Hat Creek Dateline: 1877/08/00
Crooks throw away payroll
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Road agents, unknowningly, threw away the stage line payroll during a recent holdup. The robbery, which took place in the Lance Creek-Cheyenne River area, was apparently the work of a gang consisting of James Wall, Dunc Blackburn, Lame Johnny, Lame Bradley, Clark Pelton (alias Billy Webster), and Hartwell. Ed Cook, paymaster for the stage line, was on the coach and had been paying the stock tender, station agents, drivers, shotgun messengers, and other employees at each of the stage stops. The road agents had learned that it was a payroll run and planned to rob it.
Cook was riding shotgun armed with double-barreled 12 ga. muzzle-loaded shotgun. After they had been stopped by the outlaw gang, the passengers were lined up and searched. Lame Bradley, who had a grudge against Cook, took a shot at him and shot off part of one ear. Before Bradley could fire again he was stopped by Blackburn, who remembered that Cook had befriended him at one time. One of the gang had taken Cook's watch, and Blackburn also compelled them to return it, this almost caused a fight among the robbers. When the robbers had searched Cook, they found very little money on him. Taking his old shotgun and berating him for being such a fool to use it when breech loading shotguns are now readily available. Bradley, with an oath, threw the gun into the brush.
After the robbers left, Cook recovered the gun and the passengers were reloaded, the stage proceeded on to the next stop. When he arrived there the stage employees were planning on being paid. They were not disappointed as Cook reached into his pocket, pulled out a cork-screw, then he proceeded to remove a cork from the end of the barrel of his gun and pour out gold coins enough for their pay. The paymaster had anticipated such a robbery when he decided to carry the payroll in this manner. Bradley, who calls himself "King of the Road" was sure outwitted this time as he threw away the payroll that he was actually holding in his hands.
(Note: Malcolm S. Campbell's father, also Malcolm, came to Wyoming in 1867, he served as deputy sheriff for Albany County at Fort Fetterman. He was the first sheriff of Converse County in 1888, which included all of the area that is now Niobrara County. After spending many years in law enforcement, the old sheriff lived to celebrate his 92nd birthday with an airplane ride in 1932. Ed Cook remained in the Hat Creek and Lusk area, developing a ranch and raising his family here. He was on the first board of commissioners when Niobrara County was organized in 1913.)