FX07 was the code that brought down Black Bart. It was a laundry mark. In the day when men had their shirts, detachable collars and cuffs, handkerchiefs, and other items of clothing cleaned at a laundry, the items were marked in an inconspicuous place with an indelible marker to identify the owner.

At his twenty-eighth and last robbery on November 3 1883, Black Bart was wounded and left behind a number of articles as he escaped, including a handkerchief labeled FX07. Detective Harry Morse, who had been hired to work full-time on the Black Bart case, suspected it came from a laundry in San Francisco. It would take time to canvass all the laundries — there were 91 in the City. After a few days he matched it to the Ferguson and Biggs California Laundry at 113 Stevenson Street. The laundry identified FX07 as belonging to Charles E. Bolton, a mine owner.

Posing as a mining man and acquaintance of Bolton, Morse persuaded the laundry agent to give him Bolton’s address. Continuing the deception, he met with Bolton and got him into the office of Detective James Hume. Bolton claimed to be T.Z. Spaulding, an honest citizen and mine owner. But the masquerade fell apart when the detectives searched his rooms at the Webb House hotel and found more items with the FX07 mark. Black Bart was caught.

Bart was identified by a man who had seen him at the scene of his last robbery. The stage driver recognized his distinctively deep voice. The net was closing in.

Photographs were taken, the only photos we have of Black Bart. He doesn’t look like a stagecoach robber. With his well-groomed gray mustache, his curly-brimmed bowler, his good-quality coat and overcoat, and his walking stick, he looks like a prosperous businessman.

Realizing that the jig was up, Charles Boles, alias Charles Bolton, alias Black Bart the Po8, confessed to multiple stage robberies. He recalled every detail of every crime. He revealed how he had planned his robberies and how he had evaded capture. He offered to show the lawmen where he had hidden the gold from his last holdup. $5000 in gold was recovered.

On November 17th Bart appeared before a judge in Calaveras County and pleaded guilty to the one last robbery that led to his arrest. He was never tried for the other 27 holdups. This deal was in the interests of all concerned.

Bart got a sentence of six years in prison, much less than most stage robbers got. That he never carried a loaded gun and never harmed passengers or drivers was taken into consideration.

He avoided a lengthy trial. So did the witnesses and detectives who awaited their shares in the reward money. They got their reward much sooner than they would have if Bart had gone to trial.

The press had a field day with Black Bart.

Next time: Black Bart at San Quentin

Daily Alta California 20 November 1883

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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