Hat Creek Dateline: 1876/03/20
Mail Carrier found scalped
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
The body of Jake Harker, mail carrier and driver for the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Line, was found on the trail from Hat Creek to Camp Robinson. He had been killed and scalped. His mail sacks had been torn open and the contents scattered.
Superintendent (Luke) Voorhees had known that Generals Crook and Custer had expected Indian trouble in the spring. Crook had seven companies east of the Big Horn Mountain in the Powder River country. Voorhees had also just received a message that General Crook had destroyed some of Crazy Horse's villages on the Little Powder River.
As the snowdrifts disappeared from the gullies, the red men began to run off the stock and to attack the trains of miners and freighters going into the Hills. They centered their activities near Red Canyon south of Custer Valley, and along the Cheyenne River, the area through which the first stage wagons were moving and which soon was to be traversed by the Concord stages.
Added to the threat from Indians was the menace of a gang of outlaws, led by William (Persimmon Bill) Chambers.
The stage men constantly were on the alert, as they realized that their fine horses and equipment would make prized plunder for both the red warriors and the outlaws.
Voorhees knew that troops were needed badly for the Indian campaigns in the Big Horn area, but he nevertheless hoped for some help along the Black Hills route and at once appealed to the government for military protection. For, as he said, should the Indians cross the road at a time "when any of our stages are in sight or near a station they will clean up the outfit."
Even with the volatile Indian situation and the additional threat of outlaws, plans were being finalized to start the through line with its complete equipment using Concord coaches in early April.
(Information source: The Cheyenne Black Hills Stage and Express Routes by Agnes Wright Spring)