Black Bart ~ The Poetry Bandit

Stacey KayneNothing piques my interest quite like outlaw legends, and there is something about the polite outlaw and his misguided morals that truly tugs at the heartstrings 😉  When that legend is local—even better!  Black Bart (Charles E. Boles) was one of the most unusual stagecoach robbers in American history. There is no record of Bart every firing a shot in any of his 29 robberies.

On July 26, 1875 the Sonora to Milton stage in Calaveras County was robbed by a man wearing a flour sack over his head with two holes cut out for the eyes. The stage driver said he carried a double-barreled shotgun and wore a long linen duster and sacks on his boots as well, to hide his garb. His voice was resonant and deep and he only said, “Please throw down the box!” He was polite and used no foul language. These became the trademarks of Black Bart, who went on to stage 29 robberies. He never robbed the passengers—only taking Well’s Fargo strong boxes.

Why is he called the Poetic bandit?  He would leave behind poems for the authorities to find while searching the area.  The first poem was left tacked on a tree in 1875:

“I’ve labored long and hard for bread
for honor and for riches
But on my corns too long youve tred
You fine haired sons of Bitches
Black Bart
the PO 8
Driver, give my respects to our friend, the other driver;
but I really had a notion to hang my old disguise hat on his weather eye.
Respectfully, B.B.”

Some interesting facts: He wrote to his wife from Silver Bow, Montana in August of 1871 about a bad experience with men who worked for Wells, Fargo & Co. and swore to get back what was his…. He headed for the gold fields of California. Not much for horses he walked almost everywhere he went. Having marched 20+ miles a day with the Union army and living in the open air, California suited him nicely. Some legends have him teaching school. His wife assumed him dead when he stopped writing. Four years later he staged his first “polite” robbery. The item that led to his capture was a handkerchief accidentally left behind at his 29th robbery. Authorities traced 91 San Francisco laundries to find that the handkerchief belonged to Charles E. Bolton, a respectable mine engineer who was staying at Room 40, 37 2nd Street, San Francisco. Hume had him arrested and in his report recorded that Black Bart was, “A person of great endurance. Exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances (THAT is something to be admired in anyone 😉 ). Extremely proper and polite in behavior, eschews profanity.”

Bart was sentenced to six years in San Quentin Prison.  He was released after serving four on account of his good behavior 🙂

**Added Info: Black Bart’s last robbery was November 3, 1883, on the very same mountain pass as his first heist. After eight successful years as the “polite bandit”, Black Bart was fifty-four years old at the time of his capture. After his release from prison he lived in San Francisco for about a year and then disappeared. In the last letter to his wife he said he was tired of being demoralized by Wells Fargo and he wanted to get away from everyone. Wells Fargo officials traced him to a hotel in Visalia and found his valise in his room–but no Black Bart. His valise contained a can of corned beef, crackers and a hankerchief – I believe there’s a poetic messesge delivered in that 😉

Butch Cassidy is another outlaw legend who fascinates me–I believe Elizabeth did a post on him not long ago.  Doc Holiday is another favorite romantic legend that comes to mind.  Did you know that both of Doc Holiday’s parents died at age 37–his mother dying of tuberculosis.  Tuberculosis took Doc at the age of 36.  After proclaiming he would not die in bed….he died in bed.  His last words: “Now isn’t this funny…”  His tombstone reads “He died in bed.”

How about the rest of y’all?  Have any favorite western or outlaw legends?

Today I’ll give away a copy of THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE! I’m counting down 10 days to the official release date!!


















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58 thoughts on “Black Bart ~ The Poetry Bandit”

  1. Ah Black Bart. It is a legend close to my heart. When I was growing up we had a cabin in Calaveras county and I remember going around to see various things …including the old jail at Angels Camp. I think Murphy’s might have had some connection with him. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

    The town where I went to university — Northfield MN, has Jesse James days in honour of the man who tried to rob the bank. The bank is now a museum. And the days in early september well attended. I have always felt sorry for the people who were killed in that raid, including the then treasurer of Carleton.

