The Great Understander: True Life Story of the Last Wells Fargo Shotgun Express Messengers

The Great Understander: True Life Story of the Last Wells Fargo Shotgun Express Messengers

by Oliver Roberts De La Fontaine

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This is the true life story of Oliver Roberts de La Fontaine, who was the last of the Wells Fargo Shotgun express messengers. Taken from his notes and journals, the book tells of his days in the early West as a rancher, miner, saloon keeper, gambler, and lawman, including his adventures of coming into contact with stage robbers and other lawless persons in California and Nevada. Later in life, Roberts de la Fontaine came to “The Walter Method,” referring to its promulgator—and compiler of this book—William W. Walter as the “Great Understander.”

“In arranging and compiling this true-life story, especial care has been taken to preserve the original wording of the narrative. No attempt has been made to embellish, enlarge or exaggerate the many thrilling experiences related by Mr. de La Fontaine. On the contrary, it is known to me that many of the experiences were far more dangerous and thrilling than explained in the diary, but Mr. de La Fontaine was as modest and good as he was brave and fearless.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781789121018
Publisher: Borodino Books
Publication date: 03/12/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 397
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

OLIVER ROBERTS DE LA FONTAINE (born 1857) was a rancher, miner, saloon keeper, gambler, lawman, and one of the last of the Wells Fargo Shotgun express messengers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A shotgun messenger was a private “express messenger” and guard, especially on a stagecoach but also on a train, in charge of overseeing and guarding a valuable private shipment, such as particularly the contents of a strongbox (on a stagecoach) or safe (on a train). The express messenger for stagecoaches typically rode in a seat on top of the coach, on the left next to the driver (who typically sat on the right side, operating the wheel brake with right arm). In the Old West of the 1880s, if a stagecoach had only a driver and no Wells Fargo messenger, this meant the coach carried no strongbox, and was thus a less interesting target for “road agents” (bandits). Wells Fargo Co. express messengers typically carried a short (or sawn-off) 12- or 10-gauge double-barrelled shotgun, loaded with buckshot. This was a most effective weapon in use against pursuing riders. Such weapons were sometimes referred to as “messenger shotguns” or, more commonly, “coach guns” (a name still used today). To some extent these weapons also carried over to use by private guards in trains with strongboxes or safes, where they were again effective.

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