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Why was it so easy to rob the Stage?


Aunt Jen

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I hate to bother you all. I know most of you have important things to do :unsure: , serious things. But I was watching a documentary on small business development in the Old West---I think it was called "The Shakiest Gun in the West," and I see these two folks ride up to the stage, point their guns, demand they get the money...the money is thrown down to them, and they ride off.

 

Now, If stages were going to carry a load of money like that, why would they rig it so that it was so easy to be taken? Why not put a couple armed men on the stage to guard it, and lock it in some relatively-secure vault (at least harder to get into) on the stage, or something?

 

I'm sure people then wanted to keep their money, and I'm sure they didn't want it taken. But I'm missing the picture, here.

 

In this case, one of the robbers was a woman, also, and one of the passengers married her. She could shoot very well, expert. So maybe she had been in SASS for a while. ^_^

 

Aunt Jen

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Aunt Jen,

 

probably because the money being taken didn't belong to those who would risk their life to keep it safe.

 

Thats my guess.

 

Plus, stage coach drivers were probably not hired from the 'Hero' pool at the local employment office.

 

Interesting topic!

 

 

..........Widder

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It was the Old West equivalent of welfare. If you were desperate enough to steal, they figured it was better to make that easy for you, than for you to ask your Congressman to start doing it for you...

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99% of the citizens of the Old West were very law-abiding Victorians. Holding up a stage was an extremely rare event. Only in the weird world of Hollywood did it go down the way depicted in that spoof. On the very rare occasion a stage was hit, the robbers were as likely to die for their misdeeds on the spot and any survivors ride away empty handed and maybe nursing their wounds.

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99% of the citizens of the Old West were very law-abiding Victorians. Holding up a stage was an extremely rare event. Only in the weird world of Hollywood did it go down the way depicted in that spoof. On the very rare occasion a stage was hit, the robbers were as likely to die for their misdeeds on the spot and any survivors ride away empty handed and maybe nursing their wounds.

 

Better check your source. From True West Magazine:

 

In Arizona alone, 129 stage robberies took place between 1875 and 1903. Or maybe the number is 134, since five of them involved two coaches each.

 

During that period, more than 200 people engaged in the stage robbing business in Arizona. Since more than half of those holdups were unsolved, most of the miscreants remain unknown. Eighty of them were identified-—79 men and one woman, Pearl Hart, the “Girl Bandit,” who, in 1898, pulled one of the last stage heists in the American West.

 

The worst areas for stagecoach robberies were around Tombstone and the Black Canyon Stage Line from Phoenix to Prescott, which follows I-17 today.

 

The movies usually portray stage robberies as involving a number of mounted men chasing down their target—and that’s wrong. Only three of the Arizona holdups went down that way. The rest were robbed by highwaymen afoot. They’d select a site where the stagecoach had to slow down, and they’d walk up to the vehicle with guns drawn.

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Now, If stages were going to carry a load of money like that, why would they rig it so that it was so easy to be taken? Why not put a couple armed men on the stage to guard it, and lock it in some relatively-secure vault (at least harder to get into) on the stage, or something?

Aunt Jen

 

 

99% of the citizens of the Old West were very law-abiding Victorians. Holding up a stage was an extremely rare event. Only in the weird world of Hollywood did it go down the way depicted in that spoof. On the very rare occasion a stage was hit, the robbers were as likely to die for their misdeeds on the spot and any survivors ride away empty handed and maybe nursing their wounds.

 

Lone Dog put it very well. And as Widowmaker pointed out, it wasn't the drivers money. If you come around a corner and find someone pointing a gun at you, you are like as not to do what you are told.

 

On the topic of why not lock it in some relatively secure vault - weight and cubage. Something like that would have added several hundred pounds, at least, to an already fairly small cargo capacity.

 

Other thing we see is the stage coach going for miles with the horses at a full gallop , almost never overturning, and almost able to outrun men riding horses. Gotta throw the BS flag on that. Drivers may have done the last few hundred yards at a run to make an impressive entrance into town, but run your horses like that on what passed for the open road and you were asking to either overturn your rig or kill your horses. Or both. Just like the cavalry charges - usually only the last 200 yards or so were at the gallop, not the 1500 yards we see in movies. One manual from the mid-1800s that I saw said from 1000 yards the first 400 were at a walk, the next 400 were at a trot, and only the last 200 were at a gallop.

