|“The Colfax Record, some months ago, printed an article under the above title, based on a
Sacramento Bee news item of July 4, 1901. We quote from the article, as follows:
‘Many a tourist has pondered and speculated upon the significance of a grave at the side
of the road near Forest Hill, Placer County, above which stands a rough tombstone on
which is painted in white: ‘Old Joe, Died July 3, 1901.’ The general conclusion reached is
that the grave must be that of an Indian or an early settler.
‘But the old-timers of the vicinity recall the day the grave was dug and the inscription put
on the stone. And they tell the many curious that Old Joe was not a person, but the stage-
horse who sacrificed his life in an attempt to carry through to safety passengers and
express entrusted to him.
‘Old Joe was fatally wounded by the shot from the holdup man’s gun when the stage-driver
refused to halt. He died with his harness on. His body was dragged to the side of the road
he had traveled day after day, and was buried. A small American flag was stuck in the
ground at the head of the grave. A flag waves over him now, and has since the day he died.
The mountain people of the vicinity have not forgotten Old Joe, and on the Fourth of July
each year a new flag is placed over the grave.
‘Today, if the old stage-horse were able, he would see speedy, high-powered auto-stages
whizzing along the road he trod with his mates in other years. And he would realize,
perhaps, that the advance of civilization has removed the dangers that he, as a pioneer of
twenty-two years ago, had to face. But Old Joe sleeps on. . .
‘The stage robbery was the last one on the line. A young man who was a resident of the
Forest Hill section was arrested in Suisun, charged with the crime, some time afterward.
Years later the Wells-Fargo box which was carried away was found on a bar in the
American River canyon. Some of the papers which were in it when the stage was held up
were still there. The box was found by an Indian boy.
‘A large black oak, behind which the holdup man stood awaiting the approach of the stage,
still stands as a sentinel over Old Joe’s grave. When the bandit shot Old Joe, Driver
Crockett, in spite of the shotgun leveled at him by the bandit, did not mince words in
expressing his rage. ‘You’ve killed the best horse in this county, and you’ll pay for it, by
God,’ he shouted.
‘Death came close to Crockett that day, but it remained for a railroad train at the Auburn
station to end his long career. He was struck by a fast passenger engine several years
afterward, was badly mangled, and died within a few hours.”
“Henry Crockett, an old-time resident of Forest Hill, was a noted stage-driver. For many
years he hauled freight from Auburn to Forest Hill and other towns on the divide. It
seemed to make no difference to him whether his freight team consisted of two horses or
of six. Short curves were safely passed, and grades and steep pitches were pulled over
with equal ease and safety. He gave a sort of semi-official notice to the first auto-drivers
to keep off the Forest Hill grades or travel at safe hours. He was a brave and very popular
Excerpt from....History of Placer and Nevada Counties California with Biographical Sketches of The Leading
Men and Women of the Counties Who Have Been Identified with Their Growth and Development for the Early
Days to the Present, W. B. Lardner and M. J. Brock, Historic Record Company, 1924
|What is the future of our history?