Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/11/04

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 08/14/1991

Two robbers found hanged in county
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

At daylight this morning, L.F. Green, deputy Laramie County coroner from Fort Laramie, cut down the bodies of Billy Mansfield and Archie McLaughlin. They were found hanging from a limb of a large cottonwood tree near Watson's Saloon. Green gave the bodies a decent burial.

Both of these outlaws had been on the Oct. 8 down coach escorted by shotgun messengers Jesse Brown and Jim May. Each of them had admitted implication in the Canyon Springs robbery Sept. 26 and the attempted holdup in Whoop Up Canyon July 2.

They have been in the Laramie County Jail in Cheyenne since that time. After it was learned that the next term of court would not be held for several months, the authorities decided to return them to Deadwood where the pair of "black legs" could be tried for grand larceny immediately.

They were placed on the up (northbound) stage Nov. 3, again under the guard of Jesse Brown and Jim May About a mile north of Fort Laramie, near the mouth of Little Cottonwood, the coach was stopped by five masked men, however they were not after gold. The stage messengers were relieved of their arms and set afoot for a while.

The Vigilantes then tied the outlaws' hands, placed ropes around their necks, and put them on top of the coach. The coach was then driven under a big cottonwood tree near the river bank and the ropes tied to a large limb.

Young Billy Mansfield, a carpenter by trade, shed tears and begged for mercy. He asked to write to his mother, but the avengers of the law were not moved by his pleas.

Archie McLaughlin, also known as Cummins, had been riding at the head of his own gang. In the gang, besides Mansfield, were Alex Casswell, Tom Price, Jim Brown and Jack Smith. They have been so successful both the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Line and Wells Fargo have posted rewards for their capture. He defied his captors and refused the opportunity to confess the whereabouts of the hidden spoils of the recent stage robberies. He said that he had $8,000 cached away where it could be reached by friends, but he declined to answer all questions put to him. McLaughlin was a hard character and died cursing his lynchers as the coach drove off and left the men dangling.

No coroners jury was held, nor have the names of the five masked men been made public. It was promptly alleged that the vigilantes were in reality paid employees of the stage line. The general sentiment seems to be that a necessary job has been done in ridding the country of two dangerous outlaws, who if given a wee chance, might escape and again ride a trail of murder and banditry.

(Information sources: "Road Agents and Train Robbers," by Harry Sinclair Drago; "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)

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