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One of my favorite characters from the West that you have likely never heard of: Eugene Blair.

This is a good version of his story: http://www.jcs-group.com/oldwest/law/fargo.html

Experts have guessed at him shooting over fifty would-be robbers by age 37 when he died in bed. One story is that he received a new shotgun everytime he thwarted a robbery and that he was always selling shotguns. Another is that he buried the robbers by the road as a warning to the next would-be's and that they were still finding his graves recently.

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Better check your source. From True West Magazine:

 

In Arizona alone, 129 stage robberies took place between 1875 and 1903. Or maybe the number is 134, since five of them involved two coaches each.

 

 

 

 

That's only four per year. How many 7/11s and Circle Ks do you think get robbed in a year?

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Well, If I were riding on a stage from A to B, and then at a narrow, folks came up to it with their guns out, I likely wouldn't even notice until they were on us unless I was staring out a window. If someone else noticed, what would we do? I don't really know. I guess it would depend on the specifics, how mean they seemed, threatening, or if it was a done deal by the time we noticed, etc. I think if they incited the feeling we needed to defend ourselves, that we might. I'd hope most of us would be packing. But if they were gentle otherwise, and if they really seemed like they'd be happy with the money, then maybe we on the stage would let it go rather than risk it. I'm assuming a more peaceful time, not rugged threatening times.

 

But I'd still think that if I were an official with the company that was shipping money, I'd use some of it to hire guards for it.

 

If I were the robber, then I'd probably do like was mentioned above:

 

How best to rob the stage?

 

I guess I'd find a narrow part of the road, or where the stage had to slow, and put a tree log across the road, have 2 sharp shooters in the trees or behind rocks at a distance who shoot near the driver to prove themselves, have one man go up to the stage for the money. If they try to run for it, shoot one horse to stop them and give 'em our intentions (as John Wayne might have said), collect the money and leave, knowing they won't follow too quickly as they have to re-rig the rig to let it go minus one of the horses. I would not shoot people on the stage if able, unless I had to in a skirmish, but I don't like thinking about that area. I'm just trying to figure out it might be done, so I could then think of how I might defend.

 

With all that, I'd think the guards should be inside the carriage, to help them defend against the sharp shooters, but if they were inside, there would be little room for paying passengers. So no guards. If I were the company officer in charge of shipping money, I'd also not think I could count on passengers to defend it.

 

Overall, it might be best to ship smaller amounts of money, tell the driver to give it up if robbed rather than get shot, but to remember what they looked like or try to learn their names, to put out a warrant later if able, and if a stage line gets robbed more than once, consider following the stage with guards on separate, individual mounts that follow the stage at a distance, so the sharp-shooters can't pick them off if the stage is stopped...

 

How am I doing?

 

Aunt Jen

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Better check your source. From True West Magazine:

 

In Arizona alone, 129 stage robberies took place between 1875 and 1903. Or maybe the number is 134, since five of them involved two coaches each.

 

During that period, more than 200 people engaged in the stage robbing business in Arizona. Since more than half of those holdups were unsolved, most of the miscreants remain unknown. Eighty of them were identified-—79 men and one woman, Pearl Hart, the “Girl Bandit,” who, in 1898, pulled one of the last stage heists in the American West.

 

The worst areas for stagecoach robberies were around Tombstone and the Black Canyon Stage Line from Phoenix to Prescott, which follows I-17 today.

 

The movies usually portray stage robberies as involving a number of mounted men chasing down their target—and that’s wrong. Only three of the Arizona holdups went down that way. The rest were robbed by highwaymen afoot. They’d select a site where the stagecoach had to slow down, and they’d walk up to the vehicle with guns drawn.

