Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/07/25
Robbers cast their eyes to easier pickings, "not the Monitor"
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
A gang of six road agents held up the down stage from Deadwood City yesterday and attempted to again today.
The coach that left Deadwood City on the 23rd had been detained at Jenny Stockade because of high water ahead. Heavy rains this spring had carried off several bridges along the Cheyenne to Deadwood stage route. The bridges are gone at the Cheyenne River, Lance Creek and Old Woman's fork and, hence when these stream beds are full of water, the stages are often delayed.
When this coach proceeded it was stopped about two o'clock in the morning near Lance Creek about 28 miles north of here. Six masked men ordered the coach to halt however they found only one passenger on board, the Rev. J.W. Picket, who was riding in the front boot beside the driver.
The robbers did not molest Rev. Picket, but turned their attention to the mail sacks and took the registered letters and other valuable matter from them. They also broke open the treasure boxes but found them empty. After detaining the coach for about half an hour the road agents ordered the driver to go on.
This is the first time the U.S. Mails have been robbed on the Cheyenne to Deadwood through coaches. Prior to now the road agents have robbed passengers and plundered treasure boxes. With all the treasure now being hauled on the heavily guarded steel-lined "Monitor" coach the outlaws have cast their eyes on something easier, the registered mail which goes over the route every day.
However, the Post Office Department has been notified of the robbery and they will probably assist in the apprehension and conviction of the outlaws.
Six road agents, probably the same ones, also stopped a coach in the same vicinity today. However, they were taken quite by surprise by shotgun messenger E.S. Smith, who was escorting the coach on horseback, instead of riding in the boot. Smith opened fire on the road agents at once. They returned his fire, killing his horse with their first volley. Smith kept firing until he had discharged about 20 shots to the agents' 50 shots. Thereupon the outlaws left without molesting the coach. Smith was highly praised by the passengers for his coolness under fire and his bravery.
(Information source: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright-Spring.)