Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Seth Bullock on the Trail of Stagecoach Robbers.

In my prior two posts (#I and #II), I looked at the historical personae that correspond to the fictional characters who appear in the television show Deadwood and then presented  accounts of their deeds from contemporary newspapers. While saloon owner Swearengen was a tough SOB, Sheriff Bullock was described as tough and uncorruptable.

This shows the Black Hills area surrounding Deadwood. Deadwood and Lead City are highlighted. The state border with Wyoming (YO) is on the left. This map is from 1886.
John Manning, a minor character on the television show, led the caravan of settlers that brought Seth Bullock to Deadwood. In 1878, Manning was sheriff of Lead City, several miles southwest of Deadwood. In 1878, Manning ran against Bullock for Lawrence county sheriff. A.W. Merrick and the Black Hills Daily Pioneer were clearly in favor of Bullock as they show in the story of a gang who waylaid the local milkman.

Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Sunday October 27, 1878, p. 4.

Manning and Bullock After Road Agents.

It is no doubt not altogether banished from the minds of our readers, the puerile chase of Sheriff Manning after the cutthroats that but a short time ago bound the milkman Anderson to a tree, about eight miles from this city, robbed him of what money he possessed, ransacked his house, took his horses, and made good their escape. The sheriff in person pursued according to our gentleman who witnessed the whole proceeding, in a manner best calculated to aid the escape of the robbers. He left Deadwood with a flourish of trumpets and clang of arms, and at Rapid city disclosed his entire plan of action to a person at the hotel in the hearing of one of the very men he was looking for. Sheriff Manning claims he was within two miles of his game, but was given away by a ranchman, and the party escaped. On the other hand, the ranchman says he informed the officers where the robber's camp was, and offered to conduct Manning to the place, but the latter would not go. The ranchman then offered to go if accompanied by a soldier, of whom the sheriff had fourteen, and was again refused. He then dared the sheriff to follow him alone, to be again ignored, and to-day the outlaws are free.

Contrasted with this conduct is the cautious, brave manner in which Seth Bullock hunted down such game one year ago, as well as the course adopted in the late pursuit. Caution, discretion and bravery were called into use, with success. To-day the people of the Black Hills owe Seth Bullock a debt of gratitude for ridding the highway of robbers, capturing five, and securing nearly all the property lost.


A month before this, the Deadwood to Cheyenne stage was robbed and the Black Hills Pioneer breathlessly followed Bullock and his posses' pursuit of the pilfering perpetrators.

Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Sunday September 29, 1878, p. 3.

$5,000 Reward.

The Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage Company offer the above reward for the arrest and conviction of all of the highwaymen who robbed the "Treasure Coach" of said company on the 26th inst., at Canyon Springs, and the recovery of all treasure taken from said coach, amounting to $25,000; or $500 apiece will be paid for the arrest and conviction of each of said highwaymen, and $2,500 for the recovery of the treasure taken, or pro rata for any portion of the same recovered.

Deadwood, Sept. 27, 1878   87tf


The chase played out over the next week.

First, in that same day's paper:

Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Sunday September 29, 1878, p. 4.


The Robbers Making Toward Rapid.

They Purchase an Outfit on Slate Creek, Paying Two Hundred Fifty Dollars.

The following dispatch was received last evening by Mr. J. T. Gilmer, one of the proprietors of the Cheyenne & Blacks Hills stage line:

    CUSTER CITY, D.T., Sept. 28.

We have struck what we think is the trail at Hill City. Ward is there now. The robbers purchased a wagon yesterday, and are making towards Rapid. We take the trail again at daylight.

They have a dead-axle wagon, two ponies, one gray with bald face, the other dun or roan. They bought the outfit at Slate creek.

Notify all along the Sidney line, and order fresh stock for us at Rapid. Send Davis or May to meet us at Rockerville or Rapid. Our stock is run down. The robbers paid two hundred and fifty dollars for their outfit, half in dust.


Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Wednesday October 2, 1878, p. 4.


The Robbers Only Twenty Miles Ahead at Last Accounts.

