Muscatine County, Iowa


Submitted by: Dr. A.J. Taylor, Director
Rio Grande County Museum and Cultural Center
580 Oak Street, Del Norte, CO 81132
Date Submitted: July 10, 2008
    I am researching two brothers who became stagecoach robbers in southern Colorado and were hung by a lynch mob in Del Norte, Colorado on May 23, 1881; the lynched brothers were Arthur Pond (alias Billy LeRoy) and Samuel Potter. A third brother, Charles Pond, wrote to Del Norte’s newspaper, the San Juan Prospector (it is mentioned in the November 19, 1881 issue of the paper), asking about the disposition of the bodies of his two brothers. The address given for Charles Pond was West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa. Any further information about this family would be appreciated.
    Sincerely, A.J.


Source of Article: “THE SAN JUAN PROSPECTOR”, Del Norte, Colorado

A Letter From Their Brother, in Iowa, Asking About the Disposal of the Bodies.
A Question Settled

The postmaster in Del Norte, this week, received the following letter, which explains itself:

    West Liberty, Iowa
    November 8, 1881
    Dear Sir:- Will you please let me know what was done with the bodies of Billy Le Roy and Sam. Potter? I understand they were both hung for state-robbing on the 2nd of last May. Will you please let me know as soon as possible? They were my brothers, and I would like to have their bodies if it is so I can get them.
    Charles Pond.
    West Liberty, Muscatine Co., Iowa.
The above letter effectually settles the question as to whether Billy LeRoy and Arthur Pond were brothers. As to the recovery on the bodies, we suppose there will be no trouble, as they were buried in the vicinity of Del Norte.


Source of Article : “THE SAN JUAN PROSPECTOR”, Del Norte, Colorado, Saturday, May 28, 1881 No. 382

LeRoy and Potter, Road Agents and Desperadoes, Captured by Del Norters.
They Register at the Del Norte Jail, are Taken out by Masked Men, and “Fixed” for the Coyotes
Both Men Die Game, Not Even a Whisper for Mercy or Time to Pray.
Broken Necks are Trumps, and Billy and Sammy Ornament the the Lower Pits of Hades.
Full Particulars of the Pic-nic, From the Robbery to Rope- Bad Men

Notes By The Way.

Our readers will remember that mention was made in the last issue of this paper of the coach having been robed at a point six miles east of Clear creek station, and that a party from Del Norte had gone in search of the agents. The particulars of the robbery, as nearly as can be ascertained, are as follows: Three men stepped into the road alongside the coach, and fired three shots at the driver and the man sitting alongside of him, whom the robbers supposed to be the messenger. One shot was from a Winchester rifle, and the others from a 38 calibre pistol. The shot from the rifle took effect in the thigh of the supposed messenger, who was, in reality, only a traveler, being Mr. Frank Bartlett, one of the principal civil engineers of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. The robbers then told the driver, Joseph McCormick, to “hold up,” which he did as soon as possible. The smallest of the three men then climbed up on the coach, in front, and with the muzzle of a Pistol grazing the cold sweat from the forehead of Bartlett, told him to hold up his hands while he (the robber) hunted for “sugar”. The robber took from Bartlett a fine gold watch and chain, saying, “that will tell us when it is time to hold up the next coach”. He then searched Bartlett’s pockets, finding a roll of bills, which he drew out, saying, “How much sugar is there here?” Bartlett said, “about $110.” That, “ said the robber, “is not so d-d bad, either.” Aside from the roll of bills, about $10 in silver was taken. The robber then asked the driver what he could produce, upon which McCormick replied, “here is a pistol you can have,” and was upon the point of getting it for him, when the agent said, “Never mind, keep your hands up, I will wait upon myself.” After securing the mail, consisting of five lock pouches, the driver was told to pass on, as the inside passengers were not wanted. The captain of the agents seemed to be well pleased, and wore a smile continually while executing the work.

