It's One of the Last Great Robbery Tales of the Wild West

Rhema Sayers recounts a failed 1900 train heist at Medium, with surprise twists
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2022 11:18 AM CDT
Failed 1900 Train Heist Brought Fitting End to an Era
Stock photo depicting an outlaw and an old train   (Getty/fotograv)

The story of the last train robbery in the Old West has everything a novelist or screenwriter could conjure—gunfights, posses, cool facial hair, betrayal, redemption, plus some unexpected twists. It also offers an appropriate closing act for an era where the line between lawman and outlaw was often slim, according to Rhema Sayers, writing for Medium. It starts in 1900 in Fairbank, Arizona, where five supposedly drunken cowboys were splayed out amid a small crowd waiting for a train. Wells Fargo “express messenger” Jeff Milton was on board guarding the gold. When he opened the door, one of those cowboys shot him in the arm, but Milton still managed to reach his shotgun and plug old “Three Fingered Jack” in the gut. Before he passed out, Milton also hid the safe’s key, thus foiling the robbery.

The requisite posses gathered, including deputies Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles, both of whom ought to have been seeking redemption after failing to track down the perpetrators of a prior robbery in Cochise Station. They searched the deserts and mountains only to come back emptyhanded once again. However, another posse found Three Fingered Jack where his gang had abandoned him, and before he died, he spilled the beans: He and the other cowboys were hired by none other than deputies Alvord and Stiles, who had also masterminded the previous robbery. The pair managed to escape justice, though they did not live long or prosperous lives. For his part, Three Fingered Jack was the last man buried in Tombstone’s Boot Hill. Read Sayers' whole story here. (More Wild West stories.)

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