Deputy Sheriff Smith, of Pennington county, arrived on last evening's Sidney coach. He says a squad of soldiers, arrived at Rapid City as witnesses, report meeting a wagon Sunday evening containing two men, one driving, the other lying upon the bottom of the vehicle with a rifle resting across his breast. About twenty miles nearer Rapid the soldiers encountered the Seth Bullock party. This was at six o'clock Monday morning and eighteen miles from Rapid, where the party camped the night before. The team was being driven rapidly, a portion of the time in the road and at other times over the bluffs and across the prairie toward Pierre. The pursuers are, it is thought not more than twenty miles behind their game and a full day in which to catch up. It is said that the only chance for escape is by appropriating one of the many boats at the crossing of the Cheyenne river and sail down it. It runs so fast the no horse could keep pace. The citizen upon the trail number at least twenty and all well armed. [Another report said the posse was fifteen.]

The horses found near Slate creek arrived in town last evening, and word was sent to S.M. Booth, Custer [city], as one of the animals is thought to be his.

The Scott Davis party, which are giving chase in the direction of Fort Fetterman, have with them McHenry, alias Burroughs, and they have informed him that he must place them on the right trail or swing. [They captured one of the perpetrators McHenry and, if he didn't cooperate, he would be hanged.]

It is thought that the branch of the gang carrying the stolen gold, a bulk of over one hundred pounds, are going in that direction, and it is stated that they stole a mule from a ranch and packed the plunder upon it, in presence of the lady living at the ranch, departing westward.


Meanwhile, Sheriff Manning, who was not a part of the posses, had problems of his own.

Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Wednesday October 2, 1878, p. 4.


A Narrow Escape from Death on the Lead City Road.

Sheriff Manning was in Lead City yesterday, gathering points relative to a case (the nature of which is required to be kept secret) until quite late in the afternoon, when he started upon his return, selecting the road down Gold Run. At a point soon after entering the woods a shot was fired which caused his horse, probably from fright, to stumble. Scarcely had he jerked the animal to his feet when a second report was heard, the bullet passing into the saddle in front on the left side. The sheriff thinks a pistol was used and that the shooter was but a few feet distant. It is thought the attempt was made by one of the parties against whom the sheriff had been endeavoring to obtain evidence and having succeeded too well, as the culprit probably thought he undertook to put the officer out of the way. Mr. Harlow, of Rapid, was on the road about one half mile below, walking toward Lead, when Manning came flying down the thoroughfare and insisted that Mr. Harlou [sic] should proceed no further.


With the appearance of a female conspirator, the plot thickens.

Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Thursday October 3, 1878, p. 3.

Tony Pastor and Lew Hagar Captured.

Seth Bullock only eight hours behind his game.

The Cheyenne coach last evening brought in Deputy Sheriff Noah Siever and J.J. Argue, and Tony Pastor and Lew Hagar, who were arrested by the former at the ranch of the latter, on Cheyenne river, sixty miles below the crossing. The information of suspicion against them has not been made public. The officers proceeded to the ranch Monday night, and effected the arrest of Hagar, and in the morning, when Pastor came for his breakfast captured him. The twain protested they were strangers to each other, but a man who was with Siever knew better, and Tony had to accept the alternative.

Tony Pastor is a hard case and no stranger to Deadwood police courts. Our readers will remember his arrest about one year ago for horse stealing, and his appearance before Justice Burke, who granted a change of venue to Hayward, in Custer county, which resulted in his discharge. When arrested at that time he had $114 in greenbacks and a terrifying assortment of knives and pistols upon his person.

Quite a prominent woman in the road agent circle, Mrs. Ogden, who has a ranch and log cabin four miles from the stockade, Tuesday packed her earthly possessions and returned to Spearfish, her former place of residence. It is altogether probably that the citizens of the Cheyenne river valley invited the old lady to change her haunts, as it is alleged she has harbored the worst possible classes for the past year. It is also asserted that Burroughs, the captured robber, is her husband, but lawful o [sic] unlawful is not ascertained. An incident in connection with these two worthies may be worthy of note: Burroughs was arrested at her place in the afternoon and taken to the stockade, and in the evening the old lady came rushing up, out of breath and wild with terror, because two masked men had robbed her, and requested that the messengers return to the cabin with her. They of course refused to accede, and she remained until quite late. Before she had departed, however, her son, a chip off the old block, rode to the stockade, but was stopped by a hostler, who, cocking his rifle, commanded the youth to a halt. Both struck out for home a few moments later. It was conjectured she was endeavoring to release Burroughs. A daughter of the dame, a woman of ill-repute, visited her a few days before she packed up and left for Spearfish.

