Tom Bell (outlaw)

Last updated
Tom Bell
Born1825 (1825)
DiedOctober 4, 1856(1856-10-04) (aged 30–31)
Cause of death Execution by hanging
Other namesOutlaw Doc
Occupation(s)Military surgeon, gambler, outlaw
Known forfirst stagecoach robbery in the United States
Conviction(s) robbery

Tom Bell (1825 – October 4, 1856) was a western outlaw and physician known as the "Outlaw Doc". He was the first outlaw to organize a stagecoach robbery in the United States.[ citation needed ]

Contents

Biography

Born Thomas J. Hodges in Rome, Tennessee, he saw action in the Mexican–American War as a surgeon. Following the war he traveled to California during the California Gold Rush, but was unsuccessful as a prospector, later drifting around California as a gambler and as a doctor at times for several years. The outlaw "Doc Hodges" was arrested for stealing eleven mules. When he was arrested in 1855, wanting to confuse the peace officers, he gave the name Tom Bell, a small time cattle rustler. In 1855 he was serving time in Angel Island Prison for robbery when he met Bill Gristy and successfully escaped several weeks later. [1] He escaped with the help of his profession as a doctor by faking a severe illness that fooled the prison doctor, which allowed him to escape. With Gristy, Bell formed an outlaw gang of five men and began robbing stages for several months.On August 12, 1856, after their spy spotted the Camptonville-Maryville stage carrying $100,000 (~$2.41 million in 2021) worth of gold bullion, the gang unsuccessfully attempted to rob it. In an exchange of gunfire a woman passenger was killed and two male passengers were wounded before the gang was driven off by the stagecoach guards. The slain female passenger was a black woman by the name of Mrs. Tilghman, the wife of a popular barber from Maryville. [2]

The robbery and death of the woman passenger angered citizens, and both a sheriff's posse and citizen vigilantes conducted a massive search for the gang. By late September Gristy was captured. Under threat of being turned over to the irate lynch mob outside the jail, he revealed the location of Bell. The Stockton Sheriff raced to arrest him. When he found Bell near Firebaugh's Ferry on October 4, 1856, an impromptu posse commanded by Judge George Gordon Belt, a Merced River rancher, had already hanged him.

Despite the lack of success Bell had in his attempted stagecoach robbery, his example was soon followed by other outlaws with more success.

Three episodes of the Western television series "Tales of Wells Fargo" featured "Doc Bell" as a character. Contrary to history, he was portrayed as a criminal who eventually reformed and returned to the medical profession to pay his debt to society.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pearl Hart</span> 19/20th-century Canadian-American outlaw

Pearl Hart was a Canadian-born outlaw of the American Old West. She committed one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies in the United States, and her crime gained notoriety primarily because of her gender. Many details of Hart's life are uncertain, with available reports being varied and often contradictory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sam Bass (outlaw)</span> American Old West outlaw

Sam Bass was a 19th-century American train robber, outlaw, and outlaw gang leader. Notably, he was a member of a gang of six that robbed a Union Pacific train in Nebraska of $60,000 in newly minted gold from San Francisco, California. To date, this was the biggest train robbery ever committed in the USA. He died as a result of wounds sustained in a gun battle with law enforcement officers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Plummer</span>

Henry Plummer (1832–1864) was a prospector, lawman, and outlaw in the American West in the 1850s and 1860s, who was known to have killed several men. He was elected sheriff of Bannack, Montana, in 1863 and served until 1864, during which period he was accused of being the leader of a "road agent" gang of outlaws known as the "Innocents," who preyed on shipments from Virginia City, Montana to other areas. In response some leaders in Virginia City formed the Vigilance Committee of Alder Gulch and began to take action against Plummer's gang, gaining confessions from a couple of men they arrested in early January 1864. On January 10, 1864, Plummer and two associates were arrested in Bannack by a company of the Vigilantes and summarily hanged. Plummer was given a posthumous trial in 1993 which led to a mistrial. The jury was split 6–6.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harvey Logan</span> American outlaw and gunman (1867–1904)

Harvey Alexander Logan, also known as Kid Curry, was an American outlaw and gunman who rode with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's infamous Wild Bunch gang during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite being less well-known than his fellow gang members, he has since been referred to as "the wildest of the Wild Bunch", having reputedly killed at least nine law enforcement officers in five shootings and another two men in other instances. He was involved in numerous shootouts with police and civilians and participated in several bank and train robberies with various gangs during his outlaw days.

Sherman McMaster (1853–1892) was an outlaw turned lawman, who was one of the six men involved in the Earp vendetta ride.

<i>Sagebrush Trail</i> 1933 film

Sagebrush Trail is a 1933 American Pre-Code Western film with locations filmed at Bronson Canyon starring John Wayne and featuring Lane Chandler and Yakima Canutt. It was the second Lone Star Productions film released by Monogram Pictures. It was shown as An Innocent Man in the UK, and this version was later released in a colorized version on home video.

