June 22, 2017

Edwin B. Trafton - Released for Good Behavior

Part 6 of the Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian


Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 20015,
accessed May 4, 2017,
Although Edwin Trafton was convicted of the Yellowstone stagecoach robberies during his 1915 trial, he didn't serve his entire five year sentence. Early in October 1919, Edwin wrote to James Melrose, the Department of Justice Special Agent whose investigation led to Edwin's arrest.  The letter explained that due to his good behavior Edwin was being released from prison a bit earlier than planned. He assured Melrose that he had spent his time in prison making plans for his future. [1]

However, this time Edwin couldn't return to his wife. After divorcing Trafton while he was in prison, Minnie added insult to injury by marrying a policeman and left Idaho with their 14 year old son, Edwin Jr.  Additionally by August of 1920, all four of his daughters were married. [2] Instead Edwin made his way to California perhaps in hopes of finding family or of selling his much-exaggerated life story as a movie script.

On a hot day in August of 1922, in need of escaping the Los Angeles heat, he ordered an ice cream soda.  While sipping the cool drink, Edwin B. Trafton died.   An inglorious end to the man who incapable of leading a life without larceny.  But, as the Yellowstone Bandit, he gave 165 Yellowstone stagecoach tourists stories enough to fill a lifetime.

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[1] “Yellowstone Bandit Released by Jail,”  Northern Wyoming Herald, 8 October 1919, pg. 4. 
[2] Wayne Moss, “Friend or Faux?”  Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 2015, http://tetonvalleymagazine.com/history-stories/friendorfaux/ (30 May, 2017) ; Utah & Montana Marriage License Indexes.