Robbery And Road Agents in the Gold Country

Many were the incidents related by these teamsters of their various experiences with the road agents and how they escaped, for at this time many, for fear of robbery, would express their money over, or take in its stead a check which they would have cashed in San Francisco or in Sacramento City upon their return home. A gentleman was driving a buggy on his way from Dutch Flat to Virginia City, when, near his destination, he was stopped by a man; a pistol was presented, and the usual formalities were gone through with as is necessary in such cases. The gentleman handed over a $20 gold piece, at the same time remarking that he was very sorry, but that was all he happened to have with him. He noticed in handing it over to the road agent that the latter appeared to be very nervous and frightened, and he remarked to him that he believed he was new to the business. The agent answered that he was and that it was his first offense, and that he only did it from absolute necessity. Upon being further questioned, he stated that he had worked for a whole year in a livery stable as hostler in a town not far away ; that the livery stable keeper failed, and he never received a single dollar. Upon further inquiry it was learned that he had a young wife and two small children living in the State of Ohio.



"They are really suffering, and, by George," he said, "I was determined to raise money somehow to send them." The gentleman then informed him that he himself kept a livery stable, and promised to give him a good job if he would get into the buggy with him. After some persuasion he did so, and it was afterwards stated that he proved to be a faithful and competent man, remaining there in the Samaritan's employ for nearly four years, and the gentleman never stated the facts of the case until after the hostler had returned to his family in the East. There were numerous incidents of a similar character constantly occurring on this road.

A tall, lean and lank specimen of a Downeaster, who was engaged in mining, was very leisurely walking along the road one Sunday afternoon on his way home. He had been out visiting among some of his lady acquaintances and was dressed in the regulation store-clothes style ; in place of a collar, however, he wore a plain white handkerchief for a necktie. In consequence of a close resemblance to a certain minister of the gospel who frequently visited that part of the country, he was called by all his acquaintances " the parson." All at once one of these polite road agents stepped out from behind a tree, and, presenting his weapon, demanded the "parson's" money instantly, or off would come the top of his head. Now, the parson was totally unprepared for such an encounter, and as he had in his pocket a purse containing about $250, which he didn't like to part with without a struggle, the question suggested itself at once as to how he could save it. An idea occurred to him, and the fact of his being called a parson could now be made good use of, since he was well aware that he very much resembled one. Especially was this true when dressed up with his old-fashioned black coat and his white necktie, and they saved him. He replied to the demand in a drawling tone, that unfortunately the profession in which he was engaged didn't enable him to carry about much money, but that he had a prayer-book which might be sold for a trifle, at the same time putting his hand into his coat pocket for the book. The agent, ordering him to take his hand from his pocket, again repeated his demand, or off would come his head and at once, if he didn't hand it over.

Then says the parson, in his drawling style: "If I must go hence, first let me pray, won't ye? " at the same time kneeling down in the proper attitude. The road agent, being now satisfied that he had sure enough struck a genuine parson, turned in disgust and remarked as he went away: "Oh, pray away all night, if you like, and be d----d !" But this little incident, like many others which often occur among the parsons, has a sequel.



Some four years later, in Sacramento City, the parson and some of his acquaintances were enjoying themselves as miners usually do when visiting the large cities in the barroom of one of the hotels. During the course of the evening, a well-dressed man, who seemed to be serving in some capacity in the hotel, took him by the arm to one side, and asked him if he ever lived up on the toll-road a few miles above Placerville. The parson replied that he did, and that his residence was in a canon near the road, where he was at present mining. The man then asked:
"You were a minister some four or five years ago, were you not ?-"
" Why, no, I weren't at all; they only called me parson because I looked so much like one. But say, stranger, why do you ask me these questions ?"
"Well, because when that road agent demanded your money, you remember you said you were a preacher, and got right down in the dust to pray."

“Yes, I know that; but you see that chap got the drop on me, and as I had no weapon with me I was bound to save about $250 that I had in my pocket."
" Well," says the man," and you did it well, too."
" Why,?" The Yank asks.
''Why? because I was the chap who was concerned in that little funny business."
"The h--l you was! why, you don't say so! really though?"

“Yes, sure. You see I was on the way home from the other side and was dead broke, and I just thought to myself, now here is a good chance. It was my first and last trial in the business of being a criminal, for the idea of robbing a country preacher broke me all up. “Did you notice that I am now bald-headed? "
“Why, yes," answered the parson; " what's the matter?"
The man replied. " I was so disgusted with myself that I shed my hair all out on the way home.''
“Well, I'll be doll garned!" exclaimed the parson. " Let's go and take suthin' to drink."

Return To: California Gold Rush: True Tales of the 49ers


Early Day Stagecoach Robbery



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