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Click to enlargeYankee Jim

An unfortunate accident...

Digging gold was not a fun job, so miners obviously were not thrilled with having the fruits of their labors plucked by robbers, no matter how romantic "road agents" might have seemed to the readers of 19th-century pulp novels. Thus the robber known as "Yankee Jim" was not a popular figure around the gold camps northeast of Auburn, where hundreds of millions of dollars in the mineral were being found. The only clue miners had to the masked bandit's identity was the distinctive New England accent with which he spoke. One day, according to a popular account, a stranger wandered into a saloon near the diggings, and asked for a drink -- with a distinctive New England accent. The bartender summoned the vigilantes, who hanged the fellow.

But the robberies continued.

A month or so later, a Wells Fargo agent shot and wounded the robber, and vigilantes hanged him too.

The real Yankee Jim was buried alongside the unfortunate stranger, and they shared a headstone. One arrow pointed to the body of the robber, and another to the body of the stranger.

The inscription read: "Here lies the body of Yankee Jim. We made a mistake and the joke's on him."


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