John Vonderlin: What Happened when the stage was held-up 100+ Years Ago

johnv1Story from John Vonderlin
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Hi June,
  The next time you are stuck in the weekend traffic on Highway 92, thinking about this story might help to pass the time. This recounting of one of the very few stage holdups ever to occur in San Mateo County is from the August 18th, 1905 issue of “The San Francisco Call.”
Special Dispatch to The Call.
Coach Halted on the Half Moon Bay Road
Bandit Fires, on Man Who Drives Up
Collects Booty and Makes Escape
REDWOOD CITY, Aug. 17. One of the most daring stage robberies in the history of the State and one without parallel in this part of the country occurred this morning three miles from San Mateo and about twenty miles from San Francisco. The stage which operates between San Mateo and Halfmoon Bay was halted by a lone highwayman on the steep grade near the Crystal Springs dam, and at the point of a revolver, the driver of the stage and the affrighted passengers were forced to deliver their personal valuables and to throw into the road the strong boxes of Wells-Fargo & Co., and a commercial firm of Halfmoon Bay.
   The robber won but little of value for his desperate deed and fortunately no one was Injured, although the highway man fired three shots at a passing driver of a team who unwittingly interrupted the knight of the road in his work.
   The affair has created intense excitement throughout the county and two well
organized posses, lead by Sheriff Mansfield of this city, are scouring the hills for the bandit.  Wells-Fargo detectives are on the scene, but as a very poor description of the robber  has been obtained from the occupants of the stage, the prospect of an early capture is not brilliant.
   The  stage  had left  San Mateo at an early hour and  had  gone as  far as the Crystal  Springs dam. Five passsengers  and the driver, Edward Campbell, comprised the party. On the seat with the driver, was O. Olsen, a traveling man employed by Langley & Michaels of San Francisco. On  the Inside . of the coach were Miss A. Johnson and J. C. Santos of  Halfmoon Bay and Peter Julie and Ralph Rooden of San Francisco. In the care of the driver were the money box of Wells-Fargo & Co. and a private box of Levy  Brothers of Halfmoon Bay.
   Just at the turn of the  road near the old Smith toll gate, where the cliff descends, precipitately a hundred feet from the road, a masked highwayman stepped
into the  road and with leveled revolver shouted the command to halt. The order was obeyed with alacrity. The robber called to the driver to throw the mail sack and the Wells-Fargo box into the road. 
   Campbell obeyed as far as the boxes were concerned, but hesitated to giving up the mail pouch. An oath from the bandit and a threatening fingering of his pistol brought the desired sack Into the road.
  Partly recovered from their terror, the passengers had an opportunity to observe the robber. He was short, probably five foot  seven Inches in height, thick-set, weighing, about one hundred and eighty pounds and was palpably disguised as to dress. He wore a long black overcoat, blue overalls and a tight-fitting black cap. His  face was effectually concealed by a black handkerchief.
   When the mail sack and the boxes had been thrown into the road  the robber commanded Santos to pass around his hat among his fellow passengers and not to forget himself in the contribution.  Santos understands English imperfectly and was slow to comply.  The  robber’s pistol and his evident intention to use it proved a stimulus to Santos and his hat came off without further delay.While the enforced donations to the thief was in progress and Santos was wondering how he was going to keep $95 he had  in his pocket, a team, rapidly driven, turned the bend in the road.
The  highwayman, who had  started toward the stage to collect his booty, turned quickly and leveling his revolver at the unfortunate interloper, fired. ‘The bullet missed its mark and the driver of the  team, E. Bertelotte, jumped from  his seat and ran toward the hill.  The robber  contented himself with firing two more futile shots at the fleeing man  and then  turned his attention to his prisoners on the stage.
 With a volley  of  oaths he ordered the driver to move on and not to look behind at the peril of his life. The order was strictly obeyed, but the highwayman was not to enjoy  the inspection of his prizes in peace. In a short time another team came into view and this time the robber took fright. He had opened the boxes and abstracted all there was of value in them. He was rifling  the  mail  pouch when  interrupted. Leaving the boxes behind he broke and ran, taking the mail sack with him.
  The alarm was at once given and posses were organized in this city and at San  Mateo. Sheriff ‘Mansfield led the party from here, but as yet no clew (sic) of the  robber  has been obtained.
  J.W.Thacker of the Wells-Fargo Company was here  rendering whatever assistance his long experience is able to suggest. He, as well as Superintendent Woods of the Wells-Fargo  Company, declares that the marauder found nothing of value in the strong box of the company, as large sums of  money are seldom  carried and never on the early morning stage.
    Levy  Brothers make the same assertion in reference to their loss. It would appear from this that the desperate thief had very little to reward  him for his escapade. This is the second stage robbery in the  history of  San  Mateo  County  and the first, under such  exceptional conditions.