Lone Highwayman of Yellowstone
Teton Valley outlaw Ed Harrington, aka Ed Trafton, lived with his family in Teton Valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Pictured here with his family, from left to right are: the youngest daughter, Annie; Ed; the middle daughter, Helen; his wife, and their eldest daughter, Alice.
Released after doing 3 years of a 25 year sentence at the penitentiary for getting caught with too many horses and cows that didn’t belong to him, Harrington returned to Teton Valley. Even with his record he somehow landed the job of Teton Basin’s first official mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. But, as they say, old habits die hard.
As told by Diane Verna in TetonValley Magazine:
“He loved to rob the stores of the Upper Valley, securing himself an alibi before leaving Teton Valley in the middle of the night. The law caught up with him in 1901, and, according to Eugene Leo Cowan in his excerpt on Harrington in the Snake River Echoes, he spent two years in prison on charges of grand larceny. Yet “doing time” did not convince him to change his ways.
By now Yellowstone had been christened America’s first national park and well-to-do tourists from the East were flocking to see its many wonderful features. They traveled by rail to places like St. Anthony, where a stagecoach would pick them up for a tour through the park.
It was August 1908 when nine stage coaches were robbed somewhere between Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake. It was estimated that the robber made off with $1,400 in cash and $700 worth of jewelry and watches. No one was ever indicted but Harrington, more commonly known by the name of Trafton during this period, was the main suspect, especially since he would brag of his exploits and show off the jewelry he acquired. According to Cowan, who corresponded with a relative of Trafton’s, the relative remembers “a large, glass-headed doll, and (being) told never to let anyone touch it because they would steal it…when it opened, this doll was full of expensive jewelry.”
On July 29, 1914, Trafton pulled off a similar feat, this time robbing 19 stages all by himself. This earned him the nickname “The Lone Highwayman of Yellowstone.” According to several different accounts, Trafton was pleasant robber, asking folks to “please” put all their money and jewelry in his bag and even posing for pictures at the scene of the crime. Indeed, many have referred to him as a nice, polite, well-spoken man who unfortunately made his living as a thief. Yet for all of his scandalous escapades, he never took anyone’s life.”
source: Bob Hartman Idaho History 1860s To 1960s
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One Man Holds Up Seven Park Stages
Tourists in the Yellowstone Robbed of $7,000 in Money and Jewels Near Old Faithful Inn.
Pursued by Cavalrymen
Last Coach Dashes Madly Back to Give the Alarm and Soldiers Start Quickly.
Special to The New York Times – August 25, 1908
Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone Park, Aug. 24. — A lone highwayman, whose features were concealed by a black mask, this morning held up seven stage coaches and made seven parties of tourists contribute more than $7,000 in a canyon within a short distance of this place in the upper basin of Yellowstone Park.
source (rest of story behind paywall): The New York Times
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The Yellowstone Park [part] VII
Details of the Hold-Up and Robbery.
I have been asked to repeat, with such additions as have been printed in some western papers, the story of the “Hold-up” In the Yellowstone Park on August 24, 1908. I would refer my readers to my letter written from the Lake Hotel on the afternoon of August 24 and published, with an account of the meeting held that evening, in the New York Observer of Thursday, September 3, 1908, for a summary of the incidents. In writing more at length, I will first quote the following letter written by me to a member of my family on the afternoon of August 25, 1908, from the Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The morning of August 24. 1908, was bright and clear and cold, and all wore wraps and overcoats. The drivers and horses were in fine fettle on account of Sunday’s rest, and the roads were free from dust or mud. We rolled over smooth roads, stopping to see several geysers and falls, to take a picture of some deer that showed themselves, and to drink at a spring of mountain water. The fact that we were forty minutes ahead of time, saved our leading coaches from participation in a disaster which befell those behind us.
