Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/10/04

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 01/30/1991

Gold recovered and three road agents killed by Davis
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

Scott Davis, captain of the shotgun messengers for the stage line, rode in here about noon today hot on the trail of two of the road agents involved in the Canyon Springs' robbery last week.

He found out from the Laramie County special detective stationed here that the pair, posing as land-hunting homesteaders traveling in a covered wagon had left shortly before Davis had arrived. When they stopped to buy some supplies at the stage station the detective had advised them to look for land in the North Platte River Valley.

Upon learning this, Davis got a fresh horse and galloped off after the pair he had been following for several days. He returned, mid-afternoon with the wagon, the bodies of the outlaws and two gold bars, worth about $6,500, they had taken in the robbery.

The outlaws were Hawknose George and Tom Harris. After sending a telegram to Luke Voorhees, stage line superintendent, notifying him of the recovery of the gold and the death of these two robbers and another one called Long Yank, David relaxed long enough to tell about his pursuit of these robbers.

At first light on Sept. 27, the morning after the big robbery, Davis and William Ward followed the stage tracks from Canyon Springs into a rock bound cove two miles from the station. Here they found the looted coach with the driver, Gene Barnet, tied to a rear wheel.

Ward was trembling with indignation because the lawmen from Dakota had refused to come to Canyon Springs as it was in Wyoming Territory where they had no authority. However, the Dakota sheriffs were rounding up all suspects in the Black Hills on their side of the line. Barnet told them the gang was led by Charley Carey, others were Long Yank, Frank McBride, Douglas Goodale, Hawknose George, Red Laughlin and Tom Harris. Al Spears, the dead man was buried nearby.

They followed the trail to Spring-on-the-Hill campground, where it forked again. Davis followed the tracks of a lone rider toward Red Canyon. As he entered the canyon with great caution, the crack of a rifle and a rebel yell echoed across the canyon as Davis's horse doubled up under him. In their exchange of fire, Davis's fourth shot silenced the rebel yell. No gold was found on Long Yank, however there was the dent of a gold bar in his saddle bag. Riding Yank's flyspecked gray mare, Davis searched in vain for the missing gold bar.

Acting on a hunch, Davis ventured on down Red Canyon to the south fork of the Cheyenne river (near Edgemont). He then headed up the river toward the Robber's Roost country. As he came by a ranch, a stocky man was playing with a colt in a pole corral.

The man's greeting to Davis was "Yer late. Yer parders shoved off this mornin'. Waited most two days fer ye."

"Pardners?" Davis questioned warily.

"Sure. They bought my old mover-wagon and outfit and four sacks of oats. They're going to scout fer homesteads."

"How do you know they were waiting for me?"

"Yer horse. B'fore they pulled out Hawk says, if that ranny on a flyspecked gray mare shows up, tell him to go to hell."

Davis gave a nod and said "Hawk had his mind set on a ranch in them Nebraska sandhills."

"They didn't go that way. They went down the Hat Creek trail."

Davis replied, "Then I got riding to do. So long."

Their wagon had left the stage trail just south of Hat Creek and headed overland in a westerly direction. Soon he saw their canvas covered wagon and they started shooting at him.

Davis managed to shoot Tom Harris and ordered Hawknose George to stop. Hawknose insisted that they were homesteaders and had no gold in the wagon. At gun point Davis told him to cut open the sacks of oats. Only oats spilled from the top sack. The prod of the pistol urged George to cut another sack.

As Davis leaned closer to see if there was any gold in it, George took a swift slash at his throat. Davis jumped back and shot him. When he opened the bottom sack of oats, Davis found the two gold bars.

(Information sources: "Robbery of the Bandit Proof Safe," 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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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Ward, William (01/19/1954 - 12/11/1986) View Record
Obituary Voorhees, Luke (11/29/1834 - 01/16/1925) View Record