Today's offering is from John S. Collins My Experiences in the West. John was the sutler at Fort Laramie, starting during the Grant Administration in 1876. His recollections are a treasure trove of information about life at one of the most important rest stops on the overland trail system, Fort Laramie.
John describes how that once the military had swept the trail clear of the conflicts with Native American tribes that the truism that "nature abhors a vacuum," gave another demonstration of its validity. Suddenly the trails became infested with highwaymen. The meager law enforcement resources available did their best to end this scourge, but it was like sweeping fleas out of the barnyard. There were always plenty left. John relates an interesting account of an unnamed U.S. Marshall stationed in Cheyenne. This marshall determined to end the robbing of the U.S. mails that had become common on the route between Cheyenne and Fort Laramie. "Armed with a new Colt's revolver, an abundance of ammunition, and a few threats that he would put a stop to these high-handed outrages, he took passage on the state from Cheyenne, arriving at Fort Laramie the next day."
The marshall snooped around Fort Laramie for a few of days apparently making a bit of a pest of himself. John's impression was that the marshal's visit was a waste of time as he was, "asking no advice and heeding no suggestions from either the officers at the post, managers of the stage line who suffered more from the robbing of passengers and treasury carried by them than did the dozens of freight and emigrant wagons..." The disappointed and clearly unenlightened law officer then boarded a stage to return to Cheyenne. It is here John picks up the narrative again, "Three miles out was a small being station with one of the state company men in charge of a stable built of log slabs and any lumber that could be had, a corral, and a hay yard. Before the stage reached this station the driver called out his usual salute to the stock tender. There was no answer but as it was before daylight he concluded the stock tender was asleep. Just before reaching the station one of a gang of robbers stopped the coach and ordered the driver to, 'hold that team of Jack Rabbits' (six small gray mules) or there would be trouble for him. A second robber held a revolver on the Marshal and the passengers in the coach and after taking the Marshal's revolver and overcoat away from him, told him to shell out his watch and loose change 'd____d quick,' which the Marshal proceeded to do without remonstrance. All of this was complete in a brief space of time and the driver was ordered to 'move on and not look back.'"
The marshal finally learned a little something about highwaymen, but not in the way he had anticipated.
Watch yourself as you travel to Cheyenne,