Just as the fifth coach passed the spring where we had drunk. a highwayman, with a long mask over face and breast, halted it with a leveled repeating rifle, ordered the passengers to keep still and put their money and valuables into a bag, which he compelled a youth to carry in front of him. The men, women and children were, of course, frightened, and being entirely unarmed and undefended, they gave up all that they could not hide or beg off. The ruffian was most profane and vulgar in his language and brutal In his acts; he pulled off rings from women’s fingers, emptied bags and pocketbooks with his free hand, while he poked the barrel gun in the faces of his victims with the other, and struck on the head one who refused to be robbed. This course he pursued with more than a dozen coaches, and then, satisfied with the plunder, he took the bag from the boy, remarked that he “would meet his victims in heaven,” and fired his gun for the coaches to move on, or as some said, as a signal tea to a confederate who was waiting with horses nearby, with which to escape.
This is the tale, snatches of which were given to us by the excited passengers as coach after coach came in at the Thumb Inn. You can hardly imagine the scenes which took place, but I will say, for the credit of American women, that while many were hysterical and voluble, none fainted or behaved themselves unseemingly. The occurrence was at once telegraphed throughout the park, and on arrival at the Lake Hotel, we were besieged with inquiries, and before 7 o’clock It was determined to hold “a public meeting of citizens of the United States on the Yellowstone Park Reservation of the Government.” At once, upon arriving from the boat I wrote an “Augustus” letter for publication in The Observer. In order to be correct, I submitted this to several of the victims of the robbery whom I thought best qualified to know the exact facts, and to Dr. Myers and others of our party in whose judgment I could confide. As I could not telegraph, the lines being all occupied by the Government, I posted the letter at once. This led the gentlemen who were present to call me into conference as to what should be done. It was determined to hold a public meeting in the hotel hall, give a chance for speeches, and pass resolutions addressed to the Secretary of the Interior and the officials of the park, and to send the action of the meeting to the Associated Press. At 8 o’clock the hall was crammed.
Mr. Frank E. Higgins, of Columbus, Ohio, called the meeting to order, stated that Its object was to take definite and united action relative to the hold-up, and nominated Mr. Ben Drew, of Orlando, Florida, who was the first man to be robbed, as the presiding officer. Mr. R. R. Christian, of Spokane, Washington, was chosen secretary. Ms. Charles A. Stoddard, of the New York Observer, New York City, was requested to prepare and present a suitable memorial for transmission to the Department of the Interior. The following paper was presented, the author introducing it with an earnest address which was received with applause, unanimously adopted and signed by all present:
“On the morning of August 24, in Yellowstone Park, on the road between Old Faithful Inn and Thumb of Lake, several coaches of the transportation company and other vehicles containing men, women and children, were held up and robbed by a highwayman. These travelers were entirely defenseless, as by the rules of the park tourists and visitors are not permitted to carry weapons of offense or defense. They were insulted, struck, robbed of money and valuables to the extent of about $2,100.
“As this reservation has been taken from the public domain and placed in the sphere of the interior Department, and is professedly patrolled and governed by the United States authorities and soldiers, citizens of the United States have a special claim for protection and defense in their peaceable passage through the park or transient residence therein.
“The undersigned citizens and guests of the United States do therefore respectfully request the Hon. James R. Garfield, Secretary of the Interior, to make a suitable investigation of the facts set forth above, with a view to ascertaining whether there has been neglect of duty on the part of any guardians of the park, whether the aggrieved citizens have any suitable means of redress and compensation from the government, and what steps are necessary to insure greater safety and defense in the future in the Yellowstone National Park. (Signed)
“BEN DREW, President.
“R. R. CHRISTIAN, Secretary.”
General Young was requested to send a military escort for the tourists for the remainder of their journey through the park, and he did so. A committee was also appointed to obtain an itemized list of victims and their losses, which reported that there were nineteen coaches, twelve of which were robbed; ninety-one persons were robbed, and sixty reported no loss. The total amount of money and valuables taken was $2,100. in sums varying from $250 to $1. Non-negotiable drafts for $10,000 were also taken, which with tickets and other property, useless to the robber, were afterwards found In the woods not far from the road. A resolution of sympathy for Mr. Gaskin, the student of the University of Virginia, who was compelled to carry the bag for the bandit; and one calling upon Congress to provide funds for the employment of a competent police force to guard the park, were also passed, and the meeting adjourned, sine die.
