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Black Bart

AKA Charles Earl Bowles

Born: c. 1829
Birthplace: Norfolk County, England
Died: ?
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Old West bandit and poet

Military service: US Army, 116th Reg't Illinois Infantry, to First Sgt. (1862-65)

Charles Bowles, aka Charles Boles, aka Charles Bolton, aka T.Z. Spaulding, became famous as the notorious stagecoach robber and poet Black Bart. He was born in England, and came to America with his family when he was about two years old, settling in Alexandria township in upstate New York. As a young man he came west with the California gold rush in about 1852, and by the time he was married two years later he had changed the spelling of his name from Bowles to Boles. In 1862 he enlisted with the Union Army during the American Civil War, and he served with honor under Ulysses S. Grant in Mississippi, and in William T. Sherman's Yazoo Expedition of 1862-63. He was shot and seriously wounded in Sherman's famous "March to the Sea" in 1864, but recovered and returned to active duty.

After the war Boles farmed for several years in Iowa, then abruptly left his home and family in the spring of 1867. He wrote home occasionally, but after a few years the letters stopped, and his wife assumed that he had been killed. His infamous string of California stagecoach robberies began in 1875, and over the next eight years no-one knew his name, but he came to be called "Black Bart", from a villainous character in a dime novel. On his 3 August 1877 heist of a stagecoach en route to Duncan's Mills, California, he left his first poem, discovered under a rock on a tree stump near the scene of the crime:

I've labored long and hard for bread
for honor and for riches
but on my corns too long you've tred
you fine-haired sons of bitches.
With this poem, Black Bart went from common highway robber to media star and folk anti-hero, and his fame rose further with a second poem found after a subsequent robbery. According to news accounts, in one of his last letters to his wife he wrote that he had been wronged by a Wells Fargo employee and vowed to take his vengeance, and indeed, he always targeted Well Fargo stages. He robbed only from the company's strongboxes and the mail in transit, never from the passengers. Witnesses said that the thief was unfailingly polite to drivers and passengers, occasionally endulging in conversations described as "intellectual".

In a stagecoach robbery at California's Funk Hill on 3 November 1883, he accidentally dropped a handkerchief, which had a four-digit laundry mark on the cloth. Detectives spent a week visiting dozens of laundries in San Francisco, and found the specific shop where it had last been washed. Additional footwork led them to another customer of the laundry, who claimed to recognize the hanky and said it belonged to one Charles Bolton of 37 Second Street, room number 40.

At that address Black Bart was arrested without a struggle on 12 November 1883, and four days later he pled guilty to a single count of robbery, the crime at Funk Hill. He was sentenced to six years at San Quentin, where he was released in 1888, almost two years early due to his good behavior behind bars. He then spent about a month at the Nevada House Hotel in San Francisco, before buying a ticket to Visalia on 28 February 1888. He boarded the train the following morning, and after he stepped off the train in Visalia he was never seen again.

Father: John Bowles (farmer, b. 1788, d. 25-Sep-1872)
Mother: Maria Leggett Bowles (farmer, b. 1793, m. 24-Jun-1807, d. Oct-1872)
Sister: Harriet Bowles (b. circa 1812)
Brother: William Bowles (b. circa 1815)
Brother: James Bowles (b. circa 1818)
Brother: John Bowles, Jr. (b. circa 1819)
Brother: Robert Bowles (b. circa 1822, d. 1852)
Sister: Lucy Bowles (b. circa 1824)
Sister: Maria Bowles (b. circa 1832)
Brother: Hiram Bowles (b. circa 1834)
Wife: Mary Elizabeth Johnson Boles (b. 1838, m. 1854, d. 9-Mar-1896)
Daughter: Ida Martha Boles Warren (b. 26-Apr-1857, d. 1922)
Daughter: Eva Ardella Boles James (b. 17-May-1859, d. 1939)
Daughter: Francis Lillian Boles Dillingham (b. 6-Jun-1861, d. 1929)
Son: Arian Boles (b. circa 1866, d. infancy)

    Shot Atlanta, GA (26-May-1864) Civil War
    Armed Robbery 26-Jul-1875 (stagecoach, near Funk Hill, CA)
    Armed Robbery 28-Dec-1875 (stagecoach, four miles from Smartville, CA)
    Armed Robbery 2-Jun-1876 (stagecoach, five miles from Cottonwood, OR)
    Armed Robbery 3-Aug-1877 (stagecoach, four miles from Fort Ross, CA)
    Armed Robbery 25-Jul-1878 (stagecoach, one mile from Barry Creek, CA)
    Armed Robbery 30-Jul-1878 (stagecoach, five miles from LaPorte, CA)
    Armed Robbery 2-Oct-1878 (stagecoach, twelve miles from Ukiah, CA)
    Armed Robbery 3-Oct-1878 (stagecoach, ten miles from Potter Valley, CA)
    Armed Robbery 21-Jun-1879 (stagecoach, three miles from Forbes, CA)
    Armed Robbery 25-Oct-1879 (stagecoach, near Buckeye, CA)
    Armed Robbery 27-Oct-1879 (stagecoach, twelve miles from Millville, CA)
    Armed Robbery 1-Sep-1880 (stagecoach, near Last Chance, CA)
    Armed Robbery 16-Sep-1880 (stagecoach, one mile north of California border, OR)
    Armed Robbery 23-Sep-1880 (stagecoach, three miles north of California border, OR)
    Armed Robbery 20-Nov-1880 (stagecoach, one mile south of Oregon border, CA)
    Armed Robbery 31-Aug-1881 (stagecoach, ten miles from Yreka, CA)
    Armed Robbery 8-Oct-1881 (stagecoach, fourteen miles from Redding, CA)
    Armed Robbery 11-Oct-1881 (stagecoach, near Montgomery Creek, CA)
    Armed Robbery 15-Dec-1881 (stagecoach, four miles from Dobbins, CA)
    Armed Robbery 27-Dec-1881 (stagecoach, near Bridgeport, CA)
    Armed Robbery 26-Jan-1882 (stagecoach, six miles from Cloverdale, CA)
    Armed Robbery 14-Jun-1882 (stagecoach, two miles from Little Lake, CA)
    Armed Robbery 13-Jul-1882 (stagecoach, two miles from LaPorte, CA, attempted)
    Shot LaPorte, CA (13-Jul-1882) attempted robbery
    Armed Robbery 17-Sep-1882 (stagecoach, near Bass Hill, CA)
    Armed Robbery 23-Nov-1882 (stagecoach, five miles from Cloverdale, CA)
    Armed Robbery 12-Apr-1883 (stagecoach, five miles from Cloverdale, CA)
    Armed Robbery 23-Jun-1883 (stagecoach, four miles from Jackson, CA)
    Armed Robbery 3-Nov-1883 (stagecoach, near Funk Hill, CA)
    Inmate: San Quentin State Prison (21-Nov-1883 to 4-Jan-1888)
    English Ancestry

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