Early on the morning of 30 October 1882, three armed masked men awaited the arrival of the Lebanon & Cookeville Stage carrying six passengers and the US Mail. The stagecoach had left Cookeville earlier in the evening and was bound for Lebanon. The passengers were totally unaware of the danger ahead.

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See Photo of Et Martin

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Coleman Lafayette Randolph - "Coley" was the son of Professor Coleman Lafayette and Margaret Fisher (Moore) Randolph. He was born 21 December 1861 in Marshall County, Tennessee. Coley's father died before 11 September 1874 and his mother before 1880. By the 1880 Census, Coley was living with his maternal uncle, Thomas David Moore. Since Coley was the stagecoach driver, he sat in the driver's seat. Coley carried $8. (See Headstone for Coleman Lafayette Randolph )

Alexander Lafayette Boyd - "Fate" Boyd was the son of Bransford and Elizabeth Jane (Jared) Boyd. He was born 22 July 1852 in Putnam County, Tennessee. He married Nancy Elizabeth Nichols on 28 April 1878 in Putnam County. By 1882, they had two daughters: Ofa M. and Effie Gray Boyd. Fate was en route to Texas with the intentions of moving his small family there. (See Photo of Fate Boyd, Headstone for Fate Boyd, ) Fate rode next to Coley Randolph. He carried $40.

Ethan and Zee Martin - "Et" and Zee Martin were the children of Dr. John Preston and Parmelia (Price) Martin. Et was born about 1863 in White County, Tennessee. His older sister, Zee, was born May 1857. In 1882, neither sibling was married. Et was 19 years old, and Zee was 25 years old. Records never stated to where the Martins were traveling. They were riding side by side in the coach. Et carried $26. (See Photo of Et Martin, Photo of Zee Martin, Headstone for Zee Martin. )

William David Harper and his mother, Mary Amanda (Leftwich) Harper - William David Harper was the intended victim of the robbery that morning. He and his mother, Mary Amanda Harper, had arrived in Cookeville sometime before the 18 October 1882 to visit family and to settle some financial details. After which, they planned to continue their journey to Texas. A rumor, circulating around the county, was that William Harper had recently sold a tract of land in the county and had received in payment cash and notes totaling $1000. The thieves expected him to be traveling with this money to Texas. (ADDITIONAL INFO)

Mary Amanda Leftwich was born 5 October 1817 in King William County, Virginia and was the daughter of William and Martha (Bates) Leftwich. She married James Madison Harper on 31 July 1839 in Tennessee. By 1850, they were living in Jackson County, Tennessee. James obtained a Land Patent for 40 acres in Hamilton County, Illinois on 15 July 1854, and the family moved to McLeansboro, Hamilton County, Illinois. By 1861, Mary and James had eight children, including William Harper. On the 5 May 1861, James left his wife and children and moved to Fannin County, Texas. Before leaving, he sold all but 40 acres of his land he owned, He left the remaining land for his wife. On the advice of friends, Mary, fearing that James would return for her children and take the remaining land, obtained a divorce on 3 October 1865. In the fall of 1872, James returned to McLeansboro. Although Mary heard rumors that James married a woman in Texas (ADDITIONAL INFO), for financial reasons, she took him back. They remarried on 19 November 1872 in Hamilton County, Illinois. James became sick shortly after the re-marriage and died on 27 September 1873. (FOOTNOTE) (See Headstone for Mary Amanda Harper )

William David Harper was born 17 April 1843 in Putnam County, Tennessee. He married Sarah Jane "Jennie" Lewis in April 1868 in Hamilton County, Illinois, and they had five children: Maude, Sarah Frances, Mary Mollie, Oscar and Jennie Harper. Jennie Harper died in infancy. In 1861 when the Civil War broke out, William enlisted on 11 September 1862 in 110 IL Infantry, Co. K, USA. He deserted the army on 13 March 1863 near Readyville, Tennessee. He was described as being 5' 2" tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. He was a farmer by trade. (FOOTNOTE)

William and Mary had traveled from McLeansboro, Illinois to Putnam County to visit family that they had in this area. Later, they had planned to travel to Nashville and then Texas. (ADDITIONAL INFO) (See Headstone for William David Harper )

Although the thieves assumed that William would be carrying a great deal of cash from a recent land sale, he actually had only $27. If he had truly sold land, he already sent this money by express to his home. William and Mary Harper sat together in the coach.


