Hat Creek Dateline: 1877/11/15
Reward paid for capture of thieves
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Lieutenant George F. Chase has received a reward of $400 from the Laramie County Commissioners for the capture and arrest of Babcock and Rines. Chase, while in command of a detachment of Third Cavalry troops captured the road agents Johns F. Babcock and Fonce Rines (or Ryan) near Rawhide Buttes several days ago.
The outlaws were held in the guard house at Fort Laramie for a few days and were then removed, under heavy military escort, to the Laramie County jail in Cheyenne. At their trial both Babcock and Ryan declared that Ryan laid the plans and bossed the robbery of the stagecoach. However, Babcock was still found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in the Territorial prison at Laramie City.
Babcock was involved in the robbery due to a strange set of circumstances. According to his testimony, John f. Babcock was a native of New York state, 34 years old and unmarried. After serving in the Union Army for two years, he came west in 1865. He had worked part of this summer for John Hunton at Bordeaux and had left for Deadwood on Aug. 26. He then returned to the Hunton Ranch for a short time, but decided to go back to the Black Hills.
Babcock said that he was trudging along between the Breckenridge and McGinnis ranches north of Fort Laramie when he was overtaken by Fonce Ryan, known as "The Kid." Ryan was riding one horse and leading another. After passing the time of day, Ryan suddenly covered him with a Colt revolver, telling him to throw up his hands or he would shoot him. Babcock did as ordered. Ryan relieved him of his weapon and $20.25 in cash. Then after removing the cartridges from the gun, Ryan returned it saying, "You can't harm me now. I've use for you; we'll go and rob the stagecoach."
They did just that. They robbed the stagecoach, also a wagon train and six different men along the trail before they were captured.
Fonce Ryan (Rines), alias "The Kid," alias George F. Duncan had a previous penitentiary record for grand larceny. He confessed to his having robbed Babcock and holding up the stage. He insisted that he had come from Texas, however Cheyenne residents are positive that he grew up there and stated early on his career of crime. He was found guilty and sentenced to an aggregate of 23 years and three months.
Through the prompt action of the stageline superintendent, the cavalry, and the swift administration of justice by Laramie County, these two outlaws will no longer be a scourge to the traveling public.
(Information sources: "John Junton's Diary Volume 2 1876-1877," by L.G. Fannery; "The Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)