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How did robbers find out about which stagecoach was carrying a payroll?

Brian Doyle
Denver, Colorado

Sometimes it was just hit or miss. Small-time bandits didn’t plan well and took their chances. If the stagecoach they were planning to rob didn’t have a shotgun messenger on board, it’s a good bet it wasn’t carrying a shipment. One might have to settle for a few dollars from the passengers.

The smart ones tried to find out ahead of time about payrolls and shipments. This wasn’t a stage robbery, but there was substantial planning for the payroll holdup at Castle Gate, Utah, on April 21, 1897. Butch Cassidy hung around town and casually made conversation with the local mine workers. He was able to get a pretty good idea when the next payroll would arrive.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.

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