Just as with a good fishing story, the value of a lost treasure often increases with every telling. Such is the case of the Ruggles brothers treasure buried, and supposedly never found, along Middle Creek near Redding, California.
As the story goes, John and Charles Ruggles were born into a moderately prosperous family that was well respected in Tulare County, California. John gravitated towards trouble and while still in his early teens was arrested for burglary. Charles was studious and even attended college.
After being released from prison John Ruggles resumed his career as an outlaw. For reasons unknown, Charles joined his brother’s criminal escapades.
On May 14, 1892, the brothers were lying in wait near the top of the grade in Shasta County’s Henderson Gulch. They had learned the schedule of a Redding & Weaverville Stage with a shipment of gold from the Trinity diggings.
According to accounts given after the robbery, John Boyce was the driver of the coach with a four-horse team. Inside were Buck Montgomery, a Wells Fargo agent, and three passengers. Boyce later testified that as the horses lumbered up the grade a masked man stepped from the brush and ordered the coach to halt.
As he dropped the strong box from the coach, Buck Montgomery fired a shot gun from the window. Struck in the side of his head, the masked outlaw streamed blood as he opened fire. He hit Montgomery in the legs and wounded a passenger. The second masked outlaw that had been hidden among the rocks fired once killing Montgomery instantly. Boyce, bleeding profusely, drove the coach up the grade and stayed in his seat until the coach reached the Middle Creek Hotel.
The highwayman stepped into the road from his hiding place and determined that his companion sprawled in the dust wasn’t long for this world. Grabbing the strong box, he began dragging it through the brush and down to the creek.
A hastily organized posse rode to the scene from Middle Creek, and only found the outlaw that had been shot in the face. It was Charles Ruggles. Taken to the jail in Redding, he was treated for his wounds by a local doctor.
More than a month later a tip led a constable named Wycoff to Woodland, California. After a minor scuffle he arrested John Ruggles and returned him to the jail in Redding. In testimony Wycoff said that he overheard the brothers talking. John said that he had assumed his brothers wound was fatal. He also said that he took the box to the creek where he
broke it open and then, except for what he could carry in his pockets, buried the gold nearby. The date for the brothers’ trial was set for July 28, 1892. But on the night of July 24, an angry group of men broke into the jail, drug the brothers from their cells, and hung them from a derrick. An editorial published in a Los Angeles newspaper noted that, “The lynching of a brace
of stage-robbers at Redding a few nights ago was not at all in accordance with law and order; but that it will have a discouraging effect on the industry, there is little question. It will be perfectly safe to indulge in stage rides in Shasta County, no doubt, for some time to come.” A local paper published an editorial that provided a reason for the expedited execution.
“The recent sentimental attitude of a number of women toward the prisoners as well as the line of defense adopted by their counsel, who has been evidently endeavoring to implicate Messenger Montgomery as a party to the crime, had been denounced by a number of persons in the county and it is believed the lynching was due to those causes.”
Another editorial theorized, “While in jail, the handsome brothers were fed and pampered by local ladies who brought flower bouquets, cakes, fruits, and even offers of marriage, which supposedly prompted their speedy hanging by local jealous males.”
According to legend the stolen money was never recovered. At least no one admitted to finding it.
Treasure in the Redding area is not just gold buried by outlaws more than a century ago. Contact the Lynch Mortgage team for information about home sales, commercial property, or vacant land as an investment property.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America