Henry Gustave Hunt -"Bugg" Hunt was the son of Daniel Hobart and Martha Frances (Twidwell) Hunt. He was born 28 July 1853 in Smith County, Tennessee. On 29 January 1872, he married Delana Tennessee Stallings, who was the daughter of James Owens and Matilda (Fultz) Stallings. On 10 August 1874, Delana gave birth to a daughter, named Lillian. Delana died either in childbirth or shortly thereafter. Bugg then married Mildred Ciotha Winfree on 30 December 1877 in Smith County, Tennessee. She was the daughter of Bennett C. and Elizabeth (Agee) Winfree. Ciotha gave birth to a son, Oscar, in April 1880.

On 24 March 1880, Bugg and several friends were drinking and gambling in Hardy Smith's stable in Smith County when William Foutch joined the party. At this time, the "Beal Seduction" Case was being prosecuted in the 5th Circuit Court in Smith County, and Foutch was a member of that jury. Foutch became so drunk that afterwards he staggered back to the Allison Hotel where members of the jury were being sequestered. Others members of the jury found him and attempted to sober him up before the trial resumed. Ultimately, Foutch prosecuted for his actions on this evening. Bugg, summoned to testify at Foutch's trial, perjured himself by testifying that "he [Bug Hunt] did not bet money or anything of value upon the said game and if any of the parties did bet he did not know it and that he was not playing with expectation or understanding that he or any of the parties were to receive anything for beating or pay anything for being beaten and if the others were he did not know it." Bugg was indicted for Perjury based on this testimony. (FOOTNOTE)

Bugg was tried for Perjury in the Fifth Judicial Circuit for Smith County, Tennessee on 29 November 1881, convicted on 10 December 1881, and sentenced to three years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. His lawyers immediately appealed his conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court and the case was heard on 1 February 1882. The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision on 2 March 1882. Between the initial hearing and the rendering of the decision, Bugg, who was out of jail on bond, left Tennessee and headed to Texas. Daniel Hunt, who posted bond for his son Bugg, forfeited his money.

While in Texas, Bugg was allegedly arrested and jailed for horse stealing. It was rumored that he might have been lynched had he not broken out of jail.

Sometime early in 1882, Bugg met and befriended John Edwards in Gainesville, Texas. Even though both men were from the Middle Tennessee area, neither met prior to their arrival in Texas.

Bugg Hunt was described to be 5' 6" to 5' 7" tall, weighing about 165 pounds, with a fair complexion, dark hair and blue eyes. He declared his religious preferences as Baptist. He claimed to be a moderate drinker. Since he had no formal education, he could neither read nor write. He was also described as having a pleasant face, "a voice like a woman's" and pleasant manners. (FOOTNOTE)

The "Edwards Boys" - John and Thomas "Tom" Edwards were the sons of James R. and Eliza (Young) Edwards of Wilson County, Tennessee. John was born 7 December 1857, and Tom was born about 1861. John married Mary A. Hayes on 17 June 1880 in Wilson County, Tennessee. She was the daughter of Samuel and Rebecca (Unknown) Hayes.

Sometime after June 1880, the Edwards Boys left Tennessee and headed for Texas. By April 1881, they arrived in Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas where John purchased and managed a Saloon.

A few days before 14 April 1881, Tom and his two new friends, Charlie E. Murphy and Jack Cook, had been drinking heavily -- probably at John's Saloon -- when a fight broke out among the men. Tom grabbed Jack and held him, while Charlie shot and killed him. Tom and Charlie immediately fled the scene. They were captured on 15 April 1881 about six miles south of Gainesville, Texas by Sheriff James A. Bolton and his posse. While Tom and Charlie were "armed to the teeth," they offered no resistance during their capture and arrest. (FOOTNOTE)

In August 1881, Tom was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree in the District Court of Cooke County, Texas and sentenced to five years in the Texas State Penitentiary. He appealed his conviction at the Tyler Branch of the Texas Court of Appeals on 14 December 1881. When the Court upheld his conviction, he was transferred to the Huntsville Prison in Walker County, Texas on 5 January 1882. Six months later, Tom managed to escape from prison on 12 June 1882 near the Houston and Texas Central Line Railway. (ADDITIONAL INFO)

By this time, Bugg Hunt was also on the run from the Texas authorities for horse stealing and other crimes. John talked Bugg and Tom into going into Indian Territory to wait for him while he sold his saloon and wrapped up other dealings. About 1 September 1882, the three men began their trek back to Tennessee. They arrived in Nashville about the 22 October 1882.

