Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/10/18

Last updated: April 22, 2013

The Lusk Herald
August 7, 1991


Thieves are escorted
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer


The down (southbound) stage rolled in this evening from Deadwood with shotun messengers Jesse Brown and Jim May in charge of two road agents, William Mansfield and Archie McLaughlin (Laughlin). Both have admitted implications in the Canyon Springs robbery of Sept. 26 and also to have taken part in the Whoop Up Canyon holdup.

McLaughlin had been in the party of robbers lead by Charles Carey that headed east from Canyon Springs after they split up their loot. They had one wounded man with them and bought a dead-axle wagon to haul him in and two ponies at Slate Creek.

William Ward was leading the pursuing posse, the trail led them around Rapid City then over the Divide to Boxelder Creek. Ward rode into Rapid City, eastern gateway to the Black Hills, and learned from stageline agent Ed Cook that Carey's party had bought an extra horse and supplies and headed across the prairie for Fort Pierre, river post on the Missouri. On a fresh mount, Ward was sided by Cook, sheriff F.P. Moulton, Deputy Steele and a force of volunteer manhunters.

Carey's wagon kept apart from the travel routes, however one evening a westbound freighter told them of a wagon party making camp in a gulch along the Cheyenne River breaks. Scouts located them near Pino Springs, and Ward's party surrounded it for a dawn surprise. At daylight they found the camp deserted.

Most of the volunteers, their mounts exhausted, turned home. It was past noon when Ward discovered Carey's trail had divided, two riders had made a swing back toward the Black Hills. As Ward, Cook and the sheriff stopped to analyze the situation, Ward declared excitedly "We should have searched the camp area back there. They left the gold behind." Carey had doubled back to recover the loot.

They headed straight back to where the wagon had been left. It was dark by the time they arrived, guided by the glow of the camp fire, they saw two men wrapped in blankets. The two men were "captured" and handcuffed before it was discovered that they were Dr. Whitfield and Ray Coney who had returned there after trails they had been following played out.

A morning search proved fruitful when two gold bars were uncovered. While Ray Coney was lifting out the loot, a rifle bullet broke his arm. They could not tell where the shot came from. Whitfield, Coney and Deputy Steele carried the gold back to the Black Hills.

Ward, Cook and Sheriff Moulton reached Fort Pierre after a river boat named the Rector had headed downstream with a "miner and a sick friend" aboard. As Ward was in the telegraph office alerting officers downstream, shots rang out on the waterfront.

Ward dashed out in time to see Moulton and Cook take a prisoner who was making a run for the ferry. He was carrying extra weight around his midriff and the warning shots had caused him to stop and surrender It was Archie (Red) McLaughlin (Laughlin) with gold dust bags on a money belt under his clothes.

(Information sources: "Robbery of the Bandit Proof Stage," by Joe Koller, Real West, Vol. VIII NO. 42; "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)




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