“Now, gentlemen, I’ll relieve you of your loose change,” urbanely remarked the captain of the crowd; and down went his delicate hand into my breeches-pocket; and up came seven twenty-dollar gold pieces. He went into all of my other pockets and examined me closely to see if I wore a belt. He also amused himself by taking my watch and chain; and then passed to Siebler, whom he denominated a poor cuss, adding, “Why, you haven’t got the price of a drink, have you? Here, I’ll lend you two-and-a-half, and you can pay it back to your friend in the rear.” Siebler never returned the aforesaid coin, however.
In searching the two army officers, several hundred dollars in currency was captured. Then came the Dutchman’s turn, who, upon the approach of the captain, left his place in the line exclaiming, “Vat der teufel for dis peessiness? I don’t oondurstand dose dings.”
“Do you understand that?” said No. 4, placing the muzzle of his pistol near the ear of the enraged Teuton, and snapping a cap.
“No!” he replied, savagely; “mein Gott in Himmel, I don’t oondustand dese toings;” at the same time knocking the pistol aside with one hand, and quietly tucking a handful of small gold into his boot-leg.
“That’s played out, my boy,” said No. 1, who was keenly watching the operation; “take that bullion out of your boot, or I’ll leave you here for the crows.”
Rather than be transformed into food for unclean birds, Mr. Francis Seibler transferred the deposit from his boot-leg to the capacious pocket of the captain.
Mr. Lamoreux, the Frenchman, was next ransacked and relieved of over $2,000, which he carried in a belt, in $20 gold pieces. He saved more than that amount in greenbacks, however, by cutting a hole in his pocket with his penknife and letting it and his paper money fall into his boot.
Not a dime was realized from Mr. Ashley, notwithstanding the most careful manipulation of that gentleman’s pockets. His funds had gone, as Jim Fisk would have happily remarked, “where the woodbine twineth.”
The next gentleman saved his money by putting it upon his hat, while Mr. Simons, the person who threw out the Wells-Fargo express matter, quietly dropped a wallet containing $10,000 in currency into the front boot of the stage.
The robbers then searched the vehicle, but finding nothing that they deemed valuable, the captain shouted “Get your seats, now, and be off, and be particularly careful not to return!” In a few moments, we were ” all set,” to use a stage expression, and our journey to Austin was resumed.
These feats of highwaymanship are of frequent occurrence upon the Pacific slope, even up to the present time. California, Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada have many long stage routes, over which travel some of the richest men of the far West. The treasure boxes of Wells, Fargo & Co.’s express are the principal incentive of these raids of banditti, however, while hundreds of thousands of dollars in bars of gold and silver are transported from the mines all over the Pacific States and Territories in this way.
While almost every traveler goes armed in these sections of sparsely inhabited country, there is hardly an exception to the general rule of yielding gracefully to the demands of these “road agents.” They always manage to take you unawares, and as quick as thought, almost, you find yourself surrounded by half a dozen desperadoes, more or less, your every action being dictated by a six-shooter in close proximity to your head.
During the White Pine excitement, hundreds of thousands of dollars were forcibly taken from travelers and the express companies. During the past twenty years stages from Salt Lake City to Helena, Montana, have been successfully robbed scores of times; so, also, has the stage from Placerville and Sacramento, California, to Virginia City, Nevada, and the Washoe silver mines. Fourteen years ago three stages were robbed within four miles of Virginia City by ten masked men, nearly forty passengers being relieved of their valuables. The Los Angeles and San Francisco stage was stopped twelve years ago by four highwaymen, only a mile and a half from the former town. In this case, the robbers were afterward captured, and one of them, turning State’s evidence, convicted the other three, who were sent to the penitentiary for fifteen years. Charlie Ames, the chief, when the sentence was passed upon him, remarked to the sheriff that he would like to play a game of “old sledge” with the judge (Hon. A. J. King) whether he should make it thirty years or nothing.
Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated March 2018.
About the Author: Major Benjamin Cummings Truman was an American journalist and author; including a role as a distinguished war correspondent for the New York Times during the American Civil War. A Midnight Adventure in Nevada was included in Trumans book, Occidental Sketches, published by the San Francisco News Co. in 1881.