Hat Creek Dateline: 1877/06/03

Last updated: December 9, 2011

The Lusk Herald
September 5, 1990


Mitchell is new superintendent
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer


Thomas Mitchell has been named superintendent of the northern division of the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Company. He replaces the former division supt John Featherstrun, who was killed in an accident May 20.

Mitchell, who was named as the new division head by Luke Voorhees, is an experienced stage line operator.

Featherstrun's death was a serious loss to the stage company, it occurred as he was overseeing the movement of some stage line property. His neck was broken as he hit the ground after being thrown from a stage wagon during a runaway near Mountain City, (midway between Custer City and Deadwood Gulch).

As Division Superintendent, Featherstrun was a frequent passenger as the coaches stopped here at Hat Creek. Less than a month before his death he had come through, riding "shotgun" on the coach with George Wallihan, editor of the Cheyenne Leader, and a load of other notables.

Road agents in the Black Hills seemed to have been giving Featherstrun a wide berth, as they probably knew of his activities with the Montana Vigilantes. As a leader of that group he had helped rid Montana Territory of a band of vicious outlaws. John Featherstrun had also established a reputation for fearlessness when he served as a deputy U. S. Marshall in the Dakota Territory, under George M. Pinney.

Just a few days after Featherstrun's death, on the night of June 1, the down stage (southbound), driven by George Drake was stopped about eight and one-half miles from Hat Creek. He was stopped by a horseman who rode into the middle of the road, ordered to halt and fired a pistol. Two more road agents came from some bushes nearby just as the passengers, heavily armed, jumped from the coach. All three of the outlaws fled.

Charley Partridge, telegraph operator here at Hat Creek, immediately sent the information about the attempted robbery to Superintendent Voorhees. His response was a telegram back to his agent in Deadwood to send two armed guards "shotgun messenger" out on every coach that carried treasure, with order to shoot the first armed man who approached the coach either day or by night.

There is practically no law enforcement in all of the northeast corner of Wyoming Territory at this time. The county seat, Cheyenne, being some 150 miles south of here is over 300 miles from the northern end of Laramie County. By the time a crime is reported to the law in Cheyenne, and a posse organized to pursue them, the perpetrators of the crime can easily be hundreds of miles out of reach.

The thousands of square miles of former Indian county, just being legally opened to white men, is a vast uninhabited area made up of gulches, breaks, canyons, plains, rolling hills, and valleys, which provide innumerable getaways and hideouts. There are plenty of buffalo and other wild game in the area. Many of the outlaws, in the guise of buffalo hunters, move their camps around the country and plunder and murder at will.

(Information source: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)




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