Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/09/17

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 06/12/1991

Road agents rob stagecoaches, repair crew
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

Road agents have been very busy in the area. Within the last few days they have robbed four stagecoaches, a repair crew and a Custer merchant.

The down coach was stopped on the night of Sept. 10 by three armed men between Lance Creek and the Cheyenne River. The outlaws robbed the four passengers and plundered the mail sacks. As they were doing this, the north-bound coach arrived. They also stopped it, robbed the passengers and cut open the mail sacks. The treasure boxes on both coaches were broken open and their contents removed.

Shotgun messenger Smith, who had remained in the down coach intending to hold off any robbers, was compelled to get out of the coach by a road agent who placed a passenger in front of him as a shield. During this robbery, the arms of the passengers were tied behind their backs. One of the thieves, who wore no mask, was thought to be "Lengthy" Johnson, a notorious horse thief.

At about 11 o'clock on the night of Sept. 13, six men robbed the northbound coach, at Old Woman's fork. They took $10 from a passenger named Goldworthy, then they returned it because he said he was a laboring man. The other passenger, a woman, was not molested.

After this robbery the coach soon met the south-bound coach and warned its driver that robbers may still be in the vicinity of Old Woman's fork. Its shotgun messengers, Boon May and John Zimmerman, who had been riding about 200 yards behind the coach, dropped back even farther so they could keep out of sight. When the coach reached the general vicinity of the previous robbery, it too was stopped at he command of the road agents.

The robbers had gone through the passengers' pockets and had the mail sacks on the ground when they suddenly realized the guards were closing in on them. The outlaws opened fire. May and Zimmerman returned fire. One of the robbers, Frank Towle, fell fatally wounded. Boon May said he recognized another one of the robbers as Frank James alias Tom Reed. As they began to retreat, the robbers shouted to the passengers to "Get into the coach and drive on." The road agents kept up a steady fire in the direction of the messengers.

Realizing they could not dislodge the outlaws, May and Zimmerman soon mounted their horses and rejoined the coach. A passenger, C.H. Brown, of Denver, who was robbed of $10 and a satchel, praised the messengers very highly for the way they conducted themselves during the attack.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Zimmerman, John (11/29/1906 - 01/10/1964) View Record