 

So, in 28 years there were 134 stages robbed in AZ that is almost five per year. Hardly the everyday occurrence. Even Black Bart, the professional, had only 28 in 8 years. All on foot, and all by ambush half a mile past nowhere. His last one, teh strong box was bolted down and there were no passengers.

 

From Linecamp.com

Wells, Fargo, and Company first Stagecoach Holdups, occurred in 1855 and during the 1860's there were 313 Stagecoach Holdups totaling to the amount of $415,000. The development of the use of private detectives led to the convictions of 240 outlaws and prevention of 34 stagecoach holdups. Black Bart was one of the most illustrious Stagecoach Holdups man with Rattlesnake Dick getting the biggest payoff of $80,000 for one Stagecoach Holdups

So roughly 31/year for WF over their entire territory. Again, hardly the every day experience. I know that WF was not the only stage line, but I do believe it was the largest.

 

Here is an interesting bit I just found about stagecoaches:

 

Coaches on the overland stages traveled continuously for twenty two days, day and night, through dust or blowing sand, in intense heat or cold, sometimes tormented by insects, with only brief stops at way stations to change teams. Passengers often had poor food and no rest. If a passenger got off the stage to rest, he might be stuck in that place for a week or more, or longer if the next stage had no available seats. Passengers were sometimes compelled to walk to relieve the fatigued teams, or when the coach had to be lightened to make it over a stretch of sand, or to help push coaches uphill or extricate them when bogged down in mud or sand.[9] Passengers crowded into coaches caused conditions that prompted Wells Fargo to post these rules in each coach for passenger behavior:

 

* Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.

* If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the gentler sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it.

* Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.

* Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.

* Don't snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger's shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.

* Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.

* In the event of runaway horses remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.

* Forbidden topics of conversation are: stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.

* Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It's a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.[10]

 

Passengers for the long haul overland coaches were given recommendations of equipment to be taken. For the earliest line that traveled through New Mexico Territory, the Jackass Mail, a San Diego newspaper suggested "[o]ne Sharps rifle and 100 rounds, a Colt [revolver] and two pounds of lead, a knife, a pair of thick wool pants, a half dozen pairs of thick socks, six undershirts, three overshirts, a wide-awake hat, a cheap sack coat, an overcoat, one pair of blankets in summer and two in winter, gauntlets, needles, pins, a sponge, hair brush, comb, soap, two pairs of thick drawers, and three or four towels."[11] The later Butterfield line suggested passengers take a pistol or a knife.

that from http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-stagecoachlines.html
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It's pretty hard to really secure the money in a vehicle where weight is at a premium. A padlocked strong box was pretty standard.

 

Besides, passengers had money, maybe a good watch, etc...

 

Then the actual stage is nowhere a fast vehicle, and sure isn't fast if the road is rutted, a "blowdown" tree is planted there, etc. Driver gets down to move tree, BG steps out with a rifle, he's got anything he wants.

 

As to other people's money, well, even when it is your own money, if somebody has the drop on you, give it up. I used to drive a taxi (put myself through school driving nights), and when I was robbed, gun stuck in my face, I flipped the wad of bills into the BG's face while opening the door, and bailed the hell out at about 5 MPH. He took the money and the cab, both of which were recovered. He served 8 of a 12-25 yr sentance.

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That's only four per year. How many 7/11s and Circle Ks do you think get robbed in a year?

 

That is 5 robbies a year in AZ alone, which is not the 'extremely rare event' I was responding to. ^_^ A 9.0 earthquake is an extremely rare event.

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That is 5 robbies a year in AZ alone, which is not the 'extremely rare event' I was responding to. ^_^ A 9.0 earthquake is an extremely rare event.

 

Not quite 5/year among how many hundreds, if not thousands, of stage runs? (figuring a "run" as the stretch a coach went between two stages)

 

And at 5/year, that is less than one every two months.

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And it seems that there were real armored stages...for all the good that it did....