Meantime, the telephone had spread the news far and wide, and early the next morning a reward of $3,000 for the capture of the bandit was posted by the Transportation companies; and newspapers as far east as St. Paul had elaborate stories of the occurrence and Interviews with tourists and army officers.
The following account was published In :The Pioneer Press” of St. Paul on August 25, with large headlines and special sub-heads:
“Special to the Pioneer Press.
“Lake Hotel, Yellowstone Park. Wyo., Aug. 24. – In true western fashion, a lone highwayman held up twelve stage coaches about 9 o’clock this morning almost at the summit of the continental divide, in the southeastern corner of the park.
“The line of coaches had just left the Old Faithful Inn, starting the third day’s tour of the park from the Upper Geyser basin to Yellowstone Lake, and the hold-up occurred about four miles out on the road.
“The bandit was a man about fifty years of age and wore a mask and false beard. He carried a repeating rifle in one hand and went through passengers with the other. He forced a young man to carry an open bag in which the booty was put as the passengers gave It up.
“The fact that tourists in the park are not permitted to carry weapons made It Impossible for any of the passengers or drivers to render resistance. After holding up the last coach the robber disappeared into the hills, and it was afterward found that he had made his escape on a horse belonging to the transportation company.
“All haste was made back to Old Faithful Inn to give the alarm. The soldiers encamped at the Thumb station were immediately notified and a messenger dispatched to the camp of the soldiers on West Gallatin River at the west boundary of the park. The soldiers from Fort Yellowstone were on the road to take up the trail within ten minutes after the news was received.”
A subsequent dispatch read as follows:
Yellowstone Bandit Gone
“Lake Hotel, Yellowstone Park, Wyo.. Aug. 25. – The lone bandit who yesterday morning held up stage coaches Spring Creek canyon and robbed 120 persons has apparently made good his escape according to reports received this evening by a searching party of cavalrymen.
“The bandit’s trail was followed easily from the zone of the hold-up to a point about four miles south, where It was lost in a swamp, the outlaw abandoning his horse at this point and proceeding on foot. Beyond this swamp the trail was found again after great difficulty, as the man’s foot-marks left little impression in the ground. This trail was followed for a distance of about twelve miles in a southwesterly direction, when it was lost altogether in another swamp, and it is now only a matter of chance – luck – If the desperado Is apprehended.
“There is no doubt but that the bandit is headed for the famed Jackson Hole country in Wyoming, about forty miles distant from the zone of the robberies, and with the night ahead of him and acquainted with the country the chances are slim of his being captured.
“The section of country through which the highwayman is fleeing is so rugged and covered with underbrush that pursuit on horseback is practically impossible, and the soldiers are following on foot. Contrary to expectations, the robber, up to the time the trail was lost, had not sought the high, mountainous country, but had skirted along the foothills. The Jackson Hole country is a favorite rendezvous for horse thieves because of the remoteness from civilization and its abundance of game.
“The sack used by the hold-up, In which the tourists were compelled to drop their valuables, was found in the brush to several hundred yards from the scene of the robbery, together with the empty pocketbooks of the victims.
“Washington, Aug. 25.- A telegram giving merely an outline of the facts regarding the stage hold-up yesterday in Yellowstone Park was received by the Interior department to-day from Gen. Young, superintendent of the park. It was stated it was the first hold-up in the park in eleven years.
“No surprise was manifested by officials here at the fact that no one in the coaches appeared to have had a gun, as the regulations do not permit firearms except on written permission from the superintendent.
“Secretary Garfield is away. His secretary, Judge Parker, pointed out that the victims of the robbery could not hold the Government responsible in any way. At the instance of the Interior department, the department of Justice has offered a reward of $300 for the apprehension of the robber.”
The following article appeared on August 27 in the St. Paul “Dispatch.” Parts of the narrative are marked by the vivacity which pervades the western press:
“The entire United States army would be needed to assure travelers in the Yellowstone National Park against any possibility of a hold-up. A hundred thousand men would be required. The main road alone is 120 miles long and it takes the stage coaches four days to make the rounds.
