Andrew Jackson "Big Jack” Davis started out as an honest miner, shortly after he
moved from California to
course of his career changed. A well-educated and intelligent man, "Jack” Davis
had been mining in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but when he didn’t find his
fortune in gold, he moved on to the
Comstock Lode in
Territory in late 1859. This time; however, rather than working as a miner, he
felt that his fortune might be made in providing services to the miners, rather
than carrying on the back-breaking work of actual mining, and soon built the
first stable in Gold Hill.
he soon tired of shoveling hay, grain and manure, Davis then leased a small bullion
mill in Six Mile Canyon east of Virginia
mill, in addition to providing services to area miners, was also doing a bit of
Lawrence & Houseworth.
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By all appearances, Davis was a legitimate
businessman, but he was surreptitiously rounding up a gang of thieves that
was soon be involved in robbing stagecoaches, bullion wagons, and trains in
his mill to melt down the stolen gold, he was soon selling "legitimate” gold
On November 4, 1870, Davis led the gang in holding
up the Central Pacific Railroad between Verdi and Reno,
with gang members, John Squires, James Gilchrist, Tilton Cockerill, and R.A.
Jones, the robbers boarded the train at Verdi and when it reached a deserted
stretch of track paralleling the Truckee River, the robbers slipped the pin
behind the express car, and the passenger coaches fell back. As they entered the
Express car, the Wells-Fargo
messenger gave the outlaws no trouble. They then ordered the engineer to pull to
a stop at an abandoned stone quarry and the robbers rode off with nearly $40,000
in gold and silver coins.
Though the outlaws had done a "good” job robbing the
train and getting the lead on their pursuers, they would be undone by R.A.
Jones, when he began to spend his share of the loot foolishly. Unable to explain
his newly found wealth, he was picked up for questioning in the robbery, soon
confessed and named the others. Much of the stolen cache was said to have been
returned to the company, but the rest was allegedly buried
along the north bank of the
Truckee River, between Reno and Laughton's Hot Springs west of town, near the
site of the long-abandoned River Inn. (see
Stolen Loot at the
All five of the men were sentenced serve time in the
Prison. Davis was sentenced to serve ten years. In 1871, 29 prison inmates broke
out in the largest prison escape in the West. The inmates included three of
Verdi train robbers, but, though Davis could easily have left with the others,
he refused. Later, he cooperated with prison officials on providing information
on the escapees. The prison warden, P.C. Hyman later wrote to the Board of
Pardons, explaining Davis’ assistance and requesting his release. He was let go
on February 16, 1875.
Though Davis had been a model prisoner, it didn’t
take him long to return to his old ways after his release. He was soon robbing
stages again. He was very careful to rob only those stages that carried one
shot-gun messenger, but his cautiousness in the end, would not be enough. On
September 3, 1877, he went to rob a stagecoach at Warm Springs,
During the attempted robbery, he was shot and killed.