John was described to be 6' 1/4" tall with a dark complexion, dark hair and grey eyes. He had no religious preferences. He could both read and write. He described his use of intoxicants as temperate. (See Headstone for John Edwards )

Tom was described to 6' 2" tall and 185 pounds with a dark complexion, black eyes, and dark hair. He declared that he used tobacco products and that his use of intoxicants was temperate. He had a Common Education level.


About 1 September 1882, Bugg Hunt and John and Tom Edwards left Indian Territory and began making their way back to Tennessee. They arrived in Nashville on or about Sunday, 22 October 1882. This was a full week before the Stagecoach Robbery. Their movements during that week were as follows:

  • 22 October 1882, Sunday:The three men arrive in Nashville. They stay for three days getting cleaned up and resting. They traded their horses for Texas Ponies.
  • 25 October 1882, Wednesday:They left Nashville and headed for Daniel Hunt's home in Smith County, Tennessee. His home was located nine miles from Lancaster near Mulherrin's Creek. They spent the night there.
  • 26 October 1882, Thursday:On this evening, they left Daniel Hunt's home (See Photo of Daniel Hunt ) and traveled to John and Susan Medley's house, where they spent the night.
  • 27 October 1882, Friday:They left the Medley's house in the evening and began an 18-20 mile trip up the Indian Creek to Giles Bradford's house. In the evening, they passed Craven Shanks, who later reported that he saw Hunt and two other men heading towards Cookeville. After passing them, Shanks heard a lot of shouting and then several gunshots. Later, the three men set up camp in a thicket near Indian Creek about ten miles west of Cookeville. When Lafayette Isbell saw the men, they all had on white hats. Two of the men were sitting under a tree while the third was currying a horse.
  • 28 Oct 1882, Saturday:In the morning, the men cleared their camp and continued onto Giles Bradford, arriving there late morning. They turned their ponies loose in Bradford's front yard to graze. Later that afternoon, when Giles Bradford Jr went to herd cattle, Hunt and the two Edwards boys went with him. They planned to hunt squirrel. After treeing a squirrel, Hunt and John Edwards both shot at it with their pistols. The men returned to the Bradford home and spent the night.
  • 29 October 1882, Sunday:Hunt and the two Edwards left Bradford's home sometime late Sunday evening. They were spotted by Louis Leftwich and E. W. Leftwich (believed to be William Thomas Leftwich) around 10pm approximately one and a quarter miles from where the robbery took place. Around 11pm, William Jasper Huddleston spotted the three men on the Walton Road about one and a quarter miles from where the robbery took place. All three men were wearing wide brimmed Texas hats. This was the last sighting of the men until the robbery took place nearly three hours later. ( Click to See Map of their travels after returning to Tennessee)

While staying at John Medley's house or Giles Bradford's house, the men undoubtedly heard about a passenger who would be carrying an large sum of money while traveling from Cookeville to Lebanon on the Lebanon & Cookeville Stage. It was during this time frame that the plan to rob the passing stage coach was hatched.

Near Pekin, Tennessee on the Walton Road, Bug Hunt and John and Tom Edwards lay in wait for the Stage Coach to pass.

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Between 9pm - 10:30pm on Sunday, 29 October 1882 (FOOTNOTE) the passengers boarded the Lebanon & Cookeville Stage at the Cookeville Station to travel 55 miles to Lebanon. Their journey would take approximately twelve hours to complete. They were expected to arrive the next morning around 9am - 10am. (See Photo of a Stagecoach ca 1900-1910. )

William Harper and his mother, Mary A. Harper, had been spending time with her family in Putnam County. Her sister Lucy Maddux and her brothers Louis Temple Leftwich and William Thomas Leftwich lived in the 11th Civil District of Putnam County. William Harper conducted business at the Putnam County Court House while in town. Their plans were to travel onto Texas before returning to their home in McLeansboro, Hamilton County, Illinois. They probably planned to make a stop at the Nashville National Cemetery to visit the grave of George W. Harper, Mary's oldest son and William's older brother. George had died in a Nashville Hospital during the Civil War and was buried there.