The Bullock party were heard from last evening by means of the Indian interpreter, Fielding, who arrived at Rapid City yesterday. He was interviewed there by Capt. Williard. He reported having met the dead-axle wagon at Pinau Springs, and the Bullock party eight miles behind. The stock attached to the vehicle was about exhausted, while the pursuers are yet well mounted. After leaving the Springs no hiding place occurs, the road thence to For Pierre leading across an open prairie, leaving scarcely a shadow of a chance for escape, and probably ere this the wagon and its occupants are in the camp of the pursuers.

Black Hills Daily Pioneer, Friday October 4, 1878, p. 4.


Good News from Seth Bullock's Party --- The Villains Are Still Being Pursued and, by This Time, Are Probably Captured.

From Seth Bullock, who went on the trail of the road agents that robbed the Cheyenne treasure coach at Canon Springs station, we obtain the following:

The robber's trail was struck at Newton City and bore in the direction of Rapid City. After ascertaining that the robbers would go near that point, word was sent to Col. Ed Cook to organize a party of determine men and make an attempt to capture them, if possible, before they reached the Cheyenne river, and also to secure fresh horses for him upon his arrival there so as to have no delay in following up the trail.

Unfortunately, when Bullock's party reached Rapid, all the available fresh stock in the neighborhood had been secured and taken off with Cook's party, thereby placing him in the awkward dilemma of either proceeding on their already tired horses or giving up the chase. He finally concluded to continue upon the trail and try, if possible to come up with the thieves before their horses became useless.

After traveling some distance, they came up with Cook's party, who it seems, had lost the trail. After a short hunt the trail was discovered, when the entire party, now increased to a good sized squad under the leadership of Cook, started again on the hunt. As the road agents were urging their stock to the utmost, they kept well ahead of the pursuers, who, upon their utterly fagged stock, saw that it would be almost impossible to overhaul them, secured a good mule team, and leaving their stock to recuperate, made a run during the night, expecting to pass the road agents in the darkness, and waite [sic] for them to come up on the following morning, when they could easily be captured.

This plan would have succeeded most likely, had it been properly stuck to, but during the night ride they passed the robber camp nearer than they expected, and the neighing of one of the horses in their camp, which was but a short distance from the road, betrayed their whereabout to the pursuers, who immediately halted and held a consultation as to the best mode of securing their game. Cook, who the leader, decided to scout around the camp, and if possible hit upon some means to secure them, if they were the party he was seeking.

After a short absence he returned with the information that they were the men he was after, and proposed a plan to secure them. His suggestions not meeting with general favor, Bullock made a proposition to the effect that it would be better to surround their camp and kill their horses, thus placing them on foot and in the power of the officers. Cook overruled his suggestions and decided to place the men at various points around their camp and wait until morning. This was done.

In the morning when they came to look for the robbers neither hide nor hair of them or their horses was visible, they having slid out during the night. As soon as this fact was sufficiently elucidated to the leader he ordered the party to repair to the nearest station and procure fresh stock to continue the chase. Six horses were all that could be obtained for the party.

Those who had luckily secured the fresh horses continued the chase, while Messrs. Bullock, Beaman and Steele returned to their jaded horses and struck out for home. Mr. Bullock is confident that ere this the robbers have been captured and that they are the men who are implicated in the coach robbery.

On their return to Rapid, a man was arrested there and placed in the Pennington county jail, who answers exactly the description of one of the outlaws.

It is to be hoped that the party have been successful and their object attain, of ridding the country of one of the worst and most desperate gangs of outlaws that have ever infected it.
Although this sounds like Cook usurped Bullock in running down the stage coach robbers, a follow-up report on October 12 said that Bullock captured a wagon that the perpetrators had abandoned and that the gold was found nearby, although not by Bullock. No mention was made of how the reward was split.

The South Dakota portion of the Dakota Territories, 1876. The Black Hills are at the far left. Deadwood is not yet named. The Sioux land from the treaty of 1868 makes up the left two-thirds of the area of this map, an impressive tract until the buffalo were slaughtered, the tribes were starved and the land taken away.

Up Next: 1876 in Deadwood.


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