  2. My favorite outlaw was Jesse James, but that is just because he has a local connection…with the Meramec Caverns hide-a-away and all 🙂

  3. I’m gonna have to go with Butch Cassidy for my outlaw however I read a book not long ago called Outlaw by Susan Johnson and he was quite intriging!!!
    We’re going to Writesville Beach today and will be back on the 25th unless we buy a laptop when we’re gone I’ll miss visiting you ladies. Stacey I do love your Hot book Covers!! I have a couple of reviews to turn in and Maverick Wild has been waiting for me which I haven’t minded looking at him on my shelf He looks quite nice waiting for me lol!!

  4. Black Bart would have to be at the top of my list Stacey…any outlaw who didnt use bad language and wrote poetry… could you not love them?

    Jesse James would be another…dont know why, but he has always been one of those “bad men you love to hate” for me!! 🙂

  5. Hmm, I agree you must love those polite outlaws, there’s just something…hugable about them. 🙂

    But, Jesse James would have to be on my list–there’s a ‘family story’ about how he and his brother met up with some ancestor or another and shared an evening fire with them. In the morning they all went their separate ways. Okay, so it’s not a real exciting story… But still, it was talked about how considerate the men were.

  6. Some western legends that I find fascinating are Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Pat Garrett.

  7. I love the outlaw legends. Billy the Kid-was Brushy Bill Roberts really him? Did he leave behind a son? (I think so, just looking at the photographs). Butch and Sundance-did they really die in South America? And how different the ending might have been if Butch would have waited five minutes longer in that line shack.

    But my favorite outlaw is Henry Berry Lowrie, a Civil War era outlaw. He was a Lumbee Indian from Robeson County, NC. After seeing his father and older killed by the Home Guard, he started a gang that struck from the security of the swamps of Robeson County. Henry was 17 when it started. And ultimately, it is believed that Henry’s last heist was to steal the reward money Robeson County had put in a safe at the local general store for his capture.

  8. Wow, I didn’t know that about Black Bart, Stacey. Was very glad he only got six years instead of a hanging!
    And your stories were great, too, Terry. I didn’t know about Lowrie either.
    I did do Butch Cassidy a while back, Stacey. According to his sister he survived the shootout in Bolivia and lived into the 1930s.
    Aren’t these bad boys fascinating?

  9. I know, he’s not a bad guy, but this made me think of the Wyatt Earp movie with Kurt Russell. I love Kurt Russell by the way. I think he disappears into a part better than any other living actor.
    I mean lets face it. Jack Nicholson is always Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino is always Al Pacino (unless he’s Robert DeNiro-but that’s another story) But Kurt Russell is Wyatt Earp in Tombstone.
    And have you seen Overboard? He’s a good natured working stiff country boy.
    And Escape from New York where he’s that crazy macho machine gun toting Snake.
    And Captain Ron where he’s that cursing, long haired, drunken captain driving Martin Short crazy?
    And have you seen Breakdown where he’s the desperate ‘regular guy’ hunting for his missing wife.
    And Executive Decision, remember that? He’s a brainy, bespectacled government official who had to climb on an inflight airplane, rise to the occasion and kill the terrorists? And he did the whole action movie in a tuxedo.
    These are all just completely different characters, which to me is great acting.

    Anyway, my point is, in the movie Tombstone, the ending said Wyatt Earp got to be a celebrity and he ran around with a sort-of Hollywood crowd and lived until about 1930. This was one of those moments when the past and modern times just collided for me. My mother was born in 1929, my mother-in-law 1919. So they were living at the same time Wyatt Earp was.
    A lot of history and present mingle when you’re researching.

  10. Wow, Stacey, only 10 days?? Yippee!

    And what a neat story about Black Bart–I agree that a poetic outlaw is quite unusual! I don’t actually know many outlaw legends–I didn’t read up on too many growing up, and am still relatively new to the whole realm of Westerns 🙂 But what a fascinating world this is!

