Montello

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Elko County

On January 22, 1883, Montello was the site of a significant robbery attempt of a Central Pacific train. When the train stopped for water and coal, a masked man boarded the train and held the engineer at gunpoint. Five more masked men then boarded the train and headed towards the Wells Fargo express car. When they knocked on the door, it was opened by A.Y. Ross. He immediately recognized what was happening and closed the door. When they demanded that he open the door, he refused. This was followed by an exchange of gunfire through the door. Ross was wounded several times but stood his ground. Conductor James Cassin stated that the only money that the robbers got away with was the pocket money that he and another employee had on their persons. He counted seven men and nine horses. In an interview with A.Y. Ross, he stated that after he barricaded himself in the car, one of the robbers stated, "Open up, or we will burn you out and murder you." From here, the gunfight began. Ross received wounds to the fingers, hip and below the breast. Ross stated that when another train arrived, the robbers pointed their guns at that conductor and ordered him to move on. The robbers unhooked his train car and continued to order the engineer to back into his car in an attempt to break it open. They nearly succeeded. Eventually, the robbers gave up and rode away. Ross was hailed as a hero in the newspapers for his bravery during the encounter. On January 29, 1883, two robbers named Orrin Nay and Frank Hawley were captured near Deseret, Utah after a gunfight with lawmen. Hawley and Nay were wounded. The incident occurred at a horse corral a few hours from a cabin in a canyon where the other train robbers were holed up. Nay was thought to be mortally wounded at the time. Hawley was shot in both legs. The Sheriff's Posse eventually surrounded the cabin. As morning arrived, a member of the posse took a note to the barricaded men. The note informed them that they were surrounded and had no chance. It was also signed by Nay and Hawley who begged them to surrender. The three remaining men eventually surrendered and were taken into custody. On February 3, 1883, the White Pine News identified the men as: Frank Francis (40); Frank Hawley (28); Sylvester Earl (19); Erastus Anderson (19); Ormus Nay (32). However, Elko County District Attorney Dorsey received dispatch from Special Officer J.B. Hume of Wells Fargo on January 30, 1883 to file charges against: Frank Francis, Frank Hawley, Sylvanus Cobb, Rais Anderson and Orin Nay. After pleading guilty, all five men were sentenced to Nevada State Prison on March 3rd, 1883. Nay and Hawley confessed to the train robbery, as well as the Kelton stage robbery the prior Fall. They also confessed to a safe robbery/ murder at Deep Creek a few weeks prior. The following details also surfaced from Nay's confession as reported by the Eureka Daily Sentinel on March 9th: Nay claimed that there were six men in the party, not seven. He stated that the sixth man had been shot by A.Y. Ross while still on the train at Montello. While making their getaway, the sixth man died. The reason that Nay and Hawley were a few hours behind the other three, was because they stopped to bury him. Some believed that his story made sense based on the facts of the event. Others questioned if he was covering for a seventh man. The following prison sentences were delivered: Frank Hawley, Frank Francis and Ormus Nay were each given either 14 or 15 years. Sylvester Earl and Ras. Anderson were each given 12 years, based on being only 18 years of age. Another convict familiar with the gang stated that the man killed by Ross was known as John Brently. The convict stated that this was likely a fake name. He stated that Brently had been involved in another Southern Utah stagecoach robbery a few years prior. The convict stated that Brently's partner in that stage robbery was a man named Jack Todd. It was speculated that Jack Todd and Frank Hawley were the same person. The Eureka Daily Sentinel also reported that Nay had formerly been a coal burner at Pancake in White Pine County. He was thought of as a less than desirable person while in White Pine County.

Montello was further established by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1904 when the Lucin Cutoff across western Utah was completed. The first train