The robbery occurred at about eight o’clock in the evening. The mail was taken about a mile from the road, and the sacks cut open and rifled of their contents, from which it is supposed that about $45 were taken in money, and $1,286.57 in bank drafts. Between twelve and four o’clock, it snowed to a depth of about three inches, making it impossible to track the thieves. From where the mail was rifled, they had gone back to the stage-road. The news was carried through to Lake City and from there telegraphed to Del Norte. The citizens called a meeting and money was raised to defray the expenses of a searching party, and a liberal reward was offered for their arrest. It sometimes happens that fate decrees that men shall suffer for their crimes at once. It was so in this case. Fortunately W.H. Cochran was camped with a party of W.W. Allen’s men, who were out surveying Government land. The camp was situated about two miles from the Lake City wagon road. About seven o’clock in the morning, three men were seen coming toward the camp, and as soon as they discovered that they were seen, they came straight to the camp, and called for breakfast, which was furnished. They seemed to be in a great hurry, and when one of the boys remarked that it was time to saddle the pony and go for the mail, the leader, for a moment, seemed frightened, and soon after exhibited greater signs of haste. They left the camp on the old Ute trail to Lake City, but had gone only a short distance when they were seen by a hunter who had gone out early. They went into a clump of bushes and divided he money and valuables. While they espied the hunter, and as they had tried to buy a rifle from the boys in camp, concluded to have one any way. They surrounded the hunter, but he eluded them. Cochran then dispatched a man to Lake City with instructions to notify the stock-tender at Powder Horn, and also to send work down the Cebolia. The robbers probably saw the courier, and concluded to camp in the mountains.

On Friday morning Capt. Burros, John Ewing, Robt. Shields and Dr. F. G. Flournoy arrived in the park near where the surveyors were camped, and were put on the trail. In the meantime Sheriff Armstrong had gone to Galloway’s thinking possibly that the robbers had gone across to the Rio Grande. A courier was dispatched asking Armstrong and J.P. Galloway to come at once, as the thieves were “treed” in the mountains. About the time of their arrival M.G. Frost, Division Agent for the coach line, and Dan Soward came up, and all four were taken and shown the trail the thieves had taken. After following the trail for about two miles, they came upon a man with a rifle in his hand, and from the description given by the surveying party, knew at once that they had their man. He was ordered to “throw up his hands,” which at the point of two guns he did. He was made to confess the robbery, and stated that one of his “pards” had gone to Lake City for grub, while the other had gone down to a toll road camp. Frost and Soward took him in charge while Armstrong and Galloway watched for the return of the one who had gone to the road camp. He soon put in an appearance, and as soon as he espied Armstrong he drew his revolver. He was then about 130 yards distant, and realizing that a small pistol was no match for a Ballard rifle, he whirled and sprang for the brush. Armstrong fired at the same instant, and the shot took effect in the calf of the left leg. The victim fell into the willows,, and was out of sight. Armstrong and Galloway both covered the spot with their guns and ordered him to come out. He replied that he could not, as he was shot.

They then told him to crawl, which he did. They then went up to him, and Armstrong remarked that he was sorry to have been obliged to shoot the captive, to which he replied, “I wish you had killed me. The jig is up now and I will be done for. I am al-ready sentenced to ten years in the House of Correction at Detroit, and this will wind me up.” “Why – who are you?” said Armstrong. “I am Billey LeRoy, the road agent and desperado!” LeRoy then confessed to having robbed the coach near Clear creek, and also to having been in the party which fired upon it below Del Norte.

The prisoners wee then taken to Clear creek station, while Calloway and Frost remained to secure the third man, who had gone to Lake City. They remained at the robbers’ camp all night, but he failed to put in an appearance. The prisoners were brought to Wagon Wheel Gap, where the entire party was net by others from Del Norte. Armstrong deputized J. L. Jordan and others to escort the prisoners to the Del Norte Jail. They learned that about two hundred of the citizens proposed to meet the party and lynch the prisoners.

The Sheriff concluded to await until after night, and, by a roundabout road, got in without any difficulty. It seems that the enraged citizens concluded to allow the prisoners to be lodged in jail, and to then overpower the Sheriff and guards and gain possession of the robbers. Jno. Ewing, Willard Cleghorn and Geo. A. Scibird were appointed to guard the prisoners, and placed in jail just outside the inner cells. At 12 o’clock a. a body of forty armed and masked men marched to the jail, having previously overpowered the Sheriff and secured the keys. When the jail door was being opened, the guards inside called out, “Who’s there?” The person who had the key replied, “Lew,” (the Sheriff.) The door was then thrown open and men rushed in, seized and bound the guards, after a manly struggle on the part of the latter, then entered the cell and told the prisoners to arise. The prisoners exhibited no signs of fear or trembling – not a muscle quivered. The only words uttered were by LeRoy, who said, “You g-d d-d s-s of b-s!” The prisoners were carried out and placed in a wagon, taken to a tree near the pest house and swung to a limb. Both went up the time, and it is reported that they did so without saying another word. A piece of paper was found pinned to LeRoy’s body with these words:

