Q: We have a cabin on Warm Springs outside of Ketchum and often traveled with my grandparents and my parents. It was always told to us as kids when we crossed the lava flow north of Shoshone that there were robbers that robbed a stagecoach carrying lots of money for the payroll at the mines in Hailey. It was told that the robbers thought they killed everyone on the stage but alas there was a survivor and he made it to Hailey to the sheriff. The robbers were confident that they had no reason to hurry their getaway that they took their time heading back toward Shoshone. Because the survivor got to Hailey so fast and the sheriff mounted a posse that the posse caught up with them and ended up killing them all (there were approximately four robbers). When they killed the last one in a final shootout, there was no money to be found. So, according to my grandparents and father, somewhere out in the lava beds north of Shoshone lies a quickly hidden stash of loot. One other rumor was the sheriff died a very rich man making people wonder if he found the loot and took it. Can you find any facts or history of this?
A: Mining lured settlers to the Wood River Valley following the first strike for gold, silver, lead, and zinc in 1879. There were actually mineral discoveries in the Wood River area as early as 1862, during the gold rush fever spawned by the strikes in the Boise Basin. However Indian hostilities held back claims in the 1860s and 70s. When hostilities ceased with the end of the Bannock War in 1879 a number of miners returned to the area.
“The story I heard, when I first came to the Wood River Valley, in 1955, was that a couple of men robbed a bank east of the lava flow and headed west with the posse chasing them,” said Teddie Daley, director of the Blaine County Historical Museum. “They stashed the gold, silver, whatever, somewhere in the lava area, split-up and went their separate ways with the intention of returning later to retrieve the stash. No one really knows if they ever did. I do not doubt that the occurrence happened, but the museum has no evidence, other than hearsay, regarding it.”
According to Arthur Hart’s story “Stagecoach robbers told Idaho drivers to ‘throw down the box!’” written by Arthur Hart for the Idaho Statesman, the stagecoach contained “a gentleman, his wife and three children, and a hostler in the employ of the company. The box that was thrown out was the Wood River box, and contained, besides some small sums of money, six hundred dollars belonging to N. Falk & Bro.”
The Wood River mining boom was at its peak when this robbery took place, and the Wood River Valley had become a major destination of travelers using John Hailey’s Utah, Oregon & Idaho Stage Co. coaches, Hart wrote. Stagecoach robberies were common in Idaho in the 1880s and ’90s, sometimes within days of each other on the same route, but armed guards rarely rode along to protect them.
Lincoln County Historical Society Museum curator Claudia Reese repeated a story told by a long-time local:
“The stagecoach got robbed there by the old ice caves. They caught up with the guy over around Fairfield. They had stashed (the box) somewhere between the ice cave and Fairfield. They never did find it that I know of.”