Late in the month of October, 1863, the sickness of one of the drivers making it necessary .to procure a substitute, William Rumsey was engaged to take the coach to Bannack. In the stage, as passengers, were Messrs. Matteson, Percival and Wilkinson. After crossing the hills in the neighborhood of Virgina City it began to snow furiously, and the storm continued without abatement, till they arrived within two miles of John Baker's ranch, on Stinkingwater, a stream which owes its euphonious appellation to the fact that the mountaineers who named it found on its banks. the putrifying corpses of Indians, suspended horizontally, according to their usual custom, from a framework of poles.
The corral at the station was found to be empty, and men were dispatched to hunt up the stock. The herdsmen came back at last with only a portion of Peabody & Caldwell's horses, the remainder belonging to A. J. Oliver & Co. This detained them two hours, and finding that they could do no better, they hitched up the leaders, that had come in with the coach, and putting on two of Oliver's stock for wheelers, they drove through to Bob Dempsey's on the run, in order to make up for lost time.
At this place they took on board another passenger, Dan McFadden," more familiarly known as "Bummer Dan." The speed was maintained all the way to Point of Rocks, then called Copeland's Ranch. There they again changed horses, and being still behind time, they went at the gallop to Bill Bunton's Ranch, on Rattlesnake, at which place they arrived about sunset.
* McFadden discovered Bummer Dan's Bar, in Alder, from which $5,000,000 was said to have been taken.
Here they discovered that the stock had been turned loose an hour before their arrival, the people stating that they did not expect the coach after its usual time was so long passed. Rumsey ordered them to send a man to gather up the team, which was done, and at dark the fellow came back, saying that he could not find them anywhere. The consequence was that they were obliged to lie over for the night. This was no great affliction; so they spent the time drinking whiskey in mountain style -Bill Bunton doing the honors and sharing the grog. They had sense enough not to get drunk, being impressed with a seasonable conviction of the probability of the violation of the rights of property, if such should be the case. The driver had lost a pair of gauntlet gloves at the same place before. At daylight all arose, and two herders went out for the stock. One of them came back about eight o'clock, and said that the stock was gone. A little before nine o'clock the other herder came in with the stock that had hauled the coach over the last route.
The only way they could manage was to put on a span of the coach horses, with two old "plugs" for the wheel. The whole affair was a plan to delay the coach, as the horses brought in were worn-down stock, turned out to recruit, and not fit to put in harness. During the previous evening Bob Zachary, who seemed a great friend of Wilkinson's, told them that he had to go on horseback to Bannack, and to take a spare horse with him, which he wanted him to ride. The offer was not accepted at that time, but in the morning Bob told him that he must go, for he could not bring the horse along by himself. The miserable team being brought out and harnessed up, Oliver's regular coach and an extra one came in sight, just at the creek crossing. Soon Rumsey shouted, "all aboard," the other stages came up, and all the passengers of the three vehicles turned in, on the mutual consolation principle, for a drink. Rumsey who sat still on the box, called, "All aboard for Bannack," and all took their seats but Wilkinson, who said he had concluded to go with Bob Zachary. Bill Bunton came out with the bottle and the glass, and gave Rumsey a drink, saying that he had not been in with the rest, telling him at the same time that he was going to Bannack himself, and that he wanted them to wait till he had got through with the rest of the passengers, for that then he would go with them. While Bunton was in the house, Rumsey had been professionally swinging the whip, and found his arm so lame from the exercise of the day before that he could not use it. He thereupon asked the boys if any of them were good at whipping, but they all said "No." It was blustering, cold and cloudy -- blowing hard; they let down the curtains. Finally, Bunton appeared, and. Rumsey said, "Billy, are you good at whipping?" To which he answered, ''Yes," and getting up whipped away, while Rumsey drove. A good deal of this kind of work was to be done, and Bunton said he was "a d d good whipper." They crossed the creek and went on the table land at a run. The horses, however, soon began to weaken, Bunton whipping heavily, his object being to tire the stock. Rumsey told him to ''ease on them," or they would not carry them through. Bunton replied that the wheelers were a pair that had "played out" on the road, and had been turned out to rest. He added that if they were put beyond a walk they would fail. They went on at a slow trot to the gulch, and there fell into a walk, when Bunton gave up the whip, saying that Rumsey could do the little whipping necessary and got inside. He sat down on a box beside Bummer Dan. Percival and Madison were on the fore seat, with their backs to the driver.
The stage moved on for about four minutes after this, when the coachman saw two men wrapped in blankets, with a hood. over their heads, and a shot-gun apiece. The moment he saw them it flashed through his mind, "like gunpowder" (as he afterward said), that they were road agents, and he shouted at the top of his voice, "Look! look! boys! See what's a-coming! Get out your arms!" Each man looked out of the nearest hole, but Matteson, from his position, was the only man that had a view of them. They were on full run for the coach, coming out of a dry gulch, ahead and to the left of the road, which ran into the main canyon. He instantly pulled open his coat, threw off his gloves, and laid his hand on his pistol, just as they came up to the leaders, and sang out. ''Up wid your hands," in a feigned voice and dialect. Rumsey pulled up the horses; and they again shouted, "Up with your hands, you " (See formula.) At that Bill Bunton cried imploringly, "Oh, for God's sake, men, don't kill one." (He was stool-pitching* a little, to teach the rest of the passengers what to do.) "For God's sake don't kill me. You can have all the money I've got." Matteson was just going for his pistol, when the road agents again shouted, "Up wid your hands," etc., and "keep them up." Bunton went at his prayers again, piteously exclaiming "Oh! for God's sake men, don't kill me. I'll come right to you. You can search me; I've got no arms." At the same time he commenced getting out on the same side of the coach as they were.
