Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/09/27
Stage robbed, guards killed in Canyon Springs shootout
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
The iron clad treasure coach, "The Monitor" was robbed at the Canyon Springs station, about 90 miles north of here, on the afternoon of Sept. 26. Hugh Campbell, a passenger was killed and Gale Hill, a shotgun messenger was seriously wounded.
There had been some attempted holdups and a few chases of the monitor in the last year since it was put into service, but no successful robberies until now.
When the treasure coach went through on the "up" trip to Deadwood on the 23rd all six of the regular "shotgun messenger" guards were on board. Three of the guards, Jesse Brown, Boon May and Billy Sample, remained at the Beaver Station, about 10 miles south of Canyon Springs. They were to remain there and join the loaded coach on its "down" trip and then to accompany it on horseback from Beaver through Jenney Stockade, Robber's Roost and on here to Hat Creek.
The other three guards, Capt. Scott Davis, Gale Hill and Eugene Smith, were on the coach when it left Deadwood. Northern division superintendent, William M. Ward, was also on board. He had been instructed to accompany this treasure coach from Deadwood to Hat Creek. Ward, however, only remained with the coach to the Pleasant Valley dinner station, where he turned back to Deadwood. Hugh Hills Telegraph Company had been permitted to ride in the coach from Deadwood to Jenney Stockade, where he was to take a new assignment.
"Big" Gene Barnett was driving the six-horse team and "Little" Gale Hill was riding shotgun in the boot beside him as the treasure coach pulled up out of Ice Box Canyon and across the line into Wyoming Territory. The Canyon Springs Station was just ahead of them. Road agents had not bothered any coach on the Cheyenne to Deadwood trail for a couple of weeks, ad the driver and guards had no special concern about them on this trip.
It was about three o'clock in the afternoon when Big Gene pulled the coach to a stop on the slope about 10 feet in front of the log barn at Canyon Springs William Miner, the stock tender, usually stood ready to assist in the seven minute change of horses, but he was not in sight. Gale Hill called to him, but receiving no answer, jumped down and blacked the back wheels of the coach with a chock block.
As he started around the back of the coach he was met with a volley of gunfire from the stable. Hill was wounded in the left arm but managed to use his gun with his other hand and wounded one of the robbers. A rifle shot then hit him in the chest, passing all the way through him, knocking him down. With blood pouring from his mouth, Hill grasped his gun and wounded another robber.
In the general shooting that followed, Smith was wounded, Campbell was killed, Barnett captured and Scott Davis managed to escape after shooting one of the robbers.
The road agents managed to break the safe open and obtained about $27,000 worth of gold, diamonds and jewelry.
(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.)