Road Agents, Bunko Steerers
And Horse-Thieves,

The bodies were cut down and taken back to the jail, where they remained until the next morning without guard. The Coroner was called, and the following verdict rendered:

    County of Rio Grande, }ss
    At an inquisition holden at Del Norte, in the said county and state aforesaid, on the 23d day of May, A.D. 1881, before L.T. Holland, Coroner, upon the bodies of Arthur Pond, alias Billy LeRoy, and Sam. Potter, (upon whose right arm was tattooed the letters “S.P.,” from which, and the great resemblance between the two men, the jury believe them to be brothers,) there lying dead, by the persons whose names are hereunto subscribed, and said jurors, upon their oaths, do say, that said persons above named and described, came to their death by hanging, at the hands of a large party of masked and disguised men, who kidnapped and confined L.M. Armstrong, Sheriff of said county and Deputy U.S. Marshal, and who also overpowered the guards in the jail, after having taken by force from said Deputy U.S. Marshal the keys of the jail and cells. Said party of disguised men the jury are unable to identify from the evidence or otherwise. We, the jury, further find that no blame whatever attaches to Mr. Armstrong or any of the guards who were in immediate charge of said prisoners. The jail referred to in this verdict is the jail of Rio grande county, Colorado, or the building used for that purpose.
    {signed,} Thos. M Bowen, Foreman.
    Herman Schiffer.
    A. S. Goodrich.
    R. M. Case.
    Ben. H. Wilson.
    Henry Keil.

    L.T. Holland,Cornoner.
Gen. R. A. Cameron and Sim Cantril both identified the corpse as that of Billy LeRoy, and Cameron also proved conclusively that they were brothers.

This article would be incomplete without a favorable mention of those named who assisted so materially in the capture, and none were more untiring than M.G. Frost, who placed the men, horses and everything belonging to the stage company at the disposal of those who needed them to capture the robbers. The citizens of Del Norte certainly did their duty, and let us hope that this will be a lesson to those who comtemplate committing such crimes. Every new country must necessarily be infessed with men of low character, and while they may defy the civil law, they will think twice before outraging an enraged people who take the law into their own hands.

The bank drafts found in possession of the robbers were taken by Sheriff Amstrong to Asa F. Middaugh’s bank, from whence they were returned to the rightful owners.

The question as to the proper parties to whom the reward should be paid has not been definitely settled, but as two of the robbers were caught and $1,000 extra has been offered by the United States Government, there should be at least $2,400 coming to the captors of these outlaws.

Notes By The Way.

Soon after Le Roy’s arrival at Wagon Wheel Gap, he was besieged by inquisitive parties on all sides. He was not averse to talking and answered all freely. Le Roy was placed upon a bed made on the floor, and Sheriff Armstrong began searching his person for money, thinking probably there might be more of the spoils of the robbery secreted around his clothes somewhere. Le Roy laughed about the matter, and addressed the Sheriff with: “Go in, country boy; I’ll give you half you find.”

Le Roy was afterward placed upon a bed not made upon the floor, and a guard consisting of Messrs. Maguire, Cleghorn and Scibird was placed over both him and his brother, this guard being relieved in the latter part of the night by Messrs. Jordan, Jackson and Gardner.

In answer to numerous questions, Le Roy was very free. He stated that his first stage-robbing was done last fall, and that he received instructions in the matter from an old Californian, with whom he was traveling, who first broached the subject to him and found an apt scholar. Le Roy also stated that he was decidedly opposed to the shooting, and had “always kicked against it,” but finally so lost control of his men that he could not prevent it.

