Ever wonder where writers come up with characters for their novels? Well this guy was sure he was the Virginian. He lived at the right time and was in the same general area as Owen Wister was when he wrote the famous novel, but I doubt he was the Virginian. He may have been the basis for a physical description of the famous cowboy, or as Wister wrote, cow-boy, but he was not the Virginian, of that I am sure.
The summer of 1914 may have truly marked the end of the old west. Why, because that was the year of the last stagecoach holdup, and it took place near Shoshone Point in Yellowstone Park. Other places claim the last holdup, including one of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage and one in Nevada, but I like this one. The year marked the end of the horse’s only transportation in the park, as cars came for the first time the next year, and a year after that, 1916 would mark the end of the coaches in the park.
I like this bit of history because the robber, Edward Trafton, (Ed Harrington) did not just hold up a stagecoach, he held up fifteen in a row. The stages carried tourists seeing the sights of the park, and the sixteenth coach, sniffing out something bad, turned around and went for help.
Wearing several layers of extra clothes and a black mask,Trafton stopped each coach rustled out the passengers and asked them, while holing a rifle, to put their money in a sack lying at his feet. For his days work he collected a little over nine hundred dollars and jewelry worth another one- hundred and thirty dollars. Trafton, a ladies’ man, or one who believed he was, laughed and asked the ladies to hide their jewelry, he was only interested in cash. Not sure how or why he ended up with more than a hundred dollars worth anyway, maybe he didn’t like some of the women as much as others.
Trafton had so much fun holding up a stage every half hour that he even allowed some of the passengers to take his photo. Not sure Tafton was the smartest of outlaws, but he likely believed he was, because of this day, famous, and needed to secure his place in history. It did secure a place but maybe not what he had in mind.
The well photographed outlaws next stop was Leavenworth, where he rested up for five years. He died more than a decade later
with a letter in his pocket claiming he was the cowboy Owen Wister based the Virginian on. More likely, if Wister ever met him and put him in the famous novel, he was one of the bad guys or less than bright characters in the story. Trampas?