November 3 – Black Bart

When thinking of the Wild West and outlaws, usually ruthless, horse-riding men, who swear and murder without any thought, come to mind.  However, Black Bart was almost a complete opposite.  Black Bart was born Charles E. Boles and probably grew up in New York.  When the California gold rush began, Boles and one of his older brothers went West.  Unfortunately, his older brother died while they were out West.  After moving back East and getting married, he moved his family to Illinois.  When the Civil War began, Boles joined the army and had great success, ultimately rising to the rank of 1st Lieutenant before being seriously wounded at the battle of Vicksburg.  After his discharge from the army, he returned to his farming life in Illinois, but longed for the adventure of his younger years.  Once again looking to the West for his adventures, he set out to Idaho and Montana to prospect.  After an unknown incident that set Boles against Wells Fargo, Boles turned to a life of revenge.  His wife eventually gave him up for dead, since he stopped writing home, but Boles was alive and living luxuriously as Black Bart.  However, many things separated Black Bart from the other outlaws who attack stagecoaches in the Wild West.  Boles was renowned for being a polite man, who would not swear.  According to one account, a woman threw her purse to him in fright when he robbed his first stagecoach.  While taking the express box from the driver, Black Bart politely bowed to the woman and returned her purse.    Furthermore, he was not a rampant plunderer.  While he only targeted Wells Fargo stagecoaches, he would leave large periods of time between his robberies.  It is interesting that he was remembered by the drivers and passengers as a courteous gentleman, despite his profession as a robber.  Another thing that made him stand out from other outlaws was his aversion to horses.  He would climb the mountains on foot to find mountain passes that would force the stagecoaches to stop.  He was a very smart bandit, in the fact that he would work alone and often unarmed.  Cleverly, he used sticks to point out of thickets at the precise position where he would stop the stagecoach, giving the illusion of having many others with rifles nearby.  The apparent presence of many others with rifles pointed at the stagecoach and Boles own rifle would usually convince the drivers quickly.  Ironically, Black Bart often carried his own rifle unloaded and is reported to have never shot the rifle during a robbery.  Black Bart is sometimes dubbed “Black Bart the Poet.”  This addition is due to the fact that he left poetry at the scene of two of his robberies.  These short poems often reflected his hatred of Wells Fargo.  On November 3, 1883, Black Bart left more than poetry behind.  His last robbery came in the same place as his first robbery took place.  Only this time, one of the passengers shot at Boles and wounded him in the hand.  At the scene of the crime, Boles also left a handkerchief that a detective eventually traced to Black Bart, and he was arrested.  After four years in prison, a shortened sentence due to good behavior, Boles was released and left his life of crime.  Charles E. Boles, a.k.a. Black Bart the Poet, disappeared without a trace in February of 1888 and was never seen again.  And thus ended the reign of the most polite outlaw the Wild West had ever seen.



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