Every bandit needs a hideout, and it just so happens that one of the most prominent waterfalls in Northern California once housed the most famous stagecoach robber in the west.
Charles E. Boles was one of America’s most notorious stagecoach robbers in the 1800’s, famous for leaving poetry behind at the scene of the crime and going by his robber name – Black Bart. Although his resume included robbing 28 stagecoaches all the way from Calaveras County to Oregon, he spent three years of the 1880’s doing his work exclusively in Siskiyou County, politely grabbing any cash he could from Wells Fargo coaches traveling along the Siskiyou Trail.
Black Bart was known as a gentlemen bandit. He dressed nice, never used any foul language and never discharged his shotgun during any of his robberies. When he wasn’t robbing Wells Fargo, he lived in San Francisco where his friends believed he was a “mining engineer.” He was known to have a quick wit and during two of his robberies, he left self-written poetry behind at the crime scene.
Here’s one of his poems:
“Here I lay me down to Sleep
To wait the coming morrow
Perhaps Success perhaps defeat
And everlasting Sorrow
Let come what will I’ll try it on
My condition can’t be worse
And if there’s money in that Box
‘Tis munny (money) in my purse.”
When he left his San Francisco home to find stagecoaches along the Siskiyou Trail, Black Bart needed an inconspicuous hideout where he could rest and use clean water to maintain a hygienic appearance, and boy, did he find the perfect place.
As the story goes, Black Bart’s hideout was in the 12-foot cave below Hedge Creek Falls in modern-day Dunsmuir. While the cave gave him the perfect shelter for inclement weather or a posse looking to lynch him, he could also use the flowing water of Hedge Creek for sanitation purposes. It was the perfect hideout for the famous robber.
Eventually, Black Bart’s luck ran out as he spent 4 years in San Quentin for his crimes. Following his release, he left his belongings in San Francisco and was never heard from again. During his time as a bandit, he stole roughly $18,000, which at about $20/oz in 1880, that comes out to $1 to $2 million dollars today.
Many rumors surround his final days and where he went following his time in San Quentin. Some say he moved to New York, while one investigator claims he moved to Japan. He may have gone in search of his hidden loot, and there’s even rumors that Wells Fargo paid him off to leave the area.
But maybe, just maybe, he returned to his old hideout to spend his final days in the beauty of the Northern California wilderness.
Want to visit Black Bart’s hideout? Here’s what you can expect at Hedge Creek Falls:
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine