Divine Intervention According the experts there should not be less than five men to pull a successful train robbery.

divine intervention train robbery true west magazine

According the experts there should not be less than five men to pull a successful train robbery. One to hold the horses and one on each side of the train to frighten off any would-be hero passenger who might interfere. And two men packing dynamite sticks to go into the express car scare the daylights out of the messenger.

Near Canyon Diablo in along the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad in northern Arizona an aspiring bank robber decided to go it alone. He made the mistake of robbing the payroll intended for the railroad construction crew building a bridge at the canyon. Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay managed to do that at Castle Gate, Utah but they were pros.

The outraged workers quickly formed a posse and went in hot pursuit of their money. They finally caught up with the hapless outlaw but alas, he had lost his saddlebags containing the payroll during the chase. The area was searched but the money was not found. The posse was more than a little irate at the turn of events and decided to give the perpetrator a suspended sentence from the limb of a nearby tree.

They put the unfortunate rake back on his horse, dropped a noose around his neck and draped the rope over the limb of a tall pine tree. Just as they were about to administer justice, a bolt of lightning struck the tree. Nobody was injured however they were a little shook up and one suggested the lighting might be an ominous omen from the Almighty himself. Could it be some sort of divine intervention?

Quien Sabe? But they weren’t taking any chances. The rode back to Canyon Diablo and turned the culprit over to the proper authorities.

The outlaw was given a term in the Yuma Territorial Prison and life returned to normal at Canyon Diablo. The robbery was all but forgotten until a few years later when a cowboy out on riding range looking for strays happened to find a some weather beaten saddlebags with the payroll still inside!

The Railroad Comes to Holbrook

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

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 marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.