Monday, July 23, 2012

Black Bart

Charles Earl Bowles (b.1829; d.after 1888), better known as Black Bart, was an English-born American Old West outlaw noted for his poetic messages left after two of his robberies. Also known as Charles Bolton, C.E. Bolton and Black Bart the Po8, he was a gentleman bandit, and one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s.  He had a great reputation for style and sophistication.
Boles, as Black Bart, committed 28 robberies of Wells Fargo stagecoaches across northern California between 1875 and 1883, including a number of robberies along the historic Siskiyou Trail between California and Oregon. Although he only left two poems, at the fourth and fifth robbery sites, it became his signature and his biggest claim to fame. Black Bart was very successful and made off with thousands of dollars a year.
Boles was terrified of horses and committed all of his robberies on foot. This, together with his poems, earned him notoriety. Through all his years as highwayman, he never fired a gunshot.
Boles was always courteous and used no foul language (except for in poems). He wore a long linen duster coat and a bowler hat. His head was covered with a flour sack with eye holes, and he brandished a shotgun. These distinguishing features became his trademarks.
Boles, like many of his contemporaries, read "dime novel"–style serial adventure stories which appeared in local newspapers. In the early 1870s, the Sacramento Union ran a story called The Case of Summerfield by Caxton (a pseudonym of William Henry Rhodes). In the story, the villain dressed in black and had long unruly black hair, a large black beard, and wild grey eyes. The villain robbed Wells Fargo stagecoaches and brought great fear into those who were unlucky enough to cross him. The character's name was Black Bart.
Boles may have read the Sacramento Union story. He told a Wells Fargo detective that the name popped into his head when he was writing the first poem and he used it.
Boles left only two authenticated verses. The first was at the scene of the August 3, 1877, holdup on a stage traveling from Point Arena to Duncan's Mills:

I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you've tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches
Black Bart, 1877
The second verse was left at the site of his July 25, 1878, holdup of a stage traveling from Quincy to Oroville. It read:

Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait 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
PO8


 

“I cut barley for Will this forenoon and Albert helped set up wheat and barley.  This afternoon we helped them draw wheat.  Looks like rain tonight.”
Leesah

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