Rattlesnake Dick’s Stolen Loot


Yreka Mine, 1860

Yreka Mine, 1860

Richard Barter, also known as Rattlesnake Dick and Dick Woods, was born in Quebec, Canada, the son of a British officer around 1833. Though little is known of his early history, he was said to have been a reckless sort of boy

During California’s Gold Rush days, he migrated there in 1850, accompanied by an older brother and an old man who was some sort of relative. Settling in at Rattlesnake Bar, a small mining camp in Placer County, the brother and other man soon returned to Canada. But, Dick remained at the camp, working for other miners and doing a little prospecting on his own.

However, Barter was unsuccessful in his quest for gold and soon decided to turn to a life of crime. He began with rustling horses but was as unsuccessful at that as he was at finding gold. In no time, he was arrested and sent to prison for two years.

When he was released he formed a gang made up of  brothers, Cyrus and George Skinner, along with several others. In 1856, Barter learned from a drunken mining engineer that large gold shipments were being sent down Trinity Mountain from the Yreka and Klamath River Mines.

Barter sent George Skinner and three others to intercept the gold shipment, which was packed on mules. George and the other bandits stopped the mule train outside of Nevada City, California holding guns on the muleskinners. Meekly the men turned over $80,600 in gold bullion to Skinner and his men, without a shot being fired.

The bandits then made off with the shipment to keep a rendezvous at Folsom with Barter and Cyrus Skinner. However, George Skinner found it next to impossible to take the heavy gold shipment down the mountain passes without fresh mules. Soon, he split up the gold shipment burying half of it in the mountains.

Making their way to Auburn, the outlaws were soon intercepted by a Wells Fargo posse and gunfight ensued. In the melee, George Skinner was killed and his confederates fled. The lawmen recovered $40,600 of the stolen loot and though they searched diligently, they failed to find the remaining $40,000.

In the meantime, Rattlesnake Dick and Cy Skinner weren’t at the rendezvous point in Folsom, as they had just been jailed for stealing mules. When they were released, Barter immediately sought out George Skinner to obtain his share of the gold shipment, only to find that Skinner had been killed. Cy Skinner and Barter spent the next several weeks trying to find the buried gold before they finally gave up.

Both men soon went back to robbing stagecoaches but their luck soon ran out. On July 11, 1859, Sheriff J. Boggs trapped Barter and Skinner in a mountain pass near Auburn, California. Boggs fired a shot right into the heart of Rattlesnake Dick, killing him instantly. Skinner was wounded, but lived to be taken into custody and given a long prison sentence.

The treasure has never been recovered.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated May, 2017.


Back to California Treasure Tales

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *