Historical Details

Cheyenne & Black Hills Trail and Stage Line

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 03/02/1950

Story of Old Cheyenne & Black Hills Trail and Stage Line Is Related

The following article, relating to the old Cheyenne & Black Hills Trail and Stage Line, was written by the late Tomson Black and the copy from which this was printed was given to Mrs. Isabel M. Willson by Mr. Black.

In 1876, following abandonment of the Pony Express, Glimer, Salisbury & Company established and operated the Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage Line between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Deadwood, South Dakota, with the late Luke Voorhees as general superintendent.

About 1880, Gilmer, Salisbury & Company sold their interests in the stage line between Cheyenne and Deadwood to Luke Voorhees, who continued to operate the line until about 1882, when he sold it to Russell Thorp, Sr. Thorp was also operating a line between Douglas and Wendover, Wyo. The line was operated under Mr. Thorp's management until 1886, when the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad built a line from Fremont, Neb., to Lander, Wyo., and the Cheyenne & Northern, now the Colorado & Southern, built a line from Cheyenne to Wendover. Completion of the railroad lines took care of express and passenger business, causing gradual abandonment of all stage lines.

During operation of the stage lines, stage robbers, popularly known as "road agents," were numerous, causing much trouble, not only to the owners of the line, but to the passengers, who were relieved of money and jewelry. During such holdups, however, their main objective was the treasure chest. The stage company had several special steel covered coaches for the protection of the express messengers and passengers. The coaches carried a steel safe, or, as it was commonly called, a treasure chest, which was riveted to the body of the coach. The coaches thus came to be called mail treasure coaches. They were used to carry passengers and gold bullion from Deadwood to Cheyenne or vice versa, as the way bills might show.

Scott Davis was the chief of the guards or messengers. He was known through the line as "Quick Shot" Davis, a man of iron nerve and a sure shot with a six-shooter or rifle. In many daring holdups staged by road agents, Davis and his messengers never failed in their duty to protect the passengers and treasure. Occasionally they were outnumbered and the road agents were able to secure the treasure from the chest, money and valuables from the passengers and then flee to their hold-out in the mountains.

Among the messengers who served under Davis were Dale Hill, Boom, Jim May, Jesse Brown, Scott Jenks and Captain Smith, all brave and fearless men, excepting the last named, who did not display the courage and nerve necessary to hold his job and he was not retained long as a guard.

The Cold Springs stage robbery, which was among many which took place, was fully described by the late Luke Voorhees, owner of the stage line at that time. Voorhees' story of the hold-up is as follows:

"The morning of Sept. 19, 1878, our Cheyenne & Black Hills treasure coach (as it was called), as I permitted no passengers to ride on the coach that carried the gold, left Deadwood for Cheyenne with $37,000, mostly in gold dust and gold bars, there being only $3,500 in currency, in charge of Scott Davis, captain of the armed guards or messengers, who on that day were Scott Davis (captain), Gale
Hill, Captain Smith and Donald Campbell, messengers; Mr. Ward, division superintendent, to whom I had given specific orders to accompany the treasure coach to Hat Creek station, which took 48 hours, day and night.

"Ward only remained with the coach to the Pleasant Valley dinner station, where he turned back to Deadwood, disobeying my orders. On the arrival at the first station south of Pleasant Valley, which was Cold Springs, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, broad daylight, the driver pulled up to the front of the barn where the stock tender would usually be standng ready to unhitch the six horses, and change for six others (which usually was all done in seven minutes).

"The stock tender not being in sight, Gale Hill, who was riding with the driver, after having called to the station tender, jumped down to see what had become of him, when the road agent, who had knocked the chinking between the logs (the barn being made of pine logs), the front of the stable being about ten feet from where the stage stopped, fired, hitting Gale and severely wounding him, breaking his left arm and one wound through his right breast and lung, knocking him out. Another shot killed Campbell. Captain Smith's head was slightly grazed and he called out and kept yelling that he was killed. Scott Davis said to Smith, "Quit your damned noise," Smith still insisting he had been killed. This all occurred in broad daylight, Davis, of course, not expecting any attack before dark. He, Davis, immediately jumped out of the coach door on the opposite side from the barn and robbers. Getting behind a large pine tree standing near the barn, before the robbers came out of the stable, so Davis, who was always cool in such fights, had some show, as he did not know how many there were in the barn. (There were four of the road agents, all well armed). They knew that Scott Davis would kill some of them before all of them could get him. The leader of the road agents called to Davis to surrender, they keeping behind the stage and teams, which the driver was ordered by the robbers to keep from running away while the shooting was going on.

"Scott told them his orders were `Never Surrender,' and he would see them in hell first.

"The leader then said he would get him some way, so he told the driver to get down from the stage. The road agent pushed him around toward the tree that Scott was using for a fort, the road agent stopping behind the driver so Davis could not shoot again without killing the driver.

"When the road agent and driver were within 10 feet of Davis he told them to stop and not go an inch farther or he would kill them both. The driver cried, 'For God's sake, Scott, don't shoot,' but Davis said, `I will kill both of you if you move any nearer this tree,' which they knew he would do as a last resort.

"I had provided the treasure coach with steel lining on each side to protect the passengers from night attacks. I had also provided a burglar safe bolted to the bottom of the front boot, which was guaranteed to stand any burglar outfit or road agent's kit for at least 24 hours. Scott Davis being confident that the treasure was safe, on a proposition from the robbers that if Scott would leave them and go down the road toward the next station that there would be no more shooting and that the robbers would not attempt to prevent him from leaving. Davis believed he could reach the next station where Boone May, Jesse Brown and Jim Brown were awaiting the coach for the night drive. The driver for the night drive was Tom Cooper, now employed at the Cheyenne depot, who was then, I believe, the best and coolest six-horse driver I ever knew, never shirked any danger.

"Scott Davis walked backward when leaving the station for about a quarter of a mile so he could face the road agents and not be shot at openly without his having some show of getting at least one of them. He made ten miles on foot in two hours to the next station where he got horses and three messengers and returned. On arriving at Cold Springs he found the road agents had compelled the driver to get upon his seat and drive them back into the brush and timber, away from the road, where they with sledge hammers and cold chisels had opened the safe in less than an hour's work. Scott found they had tied the stock tender in a stall with some sort of a gag in his mouth, so no noise could be made. Campbell was lying dead behind the station, Gale Hill was badly wounded and Captain Smith still declared he was killed dead. I, at once, on receiving a telegram, organized different parties with Scott Davis in charge well armed, who took the trails, as the road agents had divided the gold and currency so that they would not be burdened, and took different trails. My men caught two of them, two we never did get, but when the messengers caught any of then, they were not known to do any stage robbing from that time on.

"We recovered the greater part of the gold dust and gold bars, as my men were after the robbers so hot that they dropped most of the gold, so they could make better time in getting away. From that time, Scott Davis kept his guard of six with the treasure coach, as I have strict orders to do so, I myself making many trips with them. Lame Johnny and three others disappeared and the Cold Springs robbery was the last of the heavy work of the road agents."

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Thorp, Russell (07/23/1877 - 10/26/1968) View Record
Obituary Thorp, Russell (08/07/1927 - 10/27/1977) View Record
Obituary Voorhees, Luke (11/29/1834 - 01/16/1925) View Record
Obituary Thorp, Russell (10/22/1844 - 09/03/1898) View Record