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Peg Leg Stage Robberies

by Clay Coppedge

When frontier Texas humorist Alex Sweet wrote of stagecoach robberies in the state he might have had in mind the coaches leaving the Peg Leg Station on the San Saba River in Menard County in the late 1870s. Getting robbed on the Peg Leg coach was common, even expected.

"At one time, the traveling public became so accustomed to going through the usual ceremonies that they complained to the stage companies if they came through unmolested," Sweet wrote. "Being robbed came to be regarded as a vested right."

Peg Leg crossing on the San Saba River had been used for centuries, first by area tribes and by the Spanish during the colonial period. Early settlers in the area had to confront not only a country where all the rainfall soaked into the limestone underlying the land, leaving the surface dry and rugged, but they also had to deal with Comanches raiding from the north and Kickapoo from the south. A steep hill a mile west of the station made stagecoaches an easy target for robbers, who simply vanished back into the rough country whence they came. The identity of the robbers baffled detectives, sheriffs and rangers for years.

One clue was the presence of tiny footprints at the crime scenes. Investigators suspected a woman from Fort McKavett or Fort Concho was tied up in all this, but all they knew for sure was that the stage kept getting robbed and one of the robbers had tiny feet.

The first break in the case came when a ranger sergeant named Charles Nevill captured Bill Allison (sometimes spelled Alison), son of Jimmie Dublin and father of the outlaw Dick Dublin. Allison, wanted on several charges of cattle theft, was sent to languish in the Travis County jail in Austin for more than a year. That was long enough for him to grow despondent, discouraged and disloyal to his former partners in crime. One day he called out from his cell to ranger Jim Gillett, "People who ought to be my friend have evidently abandoned me and I am not going to stand it any longer. I can put the Peg Leg stage robbers behind the bars, and I am going to do it."

Armed with Allison's information, rangers arrested Dole and Dell Dublin, Mack Potter and Rube Boyce. The former three were tried and convicted but Boyce escaped. His wife visited the jail with some clean underwear for him and also managed to smuggle in a Colt .45 revolver. Boyce used the gun to persuade the jailer to switch places with him, mounted a pony that had been prepared for him and away he did ride, guns blazing.

Boyce was arrested a few years later in New Mexico and returned to Austin to stand trial for the Peg Leg robberies. He was acquitted, which was probably the right decision. Alison told Gillett that Boyce had nothing to do with the robberies, anyway. The Dublin boys and Mack Potter were the real robbers. Potter, it turned out, had tiny feet.
Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" February 2 , 2019 column

Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • The Rubbing Doctors 1-18-19
  • Too Full of Alabama 12-30-18
  • Who Was That Masked Man? 12-15-18
  • Tasty Texas Ingenuity 12-2-18
  • An Annoyance of Grackles 11-16-18

    See more »



  • Books by Clay Coppedge

     


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