“Brig. Gen. Winfield S. Edgerly, commanding the department of Dakota, so expressed himself today. He was in the park last Monday when the latest ‘lone robber’ relieved the anxiety and the purses of 120 tourists. The general returned to St. Paul late yesterday accompanied by one of his aides, First Lieut. George P. Tyner, Second cavalry.
“The present arrangements for protecting the park and its visitors,” Gen. Edgerly continued, “would appear to be as effective as any that can be made with the small garrison. Fort Yellowstone, you know, has only four troops, about 400 men, of the Eighth cavalry, under Maj. Henry T. Allen. The horsemen of this single squadron manage, at that, to traverse the entire length of the main road, the road usually followed by the coaches – at least once a day. Then there are detached parties, or single men, going back and forth on various errands, so that the coach road is guarded far more closely than are any of our railroad lines.
“Indeed, the park Is not in charge of the military. The superintendent, Gen. Young, though he happens to be a retired army officer, is acting not under the war department, but under the department of the Interior. He has no control of the garrison, although he and Maj. Allen work harmoniously, and the major, of course, Is always glad to assist the superintendent with troops in any way consistent with the regulations.
“The only respect wherein the Government would seem to have incurred any responsibility for the hold-up is, as civilians have assured me, that it prohibits park visitors from carrying any firearms with them unless the arms are sealed so they can’t be used.”
“As for leaving visitors alone, that seldom occurs. Some 16,000 people came into the park this summer and I don’t remember a time I was on the coach road up there that one or more other parties weren’t visible from our coach, except, naturally, when we were making one of the sharp turns, such as the one the hold-up man selected for his collection service last Monday.
“I didn’t have to take any measures to order a pursuit of the robber. Maj. Allen sent his men out, and they have been doing the best they could in such a country. But off the regular roads the district is practically impassable for mounted men. The ground is covered thick with fallen trees, many of which have laid there for unnumbered years, At the best, a horse could hardly make more than three miles an hour, and he would soon tire out. A man on foot could outstrip a horse easily.
“Whether the hold-up gentleman had a horse, we don’t know. Most people think that he did, and that he might have taken advantage of a few level, clear lanes, carefully chosen, to hurry his retirement. He was followed a number of miles, and through one swamp, but his trail was lost in a second swamp. I am not acquainted with that country. I was told, however, that the man no doubt made for Jackson’s Hole, a very rugged section, well supplied with game, a real Desert Island for the land pirate. Like others that have sought the same refuge, he may be able to lie low in the Hole for many weeks, and I’m inclined to think that he won’t be caught until he ventures down to one of the railroad lines in search of a pleasant place to spend his new fortune.
“Still, there’s no reason to believe, at this time, that he has got away. The last hold-up on the park – away back eleven years ago – had the same result at first; the robber simply vanished. But he was caught, nevertheless, only nine days afterwards.
“The robber himself appeared to have a stronger belief in the efficiency of the soldier guards than the coach passengers have expressed since then. He may have fancied that the new Springfield would bark at him any minute; his voice trembled and the perspiration covered his forehead.
“No, he didn’t have two big 45 Colts, one in each hand. That’s the way they do it on the stage, but he was the real thing. He pointed at the passengers or drivers a little 30-caliber magazine rifle, though he had one or two revolvers in his belt. And he shot off his gun only once. Imagine a Wild West holdup – one of the biggest in history – with only one little shot like the exclamation of a firecracker! And he fired that one shot by accident.
“He was reprimanding a young fellow who had violated the etiquette of hold-up-ing. As the man called on this boy to produce his purse, open it and hand over the money inside, the boy drew out and dropped into the bag only two or three bills. Mr. Robin Hood saw the third bill. ‘You’re lying, you!’ he said, in that polite way the hold-up people ought to have. ‘Come down here and get your medicine.’ The young fellow came down as quick as Crockett’s squirrel, the robber seized the purse, raised his rifle and cracked the ill-bred stranger over the head, making a bump worth remembering to emphasize the lesson in manners. As the robber raised his gun to strike, it accidentally went off. But his game, of course was not to give any warning by unnecessary noise to the other coaches bringing up their gifts from around the bend in the road.
