Treasure boxes installed on stages
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
During the last month, most of the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stages have been equipped with heavy iron "treasure boxes," installed under the seats. However the treasure boxes and "shotgun messengers" on the treasure coaches have not been enough to prevent road agents from robbing the coaches and passengers.
On June 25, several masked men robbed a coach north of here. F.B. Reed of Denver, a passenger on the coach, said that all of the passengers were asleep and the curtains of the coach were tightly buttoned when the command came to halt. The horses in pulling up out of a gully, had slackened speed, when the road agents stopped them. Reed "gave" the boys $120 in cash and a gold ring valued at $400. Garret Crystal, a freighter riding in the coach, was "fleeced to the tune of" $700 and a gold watch; Irwin, a miner from Potato Gulch, contributed $198 in currency; and Alex Francais, formerly of Denver, was relieved of $300.
Cy Hawley, stage coach driver, was wounded during a robbery the next day, June 26. He was driving the down coach (south bound) when five masked men stopped him about 10 miles from the Cheyenne River. Several shots were exchanged, one of which struck Hawley in the side. When the coach arrived here, Dr. Albert Chenoweth, acting assistant surgeon at Camp Hat Creek dressed his wound, which did not prove to be serious.
The road agents "went through" the passengers' pockets and money belts from which they obtained three gold watches valued at $1,025 and about $400 in cash. The passengers included a man named Pierce; J.M. Mattison of Ophir, Utah and J.J. Holiday of St. Louis. The outlaws then proceeded to blow the lock off the treasure box and removed its contents of about $12,000 worth of gold.
Upon leaving, the road agents returned the guns taken from the messengers, and pistols taken from the passengers. They also swore about the wooden treasure box from Custer City, which had been found empty the day before. They said they would go over and burn Custer City if treasure was not sent out from there soon.
Again today, that is three days in a row, the stage was stopped near the Cheyenne River, apparently by the same gang. They took both treasure boxes, the contents of which were not made public. The passenger, Mrs. M.G. Tonn, Miss M.M. Bogy, J.W. Miner, Dr. J.L. Edwards, W.L.G. Soule, Charles Wilson, and Pat Keeley were not molested this time.
The road agents also sent word, by the driver, to stage Superintendent Voorhees to send them a pair of gold scales, because "dividing dust with a spoon is not always satisfactory."
(Information sources: "Fort Laramie in 1876," by Paul Hedren; "Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring).