On November 3, 1883, Charles Earl Bowles, known as Black Bart the Poet, committed the last of his 28 stage coach robberies which relieved Wells and Fargo of tens of thousands of dollars. Although he only left two poems, at the fourth and fifth robbery sites, it became his signature.
Bowles was terrified of horses and committed all of his robberies on foot. This, together with his poems, earned him notoriety. Through all his years as highwayman, he never fired a gunshot. Bowles was always courteous and used no foul language except for in poems.
“I’ve labored long and hard for bred (bread)
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long yove (you’ve) tred (tread)
You fine-haired sons ___ _____.”Black Bart , 1877
In 1884, he was finally caught and convicted. The police report said, hat Bowles was “a person of great endurance, exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances, was extremely proper and polite in behavior, and eschews profanity. He was sentenced to six years in San Quentin but served only four due to his good behavior.
Upon his release, reporters swarmed around him when and asked if he was going to rob any more stagecoaches. “No, gentlemen,” he said, “I’m through with crime.” Another reporter asked if he would write more poetry. Bowles laughed and said, “Now, didn’t you hear me say that I am through with crime?”