“No, the passengers and driver didn’t get off the coach and stand in a row with their hands up. Yes, I know they ought to have done that, but I fancy this robber wasn’t deeply read in his profession. He merely made one boy leave the first coach and stand with an open bag so as to assure the contributors that none of their money or jewels would be lost. As each coach came along the robber halted them and told the driver and passengers they’d get shot If they tried to pull a gun.
“Everybody’s impression was that he had some friends out in the thick woods close to the road who would supply the necessary reproof, if the robber’s request wasn’t heeded. So the people on the coach sat still. They didn’t hold their hands up, unless the position seemed restful. As he asked each one in turn for his subscription, he or she would drop into the bag money or jewelry or both the money and the purse containing it. Evey purse had to be opened to show it was worth accepting.
“But I understand that, although the man got some thousands of dollars in money and jewels, he missed perhaps half the loot he ought to have secured. He had a big job on tie hands, and he couldn’t waste time; he generally accepted ungratefully whatever was offered, if it was all in sight and not manifestly too little.
“One man who had a watch and chain, got the chance to reach over, unhook the chain from the watch, leave the watch in a vest pocket, and slip the chain Into a trousers’ pocket. He also separated a roll of bills, put most of them into the trousers’ pocket, and then, when the bag got around, he dropped in the smaller bills and escaped further attention.
“A woman traveling with her husband in one of the last coaches happened to see the coaches stopped ahead of her coach and guessed hold-up’ at once.
“‘I said to my husband, says I,’ she told at the hotel, ‘I says that’s a holdup George.’ Nonsense,’ says he, ‘they don’t have ’em here.’ ‘But it is whether it isn’t or not, says I.’ rather excited, you know; and that stupid husband of mine simply smiled. ‘Give me the money and tickets,’ I says, ‘and be quick about it.’ ‘What’s the use,’ says he, but he handed it over and I just – well, I just made a fresh deposit in the National Lisle bank, as they say down our way. ‘That’s only the tickets,’ I says to George; and before he could answer we’d been stopped around the corner, and the kid with the bag was waiting, as the man with the gun said, for us to ‘dig down.’ George dug and only got $2. ‘More than that, you must have more.’ George said he hadn’t. Thinking the robber-man wouldn’t doubt a lady’s word, I chimed in: ‘But he really hasn’t any more, Mister; I know he hasn’t!’ ‘Into the stocking then!’ the dreadful creature came back at me. ‘and don’t you mind my looking.’ Of course I had to, but wasn’t going to do it without a word. ‘There is nothing but our tickets in it, Mr. Smarty.’ says I, when I’d fetched out the purse. Open it, Ma,’ says he. ‘No back talk!’ I peeped first for the right place, and then I opened it so as just to show one of those long curly tickets on each side. ‘There,’ says I, ‘didn’t I tell you!’ Then he didn’t want it and yelled ‘Next!’ but underneath those tickets on each side the purse we had a $50 bill. My husband would ‘a handed the whole thing over, like enough.”
The following letter was published in the “New York
Times.” dated –
Wilkesbarre, Penn., Sept. 5. – Forest Stephens, of this city, the only man who was struck by the lone highwayman, who two weeks ago held up and robbed coach loads of people in Yellowstone Park, returned home yesterday. He has a lump on his head the size of a hen’s egg.
He says of his experience: “We left Old Faithful Inn on one of the transportation coaches. There were eight coaches on the trip and each one of them carried its quota of passengers, ten and the driver. They followed each closely, and after we had gotten out about three miles the first one was halted. Naturally the others stopped and the highwayman had us all at his mercy.
“The highwayman was a light, wiry fellow, a little over five feet tall. He had bluish watery eyes, and a husky voice. He wore a mask, and had on khaki trousers, with a brown shirt and a felt hat He carried a short Marlin rifle, and held the weapon nervously with one hand while he went through his victims with the other. At all times he had the weapon pointed in the coaches, and every traveler feared to move.
