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.