Legend of the Missing Loot
My story Wanted takes place near Flagstaff, Arizona in late 1800s, where outlaws still proved a threat. A real life hold-up in 1881 inspired the back story for my western tale, though my story has a happier ending.
The end of the line for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was at Canyon Diablo, putting the passengers about thirty-five miles east of Flagstaff. The passengers would have to board a stagecoach taking the California-Santa Fe Trail toward Flagstaff.
The day of the robbery, the stagecoach passengers waited patiently as four mailbags were transferred from the train to the coach. A few of the passengers noticed two of the mailbags appeared to be quite heavy and thought it odd at the time, but didn’t question it.
Once all the baggage and the passengers were situated, the coach headed north out of Canyon Diablo and then west onto the California-Santa Fe Trail. In Flagstaff, the passengers and baggage would meet the next stage that would take them to Needles where they could catch the next train.
The trail along the San Francisco Peaks is steep, but the horses climbed steadily until they reach a flat divide. Before they could go further, five riders broke from the trees and surrounded the stagecoach with their six guns drawn and ready to use. The leader motioned for two of the outlaws to go to the back of the coach. They took only two mailbags and left the rest. They didn’t even bother to rob the passengers, letting them all go without hurting a soul.
Once the stagecoach reached Flagstaff, the terrified passengers disembarked and rushed to tell the station agent about the robbery. Everyone was confused why the outlaws would want mailbags.
The stage master finally learned that the two missing bags contained $125,000 of gold, silver and coins that were bound from Albuquerque Bank then to a San Francisco Bank. Wells Fargo, who had been plagued by stagecoach robberies, had attempted to fool the outlaws, by packing the gold and silver in two five-gallon whiskey kegs in each mailbag. It appeared the stagecoach outlaws had an inside source at Wells Fargo.
A posse set out immediately, but the outlaws had too much of a head start. Wells Fargo demanded the help of the U.S. Army and the patrol of the 6th U.S. Calvary to find the outlaws. Two Indian scouts were enlisted to help also. They picked up the trail and found the men holed up in a log cabin near Veit Springs. The outlaws opened fired and the cavalry returned the gesture. In the end, all five outlaws lay dead. The authorities went through the outlaws’ belongings, but didn’t find the gold or silver. Word spread fast and the next day, men arrived to look for the hidden loot. The entire area was dug up, but nothing was ever found.
For years treasure hunters have dug all over the slopes, the dirt floor of the cabin, around the spring and even in the nearby ice caves, but to this day, no one has claimed they found the missing loot.
Excerpt of Wanted
Outlaw JoBeth Riley finds the Kellys a strange lot. A little girl, who believes her dreams are tales of the future and the rugged sheriff, Jace Kelly whose kindness proves a distraction. She’s an outlaw for heaven’s sake, but Jace is bound and determined to steal her heart.
(JoBeth has just been arrested as is behind bars)
So the sheriff had a little girl. She was cute as a button with rosy cheeks and big blue eyes, a brighter blue than her father’s. As if the little girl sensed someone staring at her, she turned. Her gaze fastened onto JoBeth before widening in surprise.
She tilted her head to the side then squealed in delight, clapping her hands together as if someone handed her a present. “She’s here. She’s really here.”
JoBeth’s brows drew together in a frown. She turned to look beside her, half expecting someone to be standing next to the cot. Her gaze fastened onto the little girl once more with a frown.
“Now, Emma, don’t be making this out to be something it’s not,” the sheriff said.
Her hand went to her mouth, cupping it as if she were going to whisper, but her voice rang clear as day. “She has dark hair and green eyes. Didn’t you notice?”
JoBeth looked at Jace and by damn he turned two shades of red. Interesting. She looked at Emma again. Who did the child think she was?”
“That’s enough, Emma. We’ll talk about this later.”
“But she’s my Christmas present.” Her hands flew to her waist and she stomped her foot with indignation.
JoBeth’s brows rose on their own accord. A Christmas present, now this she had to hear.