Charles A. “Jack” Harris – A saloon keeper and highwayman, Jack Harris originally hailed from New England but, by 1861, was living in Carson City, Nevada where he opened a saloon. Though he was doing a brisk business, it was seemingly not enough for Harris, as he was secretly robbing stage coaches on the side. While serving his customers, he always kept an alert ear out when talk turned to any valuable shipments on the Wells Fargo Express. Then, acting as a lone agent, he would be waiting for the stagecoaches hiding behind a mask and aiming his rifle.
Having usually worked alone, he made a mistake in June, 1865, when he robbed a stage with two other men named Moses P. Haines, A.P. Waterman and two other men known only as Pitcher and Love. Hitting a stage hauling a $14,000 payroll shipment destined for the Comstock district, they held it up near Silver City and made off with the cash without any problem.
Wells, Fargo and Co. quickly offered a reward for the return of the money and the arrest and conviction of the robbers. Though the descriptions of the men were not very good, Harris and Moses Haines were arrested. After questioning a drifter named Red Smith, who provided some type of helpful information, the officers put pressure on Haines. The evidence was slim, had he held fast, the charges against them probably would have been dropped. However, Haines began to talk, identifying both Harris and A.P. Waterman.
Waterman, who was found in possession of the plunder, was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. With Haines talking, Harris knew he was in trouble, but he was good at making deals. He had a lot of information about other crimes and outlaws, which he soon traded for a light sentence. Though he was still sentenced to prison, he was released, after serving only a couple of months due to the information that he provided. He then left Nevada and was never heard from again. Haines, because he had turned state’s evidence and helped recover most of the stolen money, served no time at all. The others received shorter terms.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.