California's Infamous Stage Robber
BLACK BART WHERE DID YOU GO ????
Charles E. Bowles was born in Norfolk Co. England in 1829, the seventh child to John and Maria Bowles. At the
age of two he migrated with his parents to Alexandria township, Jefferson County, in upstate New York.
In 1849 Charles and cousin David set out for the gold fields. They arrived in California in early 1850 and started mining at the north fork of the American River, near Sacramento. Charles and his cousin mined for only a year before retuning home in 1852. Charles insisted on returning to the California gold fields. This time his brother, Robert, accompanied Charles and David to California. However, tragedy struck on this trip, and both David and Robert were taken ill and died in California. Charles continued mining for two more years before returning home. Charles then changed his name to Boles, went to Illinois and married Mary Elizabeth Johnson in 1854. They had four children.
In 1861 the Civil War broke out and in 1862 Charles volunteered to join the Union Army. He enlisted for three years with the 116th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry on August 13th, 1862 at Decatur. Charles served honorably as a soldier during the war and was mustered out as a First Sergeant on June 7, 1865.
After the war Charles returned home and started farming again, but farming was not to his liking and he became restless. With memories of the gold fields Charles decided he could make more money mining than farming. Charles went to Montana and located a small mine that he worked with a miner from Missouri named Henry Roberts. One day several men connected to Wells Fargo, tried to buy Charles out. They wanted the land the mine was on, but he refused to sell believing that he was better off keeping the mine. The men cut off Charles supply of water and he was forced to abandon the mine. It appears Charles was very angry; his own letters home say it was the forced abandonment of his mine that made Charles Boles turn on Wells Fargo and make them his target. Sometime after August 25, 1871 we see the exit of Charles E. Boles and the entrance of Charles Bolton. He was a dapperly dressed man in his mid-fifties, about five-foot eight inches tall, with gray hair and a moustache. He favored diamonds and carried a short cane. People seeing him walk down the street in 1870's San Francisco would have thought him as prosperous gentleman out for a leisurely stroll. He was much more than that. He was a man who liked to live well and intended to do just that. Enter Black Bart.
On a mountain pass called Funk Hill in Calaveras County, four miles outside of Copperopolis, California, on July 26, 1875, Black Bart robbed his first stage. After robbing 28 Wells Fargo stages over a period of eight years Bart was captured and served four years and two months of a six year sentence in San Quentin Prison. On January 21, 1888, Black Bart walked out of prison a free man. In February, 1888 Bart left the Nevada House and vanished. Wells Fargo tracked him to the Palace Hotel in Visalia. That was the last time anyone saw Black Bart, February 28, 1888.
Black Bart where did you dissapear to?
Ever since that fateful day in February 1888 when Black Bart dropped out of sight there have been many, many theory's on what happened to him. Where did he go and how was he able to keep out of sight for what appears to be the rest of his life? Up until now we have avoided putting any of the many suppositions of what happened to Bart on this website. Recently a book was published that gave a theory on what happened to Bart. The book spurred new interest in the question; Black Bart where did you dissapear to? We decided to start a webpage to cover all the different stories about what happened to Bart. Read them all and select the one you think is most likely to be correct or close to correct. Does anyone really want to know how Bart spent the remainder of his life? My guess is no. It may be important to the historians, but his disappearance is part of the Black Bart mystique. Solving it could be the end of Bart. You be the judge.
Recently a book named "Black Bart The Search Is Over" by Robert
Jernigan and Wiley Joiner was published. In their book they say that Bart wound up in Marysville California and
worked as a druggist named Charles Wells until his death on December 16, 1914. He was buried in the City Cemetery
in a grave marked by a small stone numbered 743. The book is very interesting and well written. However, there
are no actual documented facts identifying Bart. The conclusions are based on circumstantial evidence and
hearsay. The authors of the book have said they have new evidence that will prove that Charles Wells was Black Bart. The Companion Book to Black Bart the Search Is Over: "A Work of Continuing Research" that contains
their new evidence was released late in 2018. The only way to actually prove that
this is Bart is to exhume the body and verify the DNA with one of his living relatives.
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