This fellow, Black Bart, was California's most famous stagecoach robber! He was the "gentleman" robber, mostly because I hear tell that he was always polite when robbing folks. My brother Mitch told me all about this fellow. He started robbing stagecoaches back in 1875, when I was about seven.
I think Mitch was hoping a dime novel would be written about Black Bart. He's a real robber, even though he sounds like a storybook character. Here's a picture of him.
The first time Black Bart held up a stage, he stepped out in front of it with a 12-gauge, double-barreled shotgun, and said, "Please throw down the box." (That would be the Wells Fargo strong box, full of gold and money.) The stage driver did what Bart told him, on account of it looked like there were six other highwaymen behind rocks. But guess what! They were STICKS! Black Bart tricked them!
Black Bart only robbed Wells Fargo stagecoaches, and he only took the strong boxes. He was always polite to the ladies and never, ever stole their jewelry. He was a tricky highwayman. He only robbed the stagecoaches up in the mountains, where they had to slow down to go around curves. And he never harmed anyone. Ever. Fact is, when he finally got caught, they figured out his gun was never loaded!
Black Bart sometimes left poetry after he robbed the stagecoaches. I asked Mitch why he would do that, but Mitch doesn't know. Nobody knows.
He got away with his robberies for eight years and stole $18,000 from Wells Fargo. But of course, his luck finally ran out. Black Bart got arrested and went to San Quentin prison in 1883, when I was about fourteen.
But the most mysterious thing about Black Bart was this: After he served his time in prison, he was released (he got out early). And then . . . Black Bart left prison, walked away, and disappeared without a trace!