Salvageable materials removed from Camp Hat Creek Area
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Capt. Alexander Moore and 1st Lt. A. Smead have led their Company F, 3rd Cavalry to Spearfish City in the northern Black Hills. They will not be replaced here at Camp Hat Creek. A couple of weeks ago 1st Lt. George A. Drew, post quarter-master at Fort Laramie, directed the removal of the salvageable materials from Camp (Fort) Hat Creek back to Fort Laramie. This act has officially abandoned Camp Hat Creek, by the U.S. Army.
As we look back over 1877 there has been much activity and excitement around Hat Creek. The imprisonment of Dunc Blackburn and James Wall on Christmas day brings the total of captured or killed road agents up to 12. A.J. Allen, Louis Curry and James Hall ere hung by vigilantes near Rapid City.
Other outlaws that have been locked up for preying on the coaches of the Cheyenne Black Hills line include Bill Bevens, Prescott Webb, C.P. Wisdom, G.W. Connor, John Babcock and Fonce Rines.
There road agents and numerous others have been a constant threat to the stage line. There have been as many as four hold-ups within 24 hours between here and the Black Hills during this last summer.
After the installation of the "salamander" safe in the treasure coaches, late in the summer, there have not been any robberies of major gold shipments.
However, the road agents continued to stop coaches and rob the passengers. On March 24, Johnny Slaughter was shot and killed by road agents, he was a popular young driver and the son of the Cheyenne City marshal. Scott (Quick Shot) Davis, captain of the shotgun messengers was also shot and wounded in the hip during a robbery in September.
Early in the year, the stage company began preparing for the rush of gold seekers to the Hills. They bought more coaches and horses, laid in supplies at the stage stations and even opened up the new route north from here around the west side of the Hills. With all of the changes the distance to Deadwood City was shortened to 230 miles and the travel time was cut from 60 to about 51 hours. Coaches are running daily and the first class fare in $30.
During the year the coaches have carried about 7,000 first and second class passengers in addition to more than 10,000 express packages. There are 80 men on their payroll and they keep about 600 horses in use. The first official U.S. Mail went through on the stage line on April 21 and post offices were then opened at Hat Creek and Deadwood City.
The rush to the Hills really began in late March, on the 24th, 168 passengers stopped here on their way to the gold fields. After Chief Crazy Horse surrendered here on the first of May, and the weather improved, the real surge of passenger and freight traffic began for the summer. As 1877 draws to a close, the north country is snowed under, coaches are traveling there on runners, but they are going through on schedule.
(Information sources: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Freight Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring: "CAMP, Vol. VI, No. 4, Cp Hat Creek, Wyoming," by Paul L. Hedren.)