Idaho History

In the Boise region in the 1870s, all the world was a stage robbery

The Silver City stagecoach was robbed regularly in the 1870s.
The Silver City stagecoach was robbed regularly in the 1870s. Idaho State Historical Society

That law enforcement in early Idaho left much to be desired is amply illustrated by the series of four stagecoach robberies that took place in November 1875 and early 1876, all on the capital city’s very doorstep.

The second, reported the Idaho Tri-weekly Statesman, took place on Feb. 2, “just before crossing the first bridge on the road to Silver City.” This led to an island in Boise River where the campus of Boise State University is today. A second bridge carried the road on southward.

The third robbery, on April 19, was “half a mile below town at the bridge – at the same place where it was last robbed. It was the boldest of the three since last November.” The Statesman headlined it “ANOTHER BOLD STAGE ROBBERY. The Silver City stage was stopped by masked highway men half a mile below town at the bridge – the same place it was last robbed.” The paper noted that three stages with different destinations left town within 10 minutes of each other, and called it “the boldest of the three committed since last November, since the robbers knew another stage would be along in minutes. One man with a gun halted the stage; the second, hiding in the old ferry house, jumped out. There was nothing in the strong box they took.”

Just four days later, in the identical place, yet another bold robbery took place. The Statesman commented, “Two a week are too frequent to create much excitement.” The robbers broke open the strong box but got nothing. “The drivers were instructed to fire a pistol shot if robbed to alert the town. This the driver did, and all came running, but found no one.”

The Statesman reported on April 29, 1876, that “Sheriff Agnew yesterday found the stage robber T.B. Scott’s hiding place at the lower end of George Davis’ farm on Boise River about three miles below town. Here was found his blankets in which was rolled up a shotgun; a false face was also found, with cooking utensils, etc.” Scott was captured two days later hiding under the Baptist church. John W. Miller, his accomplice, was also found and arrested.

The Statesman called Scott “decidedly the handsomest man in Boise City” and described him as “a young man of medium size and height, and apparently about twenty-five years old. He is physically as fine a specimen of young manhood as we have ever seen. His features are regular and classic in their outline, presenting a model for the most critical and fastidious artist. A head shaped with all the requisites for the ‘dome of thought’ and covered with hair of a rich brown, while his ‘goatee’ and unshaven beard is of a lighter hue. His eyes are large, somewhat prominent blue in color.”

“The girls are now all in love with Scott, on account of the description given of him in the last issue of the Statesman,” claimed the paper on May 6, 1876 – flattering to itself, but certainly not to the common sense of Boise’s young women.

Scott never stopped trying to escape, whether from Boise’s wretched city jail or the Idaho Territory penitentiary, even after he was placed in leg irons. He always found something made of steel with which to saw away at his irons, and finally escaped, taking a rifle and shotgun with him. We are unable to find a portrait of the handsome Scott or any record of his further exploits.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@gmail.com.

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