Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Black Bart Commentary, Photos last

Location of a Bronze Plaque placed By Glenn Wasson, showing Map and directions to Black Bart’s last stagecoach Holdup.

The mountains overlooking the Melones Reservoir, which now inundates the Stanislaus River, in eastern CA, are generally less than 3,000 feet in elevation. Geologists have identified the rock type as basalt. This rock appears in this area as a very hard and weather-resistant greenstone (classified as metamorphosed basalt). It took many hours of drilling with an electric drill (that soon exhausted several batteries) and a hammered star drill to make sufficient indentations in the green stone to mount the Black Bart memorial plaque. The author leads a group of Historical society members up to Funk hill every few years to show them the location of Black Bart’s first and last hold up, to insure that the plaque is still in place.

This range of low mountains lying west of San Andreas town and ranging Southeast to the Melones Reservoir, has been labeled an antique (Pre-Mesozoic age) by Geological standards. They are thought to have pre-dated the obvious uprising and gradual erosion of the Sierras and have survived the current and latest uplifts (Labeled Laramide and Tertiary phases) of this range.

The entire region is highly mineralized having produced many fortunes in gold, including the largest gold specimen ever found in the Western Hemisphere, a chunk weighing nearly 200 lbs. The region was the largest producer of copper during the Civil War and was recently the site of the largest asbestos mine in the U.S. until environmental restrictions on the use of asbestos made the mine obsolete.

Today, the area has been transformed into a popular recreation destination for water activity, as well as camping, hiking, biking, trail riding, and nature studies. Glenn Wasson, May 2007-05-08

Black Bart Historical Note

From 1875 to 1883 the stage coach robber, who called himself Black Bart, defied the best efforts of many a sheriff posse throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon. His robberies of Wells Fargo express stages on 28 widely separate occasions forced the desperate company to employ the Pinkerton Detective Agency to catch him. In the meantime, he enjoyed a double life in San Francisco as Charles Bolton, where he cultivated the upper levels of society and mingled freely with officials of Wells Fargo and the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
He gained a reputation as a poet by leaving scraps of doggerel at the scenes of his crimes that taunted his frustrated pursuers. Throughout his extensive career as a highwayman he neither fired a shot nor robbed an individual, which earned him widespread notoriety as the “Gentleman Bandit”.
After his eventual capture, he was sentenced to San Quentin Prison for eight years. He was released four and one half years later as a reward for good behavior and was swarmed by the San Francisco press. Ambrose Bierce wrote a poem to commemorate the event. But in a few short days Black Bart disappeared, and to this day no one knows where, when, or how he died- adding another dimension to an already unforgettable career.
The following account of an imaginary Black Bart robbery was first published in the December 2001 issue of Sierra Heritage magazine:

Calaveras Christmas- 1881

In the annuals of Crime, as we go back in Time,
There was never a criminal so notorious
Than the one whose narration calls forth such variation
Of his many deeds foul and inglorious.

Back in old Calaveras, Black Bart would embarrass
The vigilantes who patrolled through the County.
By holding up stages with acts so outrageous
That his capture was worth a large bounty.

To make matters worse, he penned horrid verse-
Which he left at the scene of each crime,
To make them aware, that they never knew where
Black Bart might lustily strike the next time.

One night in December, too far back to remember,
A lone figure waited long in the cold,
To plunder the cargo from the stage of Wells Fargo-
That was known to be loaded with gold.

He made leisurely smoke beneath an old oak,
At the top of a grade steeply slanting;
And he figured the load up that long twisting road
Would have the horses both lathered and panting.

When they stopped for a rest, at the top of a crest,
He’d step from the shadows concealing
And demand they surrender their hard legal tender,
To the shotgun he’d soon be revealing.

But the hours dragged on, with no promise of dawn
And he nervously started to wonder
Had the stage broken down, or been delayed up in town-
Cheating him of his chance for more plunder?

He cursed his existence, then off in the distance
He thought he heard horsemen’s commands
So he nipped at his flask, and adjusted his mask,
And fondled the gun in his hands.

Now he heard the hooves pound on the hard frozen ground,
And the driver spat curses and blaspheme;
Then when reaching the top, the coach made a stop
The steeds snorting great clouds of white steam.

From out of the shadow, came our dark desperado
And he caught the lead horse by the bridle,
Saying “throw down you chest, or I’ll put you to rest-
My threat to soon shoot is not idle.”

“Toss your wallets and rings, all your personal things-
Twill greatly add to my riches.
If you try to hold back, you’ll produce my attack.
So you better soon empty your britches.”

Not a man said “Desist!” nor made move to resist;
They meekly tossed down all their worth.
When a child’s words implored “Tis the night of the Lord-
Do you rob on the Eve of His birth?”

Bart was taken aback, by this childish attack;
His long buried conscience was stung-
Thinking “I may be a fool, but not on the Yule,
Can I purloin from the innocent young.”

They said that Black Bart was a man with no heart,
Who lived by the law of the gun..
But he walked away from a right princely sum,
Christmas Eve in the Year Eighty-One,

Glenn Wasson