 

From Wikipedia article on Globe, AZ:

 

Globe is also known for having links to Geronimo and the Apache Kid. On October 23, 1889, the Apache Kid's trial was held in the Globe Courthouse. After he was convicted, it was the responsibility of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds to transport him to the Arizona Territorial Prison in Yuma, Arizona. Sheriff Reynolds, his deputy, and their prisoners set out in an armored stagecoach holding the Apache Kid inside. Somewhere near present day Kearny, Arizona, Sheriff Reynolds let the Apache Kid out of the stagecoach seeing as they were on an uphill climb and he wanted to ease the burden on the horses. The Apache Kid was able to overcome and murder Sheriff Reynolds

 

Oh, well....

 

LL

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Dang. And here my new book has two attempted stage robberies in it. Whoda thunk it?

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Dang. And here my new book has two attempted stage robberies in it. Whoda thunk it?

 

Hurry up and git er done! :D

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And it seems that there were real armored stages...for all the good that it did....

 

From Wikipedia article on Globe, AZ:

 

Globe is also known for having links to Geronimo and the Apache Kid. On October 23, 1889, the Apache Kid's trial was held in the Globe Courthouse. After he was convicted, it was the responsibility of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds to transport him to the Arizona Territorial Prison in Yuma, Arizona. Sheriff Reynolds, his deputy, and their prisoners set out in an armored stagecoach holding the Apache Kid inside. Somewhere near present day Kearny, Arizona, Sheriff Reynolds let the Apache Kid out of the stagecoach seeing as they were on an uphill climb and he wanted to ease the burden on the horses. The Apache Kid was able to overcome and murder Sheriff Reynolds

 

Oh, well....

 

LL

 

 

That sounds like the stage was meant as a paddy wagon, and not to be resistant to robbery. How, pray tell can you "secure" a vehicle drawn by a team of horses. Any one-eyed drunk with a rifle could shoot one of the horses, stopping the stage long enough to do anything he wants......

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Well, If I were riding on a stage from A to B, and then at a narrow, folks came up to it with their guns out, I likely wouldn't even notice until they were on us unless I was staring out a window. If someone else noticed, what would we do? Aunt Jen

 

Well Jen, here's what you'd do......

 

You'd stand (as best you could inside the stage), announce "You villans ain't gittin' this stagecoach," followed by a "Stand by.....beep" at which point you would shoot the robbers with your pistols in a left to right Nevada sweep followed by...." :lol:

 

Chick

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Well Jen, here's what you'd do......

 

You'd stand (as best you could inside the stage), announce "You villans ain't gittin' this stagecoach," followed by a "Stand by.....beep" at which point you would shoot the robbers with your pistols in a left to right Nevada sweep followed by...." :lol:

 

Chick

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha...! :lol:

 

Aunt Jen

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Hurry up and git er done! :D

 

I is hurryin' as fast as my editor lets me! But I is hurryin'!

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..I see these two folks ride up to the stage, point their guns, demand they get the money...the money is thrown down to them, and they ride off....

 

You're pushing your neighbor in a wheel chair on the way to make a deposit it for your employee. I walk up beside you, smile, stick on gun barrel into your face what are you going to do?

 

1. Argue with me?

2. Try and swing the SxS my way?

3. Risk getting your neighbor hurt?

4. Hand over the deposit?

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... what are you going to do?

 

I have a friend who is a truck driver. He was making a late-night delivery in Detroit when some punk jumped up on the saddle tank step armed with a .25 Raven, intent on robbery.

 

My friend pulls up his Model 29 S&W, cocks the hammer and shoves it in the kid's face. Tells him "Mine's bigger than yours. Get off my *&%$#@!!! truck!"

 

He still has the Raven as a throw-down gun.

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I have a friend who is a truck driver. He was making a late-night delivery in Detroit when some punk jumped up on the saddle tank step armed with a .25 Raven, intent on robbery.

 

My friend pulls up his Model 29 S&W, cocks the hammer and shoves it in the kid's face. Tells him "Mine's bigger than yours. Get off my *&%$#@!!! truck!"

 

He still has the Raven as a throw-down gun.

Hmmmm. I thought that was spelled "@#&%^!"

 

Aunt Jen

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To misquote Capt. Quint....

"Strong box goes in the stage. Stage goes on the trail. Outlaws are on the trail....... Fair well and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies....." :lol:

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