“While there were a number of men on the trip, not one of us could resist the fellow, as no one carried a weapon, because of the law against touring armed. P. H. Gaskin, a student in the University of Virginia, was selected by the highwayman to carry the sack that he put his booty in. He went from coach to coach and gathered up the articles as the passengers turned them over.
“I was in the third coach, and when I saw the man I attempted to pull the bills out of my wallet. I had two $10 bills, and got one of them out, when the fellow saw me. He demanded my pocketbook, and when he found but $10 he commanded me to come down until he searched me. He got the other $10 all right, and then commanded me to go ahead. I thought Gaskin was meant, and when I moved he gave me jab in the back with the muzzle of the gun.
“In going around the coach I gave a nervous laugh, and this so displeased the highwayman that he gave me a crack on the head with the barrel of the gun. I saw the blow coming, and ducked in time to escape the full force. It made a lump on my head as big as an egg. and I had a headache for two days.
“As I was about to get back In the coach he discovered my watch. He grabbed this, and demanded whether I had any more valuables or money. I was about to say ‘No’ when he raised the weapon and said he was going to kill me. I thought it was all up, as it is not the most pleasant sensation looking down the barrel of a gun, especially when it is held with the trigger cocked and by a desperate character. I gave the two dollars I had in change, and he said he would let me go, but that he would kill the next person who did not turn everything over to him.
“Talk about ‘taking candy from a child,’ why, our highway-man was right there strong. In the second coach there was a youngster eating a bag of candy, and the robber took the candy, as the child’s contribution. He immediately started to eat the candy, and between bites. said: ‘Every little bit added to what you got makes Just a little bit more.’ After completing the job he bid us all good-bye, and said that he hoped to meet as all In heaven, as he was on his way.”
The dispatch given below points to a larger Yellowstone Park garrison:
Washington, Sept. 6. – Provision is being made at the War Department to increase the garrison at Yellowstone National Park, which is under the comma. of Major Henry T. Allen, 8th Cavalry. It is proposed to double the force. General Young, who is in charge of the park, has heretofore recommended that the force there be added to. The recent hold-up by a lone road agent of seven tourists’ coaches with a hundred and twenty passengers, calls attention to the necessity of a more thorough supervision of the park precincts.
In another article I shall give my letter to the Secretary of the Interior and his reply accompanied with the official report of the Superintendent of the Park.
source: The New York Observer Thursday, April 29, 1909, page 519 (Google Books)
(The Yellowstone Park [part] VIII is on page 549)
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Lone Outlaw Holds Up Seventeen Stagecoaches – 1908
What was probably the greatest stagecoach robbery of the Twentieth Century in terms of people (174) and coaches (17) occurred in Yellowstone Park on August 24, 1908, but the bandit grossed only about $2,000 in cash and jewelry. The holdup man was never caught. A similar robbery of 14 coaches occurred on July 29, 1914, but the holdup man was caught. Here’s how the park superintendent described the events of 1908.
The unfortunate event, the hold-up of seventeen coaches, surreys, and spring wagons on August 24, and the robbery by one man or many of the passengers therein at a point on the main road between Old Faithful Inn and the Thumb of Lake Yellowstone, and about 4 1/4 miles distant from the former, took place about 9 a. m. on August 24.
In accordance with the established time schedule, the first coach of Yellowstone Park Transportation Company loads at Old Faithful Inn at 7.30 o’clock in the morning; after all coaches of that company have been loaded, the Monida and Yellowstone Company coaches are loaded at same point and follow after. These are followed in turn by the coaches of the Wylie Permanent Camping Company—all on the road eastward toward the Thumb.
