Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/09/29
Rumors abound about road agents' stage robbery escapades
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
The road agent hunt is still on and travelers on the Cheyenne Deadwood trail say that it seems as though there is a man with a gun behind every bush and tree along all the trails. They stop all passersby, either to ask for news or to demand explanation of travelers as to why they were there.
Rumors are flying thick and fast, facts are being distorted, and lurid stories are being fabricated from flimsy whisperings. The citizens of Cheyenne flocked down to the stage office for the latest news and swarmed around "The Monitor" when it completed its first trip down, after being robbed at Canyon Springs.
As stage line officials are still trying to put the pieces of the holdup together, Scott Davis, captain of the "shotgun messengers," has given the following account to Superintendent Voorhees:
"I fired a good many shots from the coach into the barn door and the port holes from which the robbers were firing, but from my position in the coach was unsuccessful in hitting the attacking foe. I told Campbell I was going to get out of the coach and go across the road to where there was a large pine tree from which I could get better aim...Campbell said he was going to the tree with me. We both climbed out of the coach but Campbell had no gun with which to defend himself.
"I turned and backed my way across the road, shooting at anything and everything that looked like a robber. When we were about halfway across the road, Campbell went down on his knees in the middle of the road. The holdup men fired another volley, killing him instantly.
"Before I reached the tree, one of the robbers appeared at the head of the horses. I had been urging the stage driver to make a run for it and leave the coach. The instant I saw the robber at the horse's head, I turned quickly and fired. The shot wounded him badly.
"He threw up his hands, fell over backwards, crawled behind the horses and made his getaway to the back of the barn."
By this time, the outlaws had captured Barnett, the driver, and using him as a shield, pushed him toward Davis, yelling at Davis to surrender. He replied "come an inch farther and I will kill you." Scott Davis then recalled that the safe was guaranteed to hold for 24 hours when someone was trying to break into it.
He then escaped through some brush and pine trees and headed for Ben Eager ranch about seven miles away. Arriving there, he borrowed a horse and struck out for the Beaver Station. He soon met Jesse Brown, Billy Sample and Boon May, messengers, who had started up the road to look for the overdue coach.
Davis told them what had happened as they all headed for the Canyon Springs station. By the time they reached there, the robbers had left. Campbell's body was in the roadway, Gale Hill still lay where he had collapsed, unconscious but alive. Miner, the stock tender, had managed to untie himself and gone on foot to Cold Springs to summon medical help for Hill and report the robbery
(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.)