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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

He Robbed the Wrong Woman

The old mining town in Nevada County is gone now, but Red Dog had its heyday in the 1860s, when the place had nearly two thousand residents and a fella named Mark Twain gave a lecture there to a packed house.

We don’t know the exact year of the stage holdup, but Big Bill Connelly held the reins when the stage rolled out of Nevada City that morning. He had five passengers traveling to various destinations upcountry: an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Boston man and his wife, and a dainty, grey-eyed girl who was going home to Red Dog.

They were an hour out of town when the crack of a rifle rang out and the off-leader of the team fell dead. The stagecoach jerked to a standstill; a hoarse command was heard. The girl from Red Dog looked out the rear window and said, “It’s a hold-up!”

The masked highwayman advanced toward the stage, covering the driver with his Winchester. “Throw out that box,” he demanded, to which Big Bill Connelly coolly replied, "I can’t—it’s bolted to the bottom of the rig.”

“Git down then,” said the robber “I’ll see about that.” He swung his rifle toward the passengers with a brusque command: “You, pile outa’ there.”

Like frightened sheep they clamored out, all visibly shaking except the girl from Red Dog, who had grown up in the breezy mountains of California and had experienced this very thing once before.

A quick look-see convinced the robber that Connelly had spoken the truth about the express box, which was indeed fastened to the floor with eyebolts, and stout padlocks held the lid firmly. Raising his rifle, the bandit blew the lid off the box—and swore mightily when he saw that nothing at all was inside.

But now, a new idea struck him. He lined up the driver and passengers, confiscated the men’s guns, took Bill Connelly’s floppy hat, and declared he would “take up a collection” so his effort wouldn’t be completely wasted.

The Englishman dropped a fat wallet into the hat, protesting loudly—until the highwayman’s bullet blasted through the Englishman's own hat, whereupon he also gave up a diamond ring. The Scotsman fished up what few dollars he had in his pocket. As Connelly, hat in hand, was moving past the girl from Red Dog to receive the Boston couple’s contribution, the masked man objected.

“Here! What you doin’? We ain’t overlookin’ nobody! You take hers, too.”

“Would you rob a woman?’ asked the girl from Red Dog. With a toss of her pretty head, she drew a delicate silver chain from her jacket and added it to the collection.

“You heard me,” the robber snarled. “They can’t hang me no higher for it, if they ketch me. That ring on your finger, throw that in too.”

At this, angry red spots burned on the girl’s cheeks, but she complied. The Boston couple was quickly relieved of their valuables, and the driver turned over his own. The robber then knelt to transfer his plunder from the hat to his coat pocket . . . with the girl watching his every move.

Suddenly the girl’s right hand shot out from the folds of her skirt, a sharp retort sounded—and the robber’s right arm hung limp and bleeding at his side as his Winchester clattered to the ground. Big Bill Connelly hurled himself on the brute, knocking him out cold with a fist behind the ear. With the male passengers’ help, Connelly securely bound the culprit hand and foot.

“You dear, darling little girl,” gushed the Boston lady. ”How could you be so brave?”

The girl from Red Dog stood there, quietly. “I just had to shoot him,” she said. “That was my engagement ring, and I’m to be married tomorrow.”

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