  11. Hi Kathleen! Aren’t local legends tne best! We have quite a few around here, the Dalton Gang homestead not far from my ranch. The outlaw family in THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE is very loosely based on the Dalton Gang 🙂

  12. I grew watching so many of the western movies, I never really read and books on the outlaws though. I loved Maverick wild, and can’t wait to read The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride. I’m so glad to know that it is coming out in 10 days. Yay!!!!

  13. Have fun at the beach Lori–we’ll miss you too 😀

    Butch Cassidy is one of my all-time faves–I have a big file on him *lol*. The Gentleman Outlaw, liked by many!

    MAVERICK WILD can sure purty up a bookshelf, huh, Lori ;-D Thanks!!

  14. Hi Melissa! It’s that western justice thing, I think. The common folk being overrrun by banks and railroads and those who stood up to fight back. Heroes for the common people 😀

    Thanks for posting!

  15. This is so cool. I really like this man. And poetry too. He looks more like a banker than a bandit.
    I bet Wells Fargo wasn’t too pleased at such a short sentence. I guess he never went back to robbery after that.

  16. Hi Terry ~ I’ve read up on Henry Berry Lowrie–a very interesting fellow. So many of these vigilante bad boys were shaped by such tragic events in their lives.

    Thank you for sharing 😀

  17. Hi Elizabeth! I believe the Bolivia legend was a set up and that he did indeed go abroad for a few years and then came back to the states to live out his life 🙂 It was said that there wasn’t a man who met Butch that didn’t like him…unless he was a railroad man *ggg*

  18. It’s it amazing how close the past really is once you start reading up on it, Mary? I think that aspect is what really sucked me into Historicals. It all started with my college history courses…I was so intrigued by how CLOSE that Old West history really is 😉

  19. Hi Fedora! I’m so glad we’ve got you here in our realm 😉

    Funy thing about Bart–the law officials were just as stunned by his “dandy” demeanor *ggg* I failed to mention he wore a bowler hat over his flour sack 😀 One of the reasons he was so successful was the timespan between his robberies…sometimes nine months. He only made those Wells Fargo withdrawls when his coffers ran low *G*

  20. Hi Rebekah ~ I’m so glad you enjoyed MAVERICK WILD!! I’m working to finish the sequel to that book right now–due in a week! Ack!!!!

    Thanks for posting 🙂

  21. Hi Stacey, Thanks for this piece on Black Bart. I recently read a book, “Myths and Mysteries of the Old West” by Michael Rutter. Very interesting tales and truths about some of these popular old west heroes, things I never learned about in school.

    Please don’t enter me in the drawing but know that:

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVED GUNSLINGER!!! Juniper and Lily are now two of my all time favorite characters. (EVER!!!)

    Please tell me that you will be writing more Bride books???

    Thanks again for the wonderful books and for the info today on P&P. I learn so much from all of the P&P authors.

    Have a great weekend!

  22. Hi Michele Ann ~ I failed to mention that his last robbery was November 3, 1883, the very same mountain pass as his first heist. After eight successful years as the “polite bandit”, Black Bart was fifty-four years old at the time of his capture. He lived in San Francisco after his release then disappeared. In the last letter to his wife said he was tired of being demoralized by Wells Fargo and he wanted to get away from everyone. They traced him to a hotel in Visalia and found his valise in his room–but no Black Bart. His valise contained corned beef, crackers and a hankerchief 😉

  23. Za ~ you read it already?! Wow!! (Za had the winning bid for my “Saddle Up” Tote Bag at Brenda Novak’s Auction for Diabetes :)) I’m soooo glad you enjoyed GUNSLINGER!! And, yep, there are more BRIDE books on the way. Kyle, the US Marshall who helped Juniper, will be next in the spotlight, and will get to shine in the Spring Brides Anthology, coming out next June 😉

    Thank you, Za–you made my day 😀

  24. Hmmm Outlaws… definitely can not have a Hero without the Outlaw! I love reading Westerns…
    Congrats on your novel coming out soon Stacey!!! 😀
    Everyone enjoy the weekend!!!

