Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1878/12/05

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 09/18/1991

Woman gives report on road agent gang
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

A reporter and Dr. J.J. Crook were recently called to the sick bed of Lurline Monte Verdi. She relayed the following story to them as it appeared in the Cheyenne Sun:

I have sent for you for the purpose of telling what I know about Charlie Ross, who has just been arrested and is now in jail here. I have not intended to say anything about it, or to mix myself up in it, but as one of these robbers engaged in that Finn shooting affair is dead (Archie McLaughlin) and one has confessed (John H. Brown), I don't think my oath binds me to silence. I am familiar with nearly all of the members of the gang recently engaged in stage robbery.

I was not in any way connected with their business; but my restaurant in Deadwood was a place of resort for some of the members of the gang, and there I learned much concerning their actions. But I paid little attention to them or their conversation. It was about the middle of last July that I became, reluctantly, connected with the gang. It happened this way.

One night a particular friend of mine, a young carpenter named Billy Mansfield, poor boy, he has been innocently hung since then, came to my restaurant and told me he must see me at a certain opium-smoking house that night, as a friend of his was sick. I had been in the habit of spending pleasant hours in that opium house with parties of friends, and thought nothing of the appointment.

I told my husband where I was going and why, and at the time appointed, I was there. Billy Mansfield then informed me that his friend was very sick and that I must go to see him. After some argument on my part, I accompanied him down the main street of Deadwood to a small house near the bridge, where I met McLaughlin and another member of the gang. In the presence of these men I was made to take a solemn oath of secrecy. I was afraid to refuse, for a person's life was not worth much in that region.

I was conducted from the deserted shanty near the bridge to another not far distant, where the pretended sick man lay. there in a dark corner, upon a pallet or bunk made of pine poles, lay a man whom I at once recognized as Johnny H. Brown, who is now lying in jail here in Cheyenne. The men told me he was not wounded, just sick. I declined to believe it and insisted upon knowing the truth before I could prescribe. Brown was in a high fever and delirious. Blood and pus were thrown from his mouth during each convulsion.

He was raving and would not permit anyone to approach him saying that the gang wished to poison him or kill him to prevent him "giving them away." Finding that "taffy" and nonsense would not do, the men told me the truth. Johnny Brown had been engaged in the robbery of the coach on the third (second) of July, and had got shot. He had laid there 10 days without medical attention, fearing that a regular physician would expose the gang if he were introduced.

I obtained control over the suspicious sufferer by means of chloroform, which I administered from the wounded man's head, while I held his pulse in my right hand. When I knew that the excitement was reduced sufficiently, I told him what I wanted to do was to save his life. He had a bullet in his side which I wanted to cut out. I asked him if he could stand the pin, or whether I should give him chloroform. He said, "No, I trust you, as you are not interested in my death." I turned him over and found where the bullet had lodged between two of his ribs after through his side and liver.

I cut the bullet and inserted a wire loop I had prepared, and in less time than it has taken to tell you, I flipped the bullet out. Johnny, the brave boy, made but one groan during the entire operation. I was then permitted to go home, with the promise to return the following night....

(Information source: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)

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