June 22, 2017

Edwin B. Tafton - How Do You Rob 15+ Stagecoaches in 1 Day

Part 3 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


Although Edwin Trafton tried to settle in Rupert, Idaho with his wife after their release from prison, a life of crime still called. Within months, he had disappeared from a legitimate job at Jackson Lake near Moran, leaving a larcenous trail behind.  As he departed from Jackson, he stole two horses, a roan and a gray. Unknown to Edwin, one of the horse had thrown a shoe leaving unusual tracks. On his way into Yellowstone, Edwin shared a camp site with J. Martinez. Before parting ways with his host, Edwin robbed Martinez of food and his best saddle. [1]

Postcard showing Old Faithful Lodge, circa 1909
On the morning of Wednesday, July 29, 1914, Edwin pulled a rifle on the first of at least 15 tourist-filled stagecoaches (reports vary from 15 to 26). The tour coaches, which left at 15-20 minute intervals from Old Faithful lodge, traditionally paused at the Shoshone Point promontory to allow occupants to enjoy the lake view.  As each coach approached, Trafton ordered the occupants to disembark and the drivers to pull the coaches ahead.  He instructed the tourists to place their valuables onto a coat spread on the ground. Trafton then forced his victims to sit on the ground. He repeated the process with each successive stagecoach until finally an oncoming driver recognized the situation and turned to warn authorities. At that point, Edwin disappeared into the woods completely unconcerned by the fact that British tourist Estelle Hammond and Anna Squire of Illinois had taken photos of him sorting his loot.

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[1] “Wonderland Tourists Relate Thrilling Hold-up Stories,” The Livingston Enterprise, 1 August 1914, pg. 1 & 8 and “Yellowstone Park Bandit Arrested,” Livingston Enterprise, 25 May 1915.