Among other things, Le Roy spoke of his escape from Sim, Cantril, on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, while being taken to the Detroit House of Correction, the particulars of which are as follows: Le Roy stated that while in the Pueblo jail, he was shackled with a new fangled shackle” that unlocked with a key. He figured upon the situation a while, and found that he could unlock these shackles with a watch spring, which fact was discovered by the guards, and he was shackled with the “old fashioned shackle,” which unlocked with a wrench. Le Roy stated that he manufactured a wrench with a piece of wire, which unlocked his shackles nicely, and he proceeded to hide his wrench by pushing it under the skin on the underside of his left arm, between the elbow and shoulder. He was taken to Denver, stripped, and the wrench was not discovered, and with this wrench under his arm he left for Detroit. While Cantril was in the wash-room, Le Roy said he used this wrench to unlock his shackles, and jumped from he train while the same was moving at the rate of thirty miles an hour. He was stunned by his leap, but soon recovered himself sufficiently to skip back to Hayes City, where he lay under a house for two days. During the time when LeRoy was in the vicinity of Hayes City, evading the officers of he law, he stated that he subsisted for three days upon one ear of corn. Thee is a discrepancy in his story as to whether he went East of West from Hayes City, but it is generally believed that he went to Iowa, remainded a short time, and enticed his brother to come West with him and enter into the hold-up business. It is generally known that Samuel Pond had been but a few weeks in the country, as he stated several times that the first stage-coach he ever saw was the one fired upon by his party below Del Norte two weeks ago.

Billy LeRoy also stated that no blame should be attached to Marshal Cantril for his escape from the cars as Cantril was entirely innocent of any complicity in the matter.

When arrested, Le Roy had a 38-calibre “Bull-dog” pistol on his person. It was a small pocket edition, and when surprise was maintested by some of the guards that he should attempt a highway business with so small a pistol as the one used by him, he said: “A corn-cob is just as good as a pistol to hold up a coach with.”

Le Roy rather boasted of his stealing propensities, and said he would continue to steal from the Government as long as he had a chance to do so. He said the world had always been against him and people would not let him lead an honest life if he wished to do so. He related his success in stealing pies in Leadville also gave an account of the cute manner in which he appropriated a shot-gun form a Lake City saw-mill.

Le Roy said he had never killed anybody, and that his downfall might be attributed to whisky, women and general dissipation, “for,” said he, “you know how a young fellow goes when he gets started.”

While the Sheriff and his party were en route to Del Norte, a stop was made on Pinos creek to await nightfall, and a long talk was had with the prisoners, who realized their situation. Both prisoners plead for pistols,, that they might die fighting, “for.” Said Le Roy, “I would not mind being killed if I could have a chance to fight; but this thing of being taken out by a mob and strangled, is bad.”

The prisoners seemed very grateful at being landed safely in jail, and talked considerable. Sam. Potter, or Pond, among other things, said” “Boys, up to the time we reached Shaw’s ranch, I did not suffer much mentally, but when we were taken in to the house there and that lady showed us so much attention, offered me books to read, milk to drink, and many other attentions, I had to weaken. It reminded me of my own old mother- of her untiring kindness to me when a boy, and the big scalding tears rolled down my cheeks in spite of me.” Here we noticed Potter trying to swallow a lump that persisted in rising up in this throat, and tears fell from his eyes.

The prisoners were not educated men, as was often shown by their language.Their ideas of eternity were a but naught, having never read up much on the hereafter. When told of the probabilities of their being lynched, the robbers said they had no word to send relatives, but would “make the best of a bad job.” Sam. Potter, or Pod, said: “Any man who will follow stage-robbing as a business is none too good to be hung.”

The day following the hanging, the corpses, stiff as crow bars, in Zulu costume, were balanced against the outside of the jail, and photographed by J. J. Cornish, of Del Norte, who now has the pictures on sale.

Adios, Pond Bros. – road agents.


Also mentioned in same paper:

Frank Bartlett, the man shot by the road agents, is at the Windsor Hotel, getting along nicely.


Dr. Taylor offers the following references, if anyone is interested in reading more about the LeRoy (Pond) brothers and their demises:

    Dugan, Mark 1987 Bandit years: A Gathering of Wolves. Western Legacy History Series. Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, NM. [Part Three – A Renegade Wolf: Billy LeRoy. Chapter I “I Am A Rober And I am a good one to” pp. 26-34. Chapter II “Buzzard Meat. Pp. 35-59.]

    Leonard, Stephen J. 2002 Lynching in Colorado 1859-1919. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO. [various]

    Wilson, R. Michael 2007 Frontier Justice in the Wild West: Bungled, Bizarre, and Fascinating Executions. Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT. [7th Chapter: “The Pond Brothers Lynched by Vigilantes, May 23, 1881,” pp. 49-56.]

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