Juan Flores was a 19th-century Californio bandit who, with Pancho Daniel, led an outlaw gang known as "las Manillas" and later as the Flores Daniel Gang, throughout Southern California during 1856-1857. Although regarded by historians as a thief and outlaw, Flores was considered among Mexican-Americans as a folk hero akin to Jesse James and who was thought of as a defender against vigilante movements in the years following the American settlement of California and its incorporation into the United States. However, the activities of Flores and other insurrectos such as Salomon Pico and Joaquín Murrieta against American and foreign-born settlers not only created long-lasting suspicion and hostility towards Mexican-Americans but also divided the traditional Spanish class structures of the Californios and the poorer peasants as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William M. Dalton</span> American outlaw (1863–1894)

Mason Frakes Dalton, also known as William Marion "Bill" Dalton, was an outlaw in the American Old West. He was the co-leader of the Wild Bunch gang and with his brothers Gratton, Bob and Emmett Dalton was a member of the Dalton Gang.

The Jack Taylor Gang was an outlaw gang of the Old West which operated mostly in Arizona Territory and Mexico.

Jack Powers, whose real name was John A. Power, was an Irish-born American outlaw who emigrated to New York as a child and later served as a volunteer soldier in the Mexican–American War in the garrison of Santa Barbara, California. During the California Gold Rush, he was a well-known professional gambler and a famed horseman in the gold camps as well as in San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

<i>California Mail</i> 1936 film by Noel M. Smith

California Mail is a 1936 American Western film directed by Noel M. Smith and written by Roy Chanslor and Harold Buckley. The film stars Dick Foran, Linda Perry, Edmund Cobb, Milton Kibbee, Tom Brower and James Farley. The film was released by Warner Bros. on November 14, 1936. It was the fourth of 12 B-westerns Foran made for the studio over a two-year period, and is noteworthy for giving ubiquitous bit player Cobb a rare co-starring role as the chief villain. Roy Rogers makes an early, uncredited appearance as the square dance caller.

Richard H. Barter, known as "Rattlesnake Dick", was born in Quebec, Canada. Around 1850, he came to California and tried his luck at mining. Turning outlaw during the California Gold Rush, he joined a gang that was known for stagecoach robbery from 1855 to 1856.

James R. Barton was the second sheriff of Los Angeles County, California, and the first to die in office, in the line of duty.

George Lane, better known as Clubfoot George, was an alleged outlaw who was hanged on January 14, 1864, in Nevada City, Montana. Lane was later alleged to have been a member of a criminal gang known as the Gang of Innocents and sentenced to death. The execution was carried out by the Montana Vigilantes, a committee which functioned during Montana's gold rush in 1863 and 1864.

Flores Daniel Gang, was an outlaw gang also known as "las Manillas", throughout Southern California during 1856-1857. Californio's Juan Flores and Pancho Daniel. Contemporary newspaper accounts of las Manillas all reported that the leader of las Manillas was originally Pancho Daniel, but that Juan Flores assumed the leadership role after Daniel was injured in the Barton ambush. According to the account of Harris Newmark, Flores had been sent to prison for horse-stealing and was just another member of the gang.

<i>Outlaws of Sonora</i> 1938 film

Outlaws of Sonora is a 1938 American Western "Three Mesquiteers" B-movie directed by George Sherman. It stars Bob Livingston, Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune. Livingston has a dual role as Mesquiteer Stony Brooke and his outlaw doppelgänger Dude Brannen. Films in the Mesquiteer series are normally considered traditional Westerns but Outlaws of Sonora is an exception; it has a revisionist theme as an early example of the Outlaw/Gunfighter sub-genre.

<i>Riding Shotgun</i> (film) 1954 film by André de Toth

Riding Shotgun is a 1954 American western film directed by Andre DeToth and starring Randolph Scott, Wayne Morris and Joan Weldon. The film was based on the short story "Riding Solo" by Kenneth Perkins, originally published in the September 1942 issue of Blue Book. The production is unusual in that Scott narrates his inner thoughts at crucial moments in the action.

<i>Empty Holsters</i> 1937 film by B. Reeves Eason

Empty Holsters is a 1937 American Western film directed by B. Reeves Eason and written by John T. Neville. The film stars Dick Foran, Patricia Walthall, Emmett Vogan, Glenn Strange, Anderson Lawler and Wilfred Lucas. The film was released by Warner Bros. on July 10, 1937.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flores Peak</span> Mountain peak in Orange County, California

Flores Peak is a mountain peak, overlooking the confluence Harding Canyon and Modjeska Canyon, within the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Orange County, California. It rises to an elevation of 1,834 feet. It is named for Juan Flores of the Flores Daniel Gang.

References

  1. "Rattlesnake Dick's fate highlighted need for classification system". Inside CDCR. 2018-08-30. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  2. Lapp, Rudolph M. (1977). Blacks in Gold Rush California. Yale University Press. ISBN   0300065450.

Further reading

Resources