Bay Area's Last Stagecoach Robbery Commemorated By Band of Eccentrics Wearing Funny Hats

Categories: Crime, Local News
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On August 17, 1905, an unknown man wearing driving goggles on his face and feedbags over his boots leaped, screaming, from a tree and into Bay Area lore.

The masked man demanded stagecoach driver Ed Campbell throw down the Wells Fargo strongbox and the mail bags before passing a hat among the coach's several passengers. He then fired his gun in the air, spooking the horses and sending the coach on its way. His haul for the day: An empty strongbox and mail bags and $4.30 from the passengers. Even 104 years ago, this was no great haul; a round-trip stagecoach ride between Half Moon Bay and Pescadero -- then a resort for well-heeled San Franciscans -- cost $4. Even worse, one of the coach passengers had been hiding more than $100 and a gold watch, which eluded driving goggles-feedbag man.The highwayman was never caught.

The ignominious raid was the last in Bay Area history; The steady march of progress ensured that future miscreants would engage in train robberies or car-jackings. And it was commemorated over the weekend with the placement of a plaque along what is now a quiet, Hillsborough road by the San Francisco chapter of E Clampus Vitus -- a society of men with a fondness for drink, Western history, and bizarre attire (not necessarily in that order).

The news of a stagecoach robbery -- an archaic crime even for 1905 -- was the Bay Area's big story of the day, and inspired the following ditty in the San Francisco Call:

Huzzah! Romance returns again, once more as in the days of old/
Disdaining banks or chu chu train, a robber stops a stage for gold/
Trouble for the terrible tempered triggerman terminated:
Hurrah! Such news is great immense!
But softly, what is this I am told?
This robber robbed me for thirty cents?
For a slideshow of the peculiar plaque dedication, click here.

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