This was the order of travel on morning of August 24. As a precaution against dust and against accident on grades, drivers are instructed to maintain a distance of approximately 100 yards between coaches. On the morning in question eight vehicles were not molested by the robber. It appears that the trooper on patrol passed the point where the robbery took place ahead of the first coaches. The interval between the eighth and ninth coaches in order of travel was rather extended, with an angle of the road intervening in a narrow defile, thickly wooded on either side. The ninth vehicle was stopped by the robber with repeating rifle at a ” ready; ” and in vulgar, blasphemous language he ordered a young man down from the box seat and made him carry a sack alongside the coach—into which passengers were commanded to deposit their money and jewelry. This was repeated with each of the sixteen vehicles following. No one received physical injury excepting one passenger, whose actions did not suit the robber and who was disciplined by a stroke on the head with the gun, which was discharged at the same time. The injury was not reported serious. Four of the looted coaches belonged to the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company, five to the Monida and Yellowstone Stage Company, and eight to the Wylie Permanent Camping Company. As near as can be learned by the separate memoranda handed in by the passengers the losses sustained by them in the robbery aggregated $1,363.95 cash and $730.25 in watches and jewelry. Upon being liberated the first coach of those robbed drove rapidly to the camp of the road sprinkling crew, located about 2 miles east of the hold-up point, where notice was given and a messenger dispatched to Old Faithful Inn—distant 6 miles—with news of the robbery.
The agent of the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company at the inn telegraphed the news to all stations in the park and notified the detail of soldiers stationed at Upper Geyser Basin, within a few hundred yards of the inn. He also states that he notified the officer in command of a troop of cavalry camped in the Lower Basin, about 9 miles distant by the old road. Telegraphic notice was received at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and immediately transmitted to my office by telephone. The message was repeated to Major Allen, who was up in the park, and he was requested to give the matter his personal attention. All guard stations were warned and instructed and two scouts present at Mammoth were dispatched to the scene. They made the ride (49 miles) in four hours. Major Allen, who was in the park with General Edgerly, came into Mammoth the same evening, and on the following morning reported that he had given the necessary orders to his troops by telephone and telegraph from Norris. The robber was on foot, and disposed of a few pocketbooks and purses near the scene of the robbery, where they were found in a clump of bushes. One of these contained valuable papers and all were returned to their respective owners.
The trail could only be followed a short distance. The robber had apparently taken off his shoes and passed into a densely wooded region. All United States marshals, sheriffs, and peace officers in surrounding States, counties, and towns were duly notified and given description of the robber, as nearly as could be ascertained from tourists and drivers in the hold-up.
All passengers in their excitement blamed the soldiers. The character of the country is such that the entire Army of the United States could not prevent an evil-disposed man from entering the park with a gun.
On the date of the hold-up one troop was on practice march in the park and was camped within 10 or 12 miles from Old Faithful Inn. One troop has been camped in Lower Geyser Basin all the season and one troop has been camped on Yellowstone River within a mile of Lake Hotel all the season.
So far it has been impossible to locate an escaped criminal who was convicted of poaching in the park and escaped from confinement in the military prison at Fort Yellowstone in October last. There seems to be a well-grounded suspicion that he is the perpetrator of this daring highway robbery. It is a slow and difficult task to conduct a systematic search for this criminal, without funds for expenses, by correspondence alone. The detectives in adjacent States, with whom I have corresponded since the robbery, work for a per diem and expenses and not for rewards offered, and although they have been informed that this office has no money for that purpose, they have never hesitated to give any information in their possession in regard to this particular matter.
— Report of the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. Department of Interior, Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, October 15, 1908.
source: M. Mark Miller
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300 Tourists Are Held Up by a Bandit
Lone Highwayman in Yellowstone National Park Makes Successful Raid 12 Coaches of Travelers and Takes Neat Cleanup of Valuables.
Press Democrat, Number 161, 10 July 1915
Livingston, Mont., July 9. —Three hundred tourists, including many Shriners en route to their conclave at Seattle, were held up and robbed near the west side of Yellowstone National Park today by a lone highwayman.
The tourists were in twelve coaches and had proceeded about fifteen miles from their starting point this morning when the road bandit was encountered. He began in the middle of the line and worked both ways, causing the passengers to walk up and deposit their valuables with him.
While it is impossible to secure an accurate list of his booty, it is estimated that he cleaned up between $2,000 and $3,000, or more.
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page updated Dec 10, 2018