Hat Creek Dateline: 1879/02/31
Many problems surround new route
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
After the new mail route for the Cheyenne to Black Hills' coaches was curtailed here and shunted northeastward from Rawhide Buttes to the junction with the Sidney route at Horse Head station, there have not been any coaches robbed, however there has been plenty of trouble for the new route within the last month.
On Jan. 9 some Indians went on the rampage and attempted to run off stage company horses at the new Bluff station, located about 35 miles east of here. Later in the month shotgun messenger William Rafferty was accidentally killed.
William Scanlon, Company C, third Cavalry, in telling of the Indian fight at the Bluffs Station on Jan 9, said:
"Some Sioux who had been captured and put in the guard house at Fort Robinson, killed their guards and escaped. It was a bitterly cold day. We found afterward that the squaws had smuggled guns in their clothing when we put them in jail. We went to the hills after the fugitives and found them ready for us, hidden from view, in a buffalo wallow from which they opened fire. They refused to surrender and every last one of them, including the squaws was killed. We lost several soldiers, and many others were wounded."
Many other Indians loitered in the vicinity of the Bluffs' station for another week or so, but did not attempt a raid because the troops remained camped close by.
At the end of his Jan. 22 run into Deadwood, messenger William Rafferty, jumped from the boot and began to remove blankets from the coach. His pistol fell and the hammer struck the brake, causing it to fire and sending a bullet into his body, killing him instantly. Rafferty was the replacement for Gale Hill who had been wounded in the Canyon Springs robbery.
Considerable trade has been lost by Cheyenne merchants due to the changing of the stage route to Horse Head station. Some of this trade is now going over the Sidney or Fort Pierre routes. However despite the change, there are three million pounds of boilers and machinery now in Cheyenne awaiting delivery to the Black Hills. This freight will start moving through here as soon as the weather permits in the spring.
Salisbury and Company, owners of the Cheyenne to Black Hills Stage and Freight Lines, are continuing to expand their operations into Colorado and Montana. H.A. Iddings, who has been agent for the company in Cheyenne for the last year and a half, has been transferred to Helena, Mont. W.S. Tobey has replaced him as the Cheyenne agent.
Tobey has closed their express office at the Union Pacific depot, and held a sale of unclaimed baggage and express that was in possession of the company. Future business of that nature will be conducted in the one "uptown" office.
(Information source: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)