Black Bart Title

California's Infamous Stage Robber

Home  Why Bart  Legend Begins  C.E. Boles  Legend Ends  Prison  Robberies  Family Tree  Trivia  Plaque  ???? 


Black Bart
Black Bart
Charles E. Boles
Charles E. Bolton.

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.

Another story on what happened to Bart comes from a family in Texas. They have a very long description that talks about their great-great grandfather, who came to Texas as an old man and purchased a small farm (ranch). After he settled in he married a young woman. I believe she was 18 or 19 (not bad for a 60 year old man) and they had several children. Before he died he told his wife and children that he had come to Texas to escape from his former life as Black Bart. The only problem I had with their story was their description of Bart. It was not what I expected. However, he was an old man and people change as they age. The Texas family has the same problem as the Marysville druggist: no documented evidence. However, the Texas family does have one easy recourse if they choose to use it. They say they are living relatives of Bart so they could compare their DNA against one of the living relatives of the Charles Boles family.

Just after daybreak one day in the summer of 1888, in Nevada's Comstock Load country, a masked bandit, shotgun poised, stepped into the path of a six horse stage headed down Geiger Grade on the Virginia City to Reno run. The driver did not drop the strongbox and the messenger did not drop his shotgun. Instead the messenger pulled the triggers on his 10-gauge shotgun. The bandit was dead before he hit the ground. The stage only paused long enough to drag the bandit off the trail. When the stage reached Reno they reported the robbery attempt and that they had killed the bandit. Wells Fargo telegraphed the Storey County Sheriff, John S. McCullough, in Virginia City and reported the robbery attempt. The sheriff, the coroner and several other men went to the robbery scene for an inquest. The body did not contain any identification and the shooting was declared justified. They decided there was no need to return the body to Virginia City so they buried the bandit alongside the trail. There was speculation as to who the bandit could have been. Several of the men who had gone to the scene of the robbery and had seen a photo of Bart in the paper said that the body of the bandit bore a possible resemblance to Black Bart. Unfortunately, the report of the robbery never reached James Hume so there was no follow-up by Wells Fargo. Was this Bart gone back to his old ways? Nobody knows but it could explain why he was never head from again.

Did Bart, as many believe, go to somewhere in the East where he was not known and establish a new life? Did he drop out of sight to live normally as a model citizen? Supposedly, in 1917, a New York newspaper printed an obituary for a Charles E. Boles, a Civil War veteran. If this was Bart, he would have been 88 years old.

There was a report of a sighting of a man identified as Black Bart by the owner of the Mitchler Hotel in Murphys in 1909 or 1910. Rose Schwoerer, who as a girl worked at the hotel had served the man something to eat when arrived that night. After he left the next day on the on the stage to the Big Trees the hotel owner Frank Mitchler ask her if she knew the person she had served was Black Bart.

At sometime around 1897 John Thacker went to Kansas to check on a criminal that claimed to be Black Bart. Thacker wrote a letter to James Hume saying the criminal was not Bart. But in another part of Thacker's letter to Hume he wrote the following: As for the original Black Bart, he is out of the country. He served his time and it became my duty to look after him for a few weeks after he got out of San Quentin Prison. He went to Utah and then up Montana and then to Hailey, Idaho. I think he had some business to settle there. Anyhow, he was as straight as a string. Finally he made a bee-line for Vancouver, and boarded the steamer, Empress of China, for Japan. He is in that country now. It would be interesting to know where Thacker got his facts. Had he traced Bart for the intervening eight years or was he just repeating rumors that began to spring up.

There are many more stories on what happened to Bart that we do not list here. However, we tried to list just the most well know stories. If you have others stories we would be glad to hear them and consider adding them to this list.

Home   |   Why Bart   |   Legend Begins   |   C.E. Boles   |   Legend Ends   |   Prison   |   Robberies   |   Family Tree   |   Trivia   |   Plaque   |   ????

Want to contact us? E-mail the Webmaster

Black Bart Website Terms of Use Click Here