Still continuing with excerpts from Paolo Sioli’s 1883 “Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County, California with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men & Pioneers,” under the heading “Criminal Annals,” we now come to the most famous stage robbery in El Dorado County, a crime that has become known as the “Bullion Bend Robbery.”
Like all stories from our early history there are a number of versions, most with just small differences from this one.
The Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West have placed a plaque honoring our pioneer law officers at Bullion Bend on old Highway 50 (Pony Express Trail) about a mile east of Safeway in Pollock Pines. There is also a plaque to Deputy Sheriff Joseph Staples adjacent to the parking lot west of the old Placerville City Hall on Main Street in Placerville. Deputy Sheriff Staples is buried in the Placerville Union Cemetery at 650 Bee Street.
“On June 30th, 1864, between 9 and 10 o’clock p. m., on the narrow grade about two and a half miles above Sportsman’s Hall, the two coaches of the Pioneer Stage line were stopped by six men, armed with shotguns and pistols, and eight sacks of bullion taken away from them. Ned Blair was driving the first team, Charles Watson the second. Blair was ordered to halt by seizing his leaders and stopping them. They demanded the treasure box, and Blair told them that he had none ; whereupon he was ordered to throw out the bullion, and he replied : ‘ Come and get it!’ And while two of them covered him with their guns, two others came and took out the bullion. They did not get the treasure box. Blair asked them not to rob the passengers, and they replied that it was not their intention, all that they wanted was the treasure box of Wells, Fargo & Co.
“Observing that Blair’s stage had stopped, and sup posing that Blair had met with an accident, Watson stopped his team, left his seat, and hurried to his assistance ; but when he was approaching, two of the robbers advanced toward him and covering him with their shotguns ordered him back and demanded the treasure box and bullion. Watson was forced to comply, and they took three sacks of bullion and a small treasure box from Genoa [Nevada] from his stage. Both stages were filled with passengers, but queer to say, none of them was armed.
The ‘captain’ of the band, before he parted from Watson, handed to him the following receipt: ‘This is to certify that I have received from Wells, Fargo & Co. the sum of $________ cash, for the purpose of outfitting recruits enlisted in California for the Confederate States army.
“R. [Ralph] Henry Ingrim, Captain Com’g [Commanding] Co. C. S. A. June, 1864.
“Immediately on the arrival of the stages at Placerville, Sheriff [William] Rogers was informed of the robbery, and he, accompanied by deputy Sheriff [Joseph M.] Staples, Constables [John] Van Eaton and [George C.] Ranney, policemen [James G.]Bailey and [George?] Williamson, and several attachees [sic] of the stage company, started in pursuit of the robbers. Sheriff Rogers, with Taylor and Watson, arrested two men at the Thirteen Mile House, one was recognized by Watson as one of the robbers. They had taken supper the night before at the Mountain Ranch, but left and called between 12 and 1 o’clock in the morning at the Thirteen Mile House, asking the proprietor to allow them to sleep in his stable. On his answer, that he did not allow anyone to sleep in his stable, they declared to have no money and couldn’t pay for a bed ; but he told them they might sleep up stairs in his house, and they accepted the proposition. For concealing their countenances they had drawn their hats over their faces while talking and entering the house. In the morning they overslept themselves and were arrested while in bed, brought to Placerville and lodged in jail.
“Meanwhile deputy Sheriff Staples and Constables Van Eaton and Ranney tracked the robbers to the head of Pleasant valley, where Van Eaton left his companions, in order to inform Sheriff Rogers of the route the robbers had taken, and the two continued the pursuit in the direction of the Somerset House, on the road to Grizzly Flat; arriving at the latter place Staples inquired of the landlady if there were any men in the house, and she replied; ‘Yes, six, up stairs.’ He rushed up stairs, seized a gun standing at the door of a sleeping room, burst the door open, and presenting the gun, cried : ‘You are my prisoners!’ But scarcely had he uttered these words, when the robbers fired, wounding him fatally, he fired at the same time, hitting one of the robbers in the face. Officer Ranney, also, was dangerously wounded, both officers were robbed by taking their money, watches, horses and arms; whereupon they decamped, leaving their wounded companion behind. On August 2d, Under-Sheriff J. [James] B. Hume and deputy Sheriff Van Eaton arrested in Santa Clara county, Henry Jarboe, George Cross, J. A. Robertson, Wallace Clendenin, Jos. Gambill, Thos. Poole, John Ingren, H. Gately and Preston Hodges, and brought them to Placerville on August 4th. The above named parties were charged by Allen H. Glasby, one of the stage robbers, with being accomplices before and after the stage robbery, and upon his evidence the Grand Jury found bills of indictment against them, whereupon Judge Brockway issued warrants for their arrest. They were arraigned in the District Court on August 19th, attended by their counsels Messrs. Hurlburt & Edgerton and J. M. Williams.
The case again came up in the District Court on November 22d. Preston Hodges was convicted of murder in the second degree, and sentenced by Judge [Samuel H.]Brockway to 20 years’ imprisonment at hard labor. Thomas Poole suffered the extreme penalty of the law, his execution took place September 29th, 1865, at 12 o’clock noon.”
TO BE CONTINUED