The PO 8
Here I lay me down to sleep
to wait the coming morrow
perhaps success perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow
I’ve labored long and hard for bread
for honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you’ve tread
You fine hired Sons of Bitches
let come what will I’ll try it once
My condition can’t be worse
And if there’s money in that box
T’s munny in my purse.
Signed the PO 8 (poet)
Charles E. Boles, alias J. R. Bowles, alias Charles E. Bolton, alias T. Z. Spaulding, alias Black Bart was well educated, a gentleman, a road agent, and a poet. Many people have wondered about Black Bart's past, but few real facts have been found. The question of whether or not he was a school teacher has been a main issue of contention. It is believed that he had been a school teacher in Kansas before coming to California. Another report said that he had once taught in the northern part of California, but his love of gambling had cost him his job, An interesting "believe it or not" was the belief that J, H. Bowles (Black Bart) had begun teaching in the early Concord schools in 1874 and taught here for three years. Black Bart probably taught from 1867 to. August 1877 in Contra Costa County. After 10 years in Contra Costa County, Black Bart knew he would have to strike in different counties where he wasn't known. Black Bart confined his robberies to the Counties of Yuba, Mendocino, Sonoma, Sierra, Butte, Shasta, Plumas, and Trinity. None of his robberies occurred below Sacramento. His robberies were classic in the way he operated his holdups and getaways. Black Bart held up 23 stagecoaches in a row and never once fired a shot or was in danger of being arrested. He always left a verse at the scene of the crime, and made his escape on foot. Black Bart would never rob the passengers. If they gave him their money or jewelry, he'd insist they take the money and articles back. His average haul per stagecoach was $600. 00. Black Bart always wore a flour sack over his head and carried a doublebarreled shotgun. The shotgun was never loaded.
Charles Boles' native county was in England. He was a three year veteran in the Civil War. He was a first sergeant in the 116th Illinois Volunteer Regiment. He marched with Sherman on his campaign to the sea. On this march Boles was wounded severely during a battle at Georgia. Boles never drank anything stronger than coffee, carried a Bible with him, and had a strong love of gambling.
Black Bart’s 30th robbery, he was caught and sent to San Quentin. He was identified by a San Francisco laundry mark on a handkerchief he had dropped during his get-away. After he was released from San Quentin, two Wells-Fargo Stagecoaches were robbed. At the third Wells Fargo hold-up, J. B. Hume (Wells Fargo detective agent), followed and found Black Bart. It is believed that they offered to pay Black Bart a life pension if he would leave the stagecoaches alone. After the deal was made, a Wells Fargo detective called John Thacker, followed Boles and watched him board the steamer Empress of China for Japan. Perhaps it is only just, that a man such as Black Bart who played such a colorful part in Concord's early history, deserved to spend the rest of his days in a peaceful teahouse, along a quiet beach, or with a warmhearted Japanese family.
Cowell Historical Society