Et Martin and his sister Zee were among the passengers on the stagecoach. Records never stated why they were aboard the stagecoach. At this time, Et was about 19 years old, Zee was about 23 years old. The Harpers and the Martins were riding in the coach.

Fate Boyd had only been married about five years and had two small children. Wanting to make a better life for his growing family, he had decided to travel to Texas to seek out new opportunities and possibly relocate his family out west.

Coley Randolph was the driver of the stagecoach that night. He was a young unmarried man of 21 years of age. Coley sat in the front and next to him sat Fate Boyd.

The Stagecoach ambled along the Walton Road heading west towards Lebanon. The passengers probably engaged in conversation during the ride and as the evening progressed may have attempted to get some sleep. By 1:50am, the stagecoach was nearing the spot where the robbers lay hidden -- near Pekin, Tennessee.

Suddenly, they heard a shout "HALT!"

Coley, thinking that perhaps a passenger was hoping to board the stagecoach stopped the stage. Three masked men emerged from the woods and quickly surrounded the stage. They were wearing rags tied to their faces and had on light brown broad-rimmed felt hats with ladies' waist belts around the hats. (FOOTNOTE) One of the men aimed his pistol squarely at Coley's head and ordered him and Fate to dismount. The other two robbers thrust their pistols into the coach at the stage door and ordered the passengers out of the coach. Once all the passengers had dismounted, the robbers ordered them to line up with their backs to the robbers and place their hands in the air. Two of the robbers guarded the passengers as the third began to rifle through their pockets.

As Coley dismounted the stage, he attempted to conceal part of his money in his mouth. However, he was discovered when the robbers heard the money rattled as Coley answered their directed questions. A robber extended his hand, palm up, and forced Coley to spit out his money. They got $8.

Et was traveling with $26 in silver and some paper money. He did not attempt to conceal the coins, because he felt that if they rattled he would be discovered. As he was exiting the coach, he was able to slip his paper money into his shoe. To prevent the robbers from becoming suspicious, he pretended that his foot was trapped under a slat in the coach and had free himself in order to be able to exit the carriage.

As Fate dismounted the coach, one of the thieves thrust his pistol in Fate's face and told him to hand over his money. Fate handed him a $20 gold piece but left his pocketbook hidden within a pocket. The first opportunity that he had, he surreptitiously dropped his pocketbook on the ground and placed his foot over it. After being searched and ordered back into the stage, he stooped to pick up his pocketbook. When he went to get back on the stagecoach, one of the thieves approached him and asked what he had picked up. He showed him his knife and replied "that's it." The robber said "that won't do. Hand it out!" Fate then handed him his pocketbook which contained two ten-dollar silver certificates.

William Harper had only $27 in his pocketbook. He was expected to have been traveling with $1000. He outsmarted the thieves by sending his money by express a few days earlier.

The women were not searched.

After robbing of the passengers, the thieves turned to the stage to search it. They found two mail pouches abroad the stage. One of the pouches contained the "way" mail - registered letters and letters of value. The other contained the "through" mail - everything else. The thieves selected the through mail pouch, threw it on the ground, slit the pouch and rifled through the letters. Failing to find anything of value in this pouch, they left the "way" pouch undisturbed. (See Photo of an 1880s US Mail Pouch )

After the passengers had been searched and the stage searched, the thieves gave the command to "get in and git!" They were to supposed continue to Lebanon. William Harper protested that he no longer had the means to travel to Texas and wished to return to Cookeville. The thieves told him to keep his seat and go on with the stage. With that parting remark, they crossed a fence and disappeared into the woods from whence they came.

Et Martin later stated that the whole affair probably took no longer than five minutes, but that it seemed as if it took hours. The passengers later remarked that two of the thieves seemed nervous while one was very calm.

One of the male passenger was carrying a pistol (ADDITIONAL INFO) However, owing to the element of surprise and the quick actions of the thieves, he was unable to draw his gun.

The stagecoach proceeded to the nearest farm house where a runner was dispatched to fetch the sheriff.

NEXT: The Hunt for Bugg Hunt and the two Edwards Boys