Dude! I almost lost it there!

This story is adapted from records in our family archives.

In the early days of Utah, before the railroad came through, merchants who wanted goods from the eastern states would make the trip as far east as the Missouri River by stagecoach. Often they caught a train there and continued by rail to New York. It was a long, tedious, and expensive trip. To save money, time and resources, several merchants collaborated and designated one person to make the trip and do the purchasing for all of them.

It was on one such trip that my great great grandfather, Charles Henry Bassett, had a bit of an adventure. On this particular journey, Charles was entrusted with $25,000 to $30,000 in gold to make purchases. The gold from the other merchants and $5,000 worth of his own gold was packed in a small wooden box, then in a larger box, nailed up tightly.  (To be carried in the boot of the stagecoach with the luggage) Charles also carried with him a significant amount of $20 gold coins. They were stitched into his quilted vest. (The vests were quite the fashion then) The weight of the gold in the vest became an almost unbearable burden before the journey ended.

The stageline traveled through a rough and rowdy strip of the west where outlaws and Indians ran rampant.  When the stage arrived at one station they found it in smoldering ruins. The station keeper had been killed and the horses stolen. A woman on the stagecoach was so overcome and shocked by what they saw, that she begged Charles to shoot her rather then let Indians take her in the instance of an attack on their stagecoach.

They finally reached a small town on the Missouri river where they could catch a train to take them to St. Louis. They arrived early in the morning and the train was scheduled to pass through around midnight. Charles took his box of gold and handluggage to a small hotel to wait. While there, the proprieter of the hotel convinced him to take a nap. He assured him that there would be ample time to catch the train because the train crew usually stopped long enough to eat supper. Having been persuaded, Charles removed his coat and boots and went to sleep on a sofa in the hotel parlor.

He was suddenly awakened by the proprieter that night who told him that the train crew had decided not to stop for supper. Charles pulled on his boots, picked up his luggage and followed after the hotel porter who had rushed ahead shouldering the box of gold. He arrived at the station just in time to see the porter toss the box of gold onto the rear platform of the train as it pulled out of town.

Charles did not tell anyone that the box contained gold. (for obvious reasons) He immediately telegraphed the next station asking that they take the box off the train and that he would follow to pick it up.

He assumed an air of indifference and awaited the train the next day. When he arrived at the next station he found the box tossed among the other frieght.  With profound relief he went to the express office and had the gold mailed to New York rather than taking another chance of losing it along the way.

If this had happened today, I’m sure he would have let out a huge sigh of relief and said something like, “Dude!  I almost lost it there.”

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