  25. Thanks for the info on Black Bart, very interesting! My favorite outlaw would have to be Jesse James.

  26. Stacey, in my area Sam Bass has always been the favorite outlaw. He also wrote poetry and other things. He was only 27 years old when the Texas Rangers gunned him down.

    Interestingly enough, the last person to rob a stage in the U.S. was a woman by the name of Pearl Hart. She was in her twenties when she robbed a stage in Globe, Arizona in the last 1890’s. Unfortunately she was quickly caught and sent to Yuma Prison.

    And another pair who weren’t a part of the west but achieved fame were Bonnie and Clyde. They wrote lots of love letters and things.

    Interesting post! I enjoyed learning something I didn’t know. Thanks, Stacey!

  27. Wow Stacey! I didn’t know that about Black Bart. Very cool information.

    I’m not really sure who my favorite would be. I love the stories of Doc Holliday. And Wyatt Earp as well. I’m really intrigued by all of them I guess, but can’t really point to an absolute favorite because I’m fascinated by the legends of our history all the way around.

    Wonderful post today!

  28. Wonderful post, Stacey! I love history and outlaws spice it up. My favorite was probably the James Gang. Looking forward to rading your newest.

  29. My favorite is Butch Cassidy, I really enjoyed the
    recent P & P story about him. The story about his
    possibly living past his “death” jump really interested me. Why? Because if he lived as long
    as his sister stated, we were alive at the same
    time! Just for a few months, but still at the
    same time!!

    Pat Cochran

  30. I can’t think of any new ones but I agree with what the others have said. There’s something about a polite bad guy who is fighting the system. No one cares about the big greedy companies that they steal from lol.

  31. Thank you, Connie 🙂

    The James Gang is a wild and winding tale! I recenlty bought a book called California Fueds–haven’t had a chance to read it yet 🙁 But I’m thinking I’ll find a new P&P post in there somewhere 😉

  32. Hi Pat! I enjoyed Elizabeth’s post too–she beat me to Butch *LOL* Isn’t it crazy to think that all this happened so close to own lifetimes? Today’s dicussion has reminded me of some colleg term papers I’d done on the railraid and fueds with local farms, all with outcomes that directly effected agriculture in my area. Gonna have to go find those 😉

    Thanks for stopping in to post!!

  33. Great information, Stacey. I grew up in Santa Rosa, CA and was always told that Black Bart was buried in the cemetery down the street from our house. Very interesting.

    When Carla Capshaw and I visited Margaret Mitchell’s house in Atlanta we learned that Doc Holiday was a first cousin of Margaret’s. A photo of him hung in one of the rooms in her house.

  34. I agree with Mary about Kurt “Isn’t he great” I loved Him as Wyatt. I Love reading about history and the true stories of outlaws. My favorite outlaw would have to be Butch or maybe Doc they both had such a wonderful Senseofhumor.

  35. Hi Stacey, I’m not sure if you can count Willa Cather as an outlaw, but in my book she sure is. Not your usual and not male…LOL, but she was an oulaw of her time and of her Nebraska upbringing. She gets my vote!!!!! Great to have you hear today Stacey!!!

  36. Wild Bill Hickok.
    he was a frontier scout, lawman, gambler, hero of dime novels, and part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. He wore his hair long, was a flamboyant dresser, was both feared and admired, and stood roughly six feet two inches.

  37. I totally agree Maureen!! And after Val Kilmer’s depiction…how can you not love hiim *ggg* I love how he accepted his inless and embraced life…determined to live it to the fullest 😉

  38. Very interesting blog Stacey!! I love learning stuff like that!

    I always enjoyed reading about Billy The Kid, maybe it had something to do with the movie Young Gus. LOL

    I also read a lot about Doc Holliday, and Wyatt Earp. I loved watchng Val Kilmer in Tombstone! “I’m your huckleberry…” 😉

    Speaking of Val Kilmer, my sister got to meet him last week in the restaurant where she works in Shreveport, LA. I am so jealous!!!

    I am so excited about The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride Stacey! I’m really looking forward to reading it!


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