Black Bart in San Quentin

Photo by Carleton E. Watkins, ca. 1874. California State Library History Room

Charles E. Bolton, aka Black Bart, entered San Quentin State Prison on November 21, 1883. It had only been eighteen days since his arrest. Justice was swift in those day.

While in prison Bart wrote letters to his family in Missouri and to Reason McConnell, the stage driver of his last holdup, and others to whom he felt he owed an apology. He intended to be a model prisoner in hopes that he could shorten his six-year sentence. At first he worked in the prison laundry, but his intelligence and good behavior soon promoted him to a position in the hospital pharmacy.

Bart spent three years working as a pharmacist and became proficient at compounding medications. The last year of his term he worked as a trusty in the warden’s office. His fine even penmanship appears in prison records from that time.

After serving four and a half years of his sentence, Bart was released on January 21, 1888.

Where would he live? How would he support himself? What had become of all his ill-gotten gains? Could he lay his hands on any of it?

Next time: Black Bart disappears — to where?

To read more about Black Bart: There are several books about the life and crimes of that fascinating bandit, Black Bart. I have been using Black Bart: The Search Is Over, by Robert E. Jernigan and Wiley Joiner, but there are many other books.

And of course it’s all online too. Check out the website for Bart’s history, including a list of all his robberies.

Previously I have written about Black Bart’s stagecoach robberies in Butte County, where I live. You can read those here and here and here and here.

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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