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Finding Aid of the Black Bart Letters C058347
C058347  
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Description
A handwritten transcription, dated 1884 in San Andreas, California, of a series of letters between Harry A. Morse of San Francisco and Sheriff B.K. Thorn of Calavaras County, California concerning a dispute between the two men as to who actually arrested Black Bart after his final crime in November of 1883. The letters begin with a request for a clarification as to who should receive the award for his capture, and quickly escalates in a nasty exchange of accusations, insults and threats. Other people involved in the capture are mentioned, as are details of the search and capture - discussed back and forth between the two men. The name "P.O.8" is noted, which was another alias of Black Bart as is a physical description of him and his clothing.
Background
Black Bart, born 1829 and died sometime after 1888, was born in Norfolk, England as Charles Earl Bowles. Also known as Charles Bolton and C.E. Bolton , he was a gentleman bandit, and was one of the more famous stagecoach robbers to work in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s. One of 10 siblings, he came to American at the age of two when his parents emigrated to Jefferson County New York. In late 1849, Bowles and two of his brothers went to California and began mining on the North Fork of the American River in California. Bowles returned to New York in 1852, but returned to California one more time, continuing to mine another two years. In 1854, in Illinois, he married Mary Elizabeth Johnson. They had four children, and in 1860 they were living in Decatur, Illinois. He participated in the Civil War, and was discharged in 1865. He went back to prospecting in 1867 - in Idaho and Montana - but his last letter to his wife was in 1871 noting an unpleasant incident with some Wells, Fargo & Company employees. Bowles, who changed the spelling to Boles, committed 28 robberies of Wells Fargo stagecoaches as Black Bart between 1875 and 1883. He was quite successful, and made several thousands of dollars every year. Oddly enough, his robberies were always on foot because he was terrified of horses - and he never fired a gunshot. He was always courteous, and never used foul language. After his final robbery, he was caught, convicted and sentenced to five or six years in San Quentin Prison - shortened to four years for good behavior. He was released in January of 1888 and the last time anyone saw him was on February 28, 1888.
Extent
1.0 folder (I handwritten transcription, 36 pages)
Restrictions
There are no restrictions on access.
Availability
Collection open for research.