise City in 1864. So many rough characters began to hang about
stable that many of the citizens began to refer to them as "Updyke's
Gang.” However, he and/or his
outlaw friends covered their
tracks so well, nothing could be proven.
Soon after his
election, he avowed to break up a
vigilante organization of about thirty men, which had been formed
in the Payette River settlement, some thirty miles from Boise City. This enraged many of the law-abiding citizens who felt the
vigilante committees were their only protection from thieving and
murdering road agents in the area.
cared little about what those law-abiding citizens thought and somehow
obtained all the names of the men in the vigilante group, procuring warrants for their arrests. While
the proceedings and warrants were all perfectly within the law, Updyke
and his "posse” secretly planned to shoot the vigilante leaders and maintain that they had resisted arrest.
The plan was that 15 to 20 armed men would
leave Boise City, meet up with more road agents at Horse Shoe Bend,
and then proceed with their warrants to the Payette River settlement. However, word leaked to the citizens of Boise City of the plan and
they secretly dispatched a messenger to the Payette Vigilantes.
"posse” left Boise City about 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon to carry out
the arrests, the thirty members of the vigilante group were assembling in self-protection. When
and his men reached Horse Shoe Bend, they failed to connect with the
country road agents and went on without them.
Boise, Idaho in
its early days.
When the "posse” arrived at Payette River,
they were surprised to find themselves outnumbered two to one. Forced to negotiate with the
complied with their demands. The vigilantes agreed to go to Boise City to answer the warrants but they
would not allow Updyke
or his men to disarm them. After arriving in Boise City and
obtaining an attorney, the complaints against the vigilantes were dismissed and they were discharged.
humiliated vigilantes were obviously very bitter towards Updyke
and began to closely watch his every move. The public soon began to
believe the "Updyke
Gang” was behind nearly every theft, murder and robbery that occurred
anywhere in the area.
The next murderous
outrage, in which the "Updyke
Gang" was concerned, was the stage robbery in
Portneuf Canyon, where four of its passengers were killed.
On July 26, 1865, Updyke,
along with three other
outlaws robbed a gold laden stagecoach of some
$86,000 in gold. In the melee, four of the stage passengers were killed,
and the stage driver and another passenger were wounded.
vigilante committee immediately went after the three other outlaws but
was a different story. Having been duly elected as Ada County
Sheriff, the vigilantes were more cautious and waited until the opportune time to
punish him for his suspected wrongdoings. On September 28, 1865, the
Payette River Vigilance Committee arrested him on a charge of defrauding
the revenue and failing to arrest a hard case
outlaw named West Jenkins.
made bail and knowing the reputation of the Vigilance Committee, he
immediately left town, fleeing to Boise City where he had more influence. However, the citizens there too, were fed up with the criminal elements
and began to form groups for the purpose cleaning up the county. By the
next spring, Updyke feared for his own safety and accompanied by another
outlaw by the name of John Dixon, the two departed Boise on the Rocky
Bar Road on April 12, 1866. Unaware that a vigilante party was following them, the two overnighted at an
abandoned cabin some thirty miles out of town.
During the night, the
vigilantes captured the unsuspecting pair and lead them some ten miles
farther down the road to Sirup Creek. The next morning as the
vigilantes prepared to hang the men, they questioned Updyke
about the whereabouts of the stolen cache. The crooked sheriff only
glared at them in contempt, refusing to respond. The vigilantes then hanged both men under a shed between two vacant
had only $50.00 on his person at the time of his death.
On April 14th, the bodies
were found with a note pinned to Updyke's
chest accusing him of being "an aider of murderers and thieves.” The
next day an anonymous note appeared in Boise that further explained the
committee’s actions. "Dave Updyke:
Accessory after the fact to the Portneuf stage robbery, accessory and
accomplice to the robbery of the stage near Boise City in 1864, chief
conspirator in burning property on the overland stage line, guilty of
aiding and assisting escape of West Jenkins, and the murderer of others
while sheriff, and threatening the lives and property of an already
outraged and long suffering community.”
The gold taken in the
July, 1865 has never been found and many think it is buried somewhere in
the City of
of America, updated April, 2017.
The Twin Sisters at the
City of Rocks
National Park Service.
Canyon, Idaho Stage Robbery
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