Sometimes the back story on certain criminals can be fairly interesting. Such is the case of Black Bart.
This man had a name that is still known today. Much has been written about him over the years, but this piece deals more with his actual beginning as a bad guy.
Charles Earl Boles (Black Bart)
Shortly after the Civil War, Charles Boles, a former First Sergeant in the Union Army, was happily scraping away a living as a gold miner when he was forced off his land by Wells Fargo. According to one account, Wells Fargo offered to buy Boles’s property, and when he refused, they cut off the water supply to his land—effectively shutting down his mine.
Boles was infuriated and cryptically wrote a letter to his wife saying he was going to take revenge against the bank. While he never explained the specifics of his vengeance, we can assume this is when his alter ego, Black Bart, was born.
From then, Black Bart had it out for the bank and subsequently robbed their stagecoaches 28 times. Still, he kept things civil, never physically harmed anyone, and stole strictly from Wells Fargo and never from passengers. The bank even described him as being non-vicious and “polite to all passengers, especially to ladies.”
Amazingly, he traveled on foot to and from robberies and carried a shotgun so old that it couldn’t shoot (he didn’t even bother loading it). Although he always worked alone, he would often prop up sticks on nearby boulders to make it look like he had a posse of men standing by.
Occasionally, he was thoughtful enough to leave poems behind—Wells Fargo was not amused. His last poem read:
Here I lay me down to sleep
To await the coming morrow
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow
Let come what will, I’ll try it on
My condition can’t be worse
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis munny in my purse.
Black Bart’s unique style and sophistication made him a hero in California (except to Wells Fargo), and it took over a decade before he was finally tracked down by Pinkerton Detectives. He went to San Quentin Prison for four years and was released early, in 1888, for good behavior. He disappeared shortly after and was never seen again.
Ya know, it sounds to me that ol' Black Bart knew when to call it quits. Probably a good thing, if you ask me!
Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?