Posted By admin on July 26, 2009
The Montana History Almanac in the July 26 Sunday Missoulian includes an item on the 1914 robberies by Ed Trafton and Charles Erpenback of 15 stagecoaches in succession in Yellowstone Park, all within an hour.
News accounts in the days after the heists are interesting. The first of the robbed passengers to reach Livingston said the “talkative bandit” (Trafton) was “outtalked by a suffragette in the party and had to tell her to shut up; that she talked too much and was butting into his game.” He relieved her of $75.
Erpenback reportedly stayed back from the robbery site in the woods to prevent escapes back to Old Faithful Inn. But those in returning party weren’t in agreement that there was a second bandit. A woman who climbed on a mound to take a picture returned to say she saw two armed men, but no one else saw Erpenback.
Trafton directed the victims to put their money in a feed sack on the ground. When they were finished, he flung the sack over his shoulder, wished them all a Merry Christmas and disappeared.
Though the Army under the park’s acting superintendent, Lt. Col. L.M. Brett, gave chase to the bandits, it was Jimmy McBride who tracked down Erpenback in a cabin on the park’s west side.
A civilian scout for the army, McBride was “one of the most noted characters in the Wonderland. For years he drove for the Yellowstone National Park Transportation company,” a newspaper account said. In 1919 McBride became Yellowstone’s first chief ranger, and he served in that role until retiring in 1938 at age 74.