* Acting as stool pigeon.
The road agents then roared out, "Get down, every of vou, and hold up your hands, or we'll shoot the first of you that puts them down." The passengers all got down in quick time. The robbers then turned to Rumsey, and said, "Get down, you " (as usual), "and take offthe passengers' arms." This did not suit his fancy, so he replied, "You must be d d fools to think I'm going to get down and let this team run away. You don't want the team; it won't do you any good." "Get down, you, " said the spokesman, angrily. "There's a man that has shown you he has no arms; let him take them," suggested. Billy. (Bunton had turned up the skirts of his coat to prove that he had no weapons on.) Bunton, who knew his business, called out, "I'll hold the horses! I'll hold the horses!" The road agent who did the talking, turned to him, saying, "get up, you long-legged, and hold them." Bunton at once went to the leaders, behind the two road agents, and then wheeling round. to Billy Rumsey, ordered him down from the box. He tied the lines round the handle of the brake and got down, receiving the following polite reminder of his duty, "now, you, take them arms off."
"Needs must when the Devil drives," says the proverb, so off went Billy to Bummer Dan, who had on two "navies," one on each side. Rumsey took them, and walked off diagonally, thinking that he might get a shot at them; but they were too knowing, and at once ordered him to throw them on the ground. He laid them down, and going back to Matteson, took his pistol off, laying it down beside the others, the robbers yelling to him, "Hurry up, you !" He then went to Percival, but he had no arms on.
The road agents next ordered him to take the passengers' money, and to throw it on the ground. with the pistols. Rumsey walked over to Percival, who, taking out his sack, handed it to him. While he was handing over, Bill Bunton took out his own purse, and threw it about half way to Rumsey, saying, "There's a hundred and twenty dollars for you -all I have in the world; only don't kill me."
Billy next went to Bummer Dan, who handed out two purses from his pocket. Rumsey took them, and threw them on the ground. beside the pistols. The next man was Matteson; but as he dropped his hands to take out his money, the leader shouted, "Keep up your hands, you ! Take his money." Rumsey approached him, and putting his hand into his left pocket, found there a purse and a portemonnaie. Seizing the opportunity, he asked, in a whisper, if there was anything in the portemonnaie.
He said, "No." Rumsey turned to the robbers and said, "You don't want this, do you?" holding up the portemonnaie. Matteson told them that there was nothing in it but papers. They surlily answered, "We don't want that." On examining the pocket the searcher found a purse, which he threw out on the ground with the pistols.
They then demanded of Rumsey whether he had all; and on his answering "Yes," turning to Matteson the leader said, "Is that all you've got?" "No," said he, "there's another in here." He was holding up his hands when he spoke, and he nudged the pocket with his elbow. The road agent angrily ordered Rumsey to take it out, and not leave "nothing." He did as he was bidden, and threw the purse on the ground, after which he started for the coach, and had his foot on the hub of the wheel, when the robbers yelled out, "Where are you going, you ?" "To get on the coach, you fool," said the irate driver. "You've got all there is," he instantly retorted, "Go back there and get that big sack" and added, pointing to Bummer Dan, "You're the man we're after. Get that strap off your shoulder, you d d Irish !" Bummer Dan had a strap over his shoulder, fastened to a large purse, that went down into his pants. He had thrown out two little sacks before.
Seeing that there was no chance of saving his money, he commenced unbuckling the strap, and when Rumsey got to him he had it off. Billy took hold of the tab to pull it out, but it would not come; whereupon he let go and stepped back. Dan commenced to unbutton his pants, the " Cap" ordering Rumsey to jerk it off, or he would shoot him in a minute. While he was speaking Rumsey saw that Dan had another strap around his body, under his shirt. He stepped back again, saying, "You fools! you're not going to kill a man who is doing all he can for you. Give him time." They ordered him to hurry up, calling him "An awkward," and telling him that they hadn't any more time to lose. Dan had by this time got the belt loose, and he handed Rumsey a big fringed bag, containing two other sacks.
He received it, and tossed it beside the pistols.
The road agents finished the proceedings by saying, "Get aboard, every of you; and get out of this; and if we ever hear a word from one of you, we'll kill you surer than h l."
They all got aboard, with great promptitude, Bunton mounting beside the driver (he did not want to get inside then), and commenced to whip the horses, observing that that was a d d hot place for him, and he would get out of it as soon as be could.
rumsey saw, at a turn of the road by looking over the coach, that the road agents had dismounted, one holding the horses, while the other was picking up the plunder, which amounted to about $2,800.
The coach went on to Bannack, and reported the robbery at Peabody's Express Office. George Hilderman was in Peabody's when the coach arrived. He seemed as much surprised as any of them. His business was to hear what would happen, and to give word if the passengers named either of the robbers, and then, on their return, they would have murdered them. (It was at this man's place that Geo. Ives and the gang with him were found. He was banished when Ives was hung. Had he been caught, only a little time afterward, he would have swung with the rest, as his villainies were known.)
The road agents had a private mark on the coach, when it carried money, and thus telegraphed it-along the road. Rumsey told in Bannack whom he suspected, but he was wrong. Bummer Dan and Percival knew them, and told Matteson; but neither of them eyer divulged it until the men were hung. They were afraid of their lives. Frank Parrish confessed his share in this robbery. George Ives was the other.