The stage had gone about four miles on a road running through the Overton Swamp when a tall man with his black hat pulled down over his face jumped from behind a tree and ordered the stage to stop.
Ferguson thought it was a joke and kept going—until the man with the black hat fired a pistol shot at him and ordered him to throw down the mail bags.
The driver tried to fool the robber by throwing down the empty lock bags, but that didn’t work. The robber, waving his pistol, said he knew there were two full mail sacks on the stage and told Ferguson to toss them down, or else.
This time the driver followed instructions, then made haste to Ville Platte, where he told the postmaster he’d been robbed. The postmaster notified Sheriff C.C. Duson, and A.P. Williams, who was not only the mail contractor but also a deputy U.S. Marshal.
Williams and deputy sheriff S.O. LeBlanc found little evidence at the scene of the robbery early the next morning, but later that day two other deputies, T. S. Bailey and Sam Haas, found the mail bags in the woods about a hundred yards from the road. Both bags had been cut open and some registered parcels taken. The deputies found tracks that caused them to believe two men were involved in the robbery.
They also came to the conclusion that the robbers must have been familiar with the stage schedule and the contents of the mail bags.
By Sunday, when Brewster Cameron, a postal inspector from New Orleans, arrived on the scene, the local deputies had decided that the robbers most likely were two cousins in their early 20s, Elisha Courtney and Housan Griffith.
Griffith had been seen in the woods near where the stage was robbed on the Monday night before the hold-up and both men were in the store where the post office was located on the night the stage was robbed. Further, Griffith had been a mail driver on the route where the robbery took place.
Neither of the men offered any resistance when Williams found them and arrested them about 10 o’clock Monday morning. They were put into separate rooms at the jail and interviewed separately. Lawmen used the old trick of telling each of the men that the other was on the verge of confessing to get a lighter sentence.
Courtney broke first and confessed that some $250 taken in the robbery was buried in his yard. Deputies found the money buried in two bottles.
The two men were taken to New Orleans and tried in federal court in June 1881. Each pleaded guilty and each was sentenced to five years in prison.
The postal inspector, meanwhile, issued a commendation to the lawmen involved in solving the case and making the arrest and for all of the “good citizens of Bayou Chicot.” According to Inspector Cameron, “as far as nine miles from Bayou Chicot [citizens] voluntarily offered their services to assist me to hunt the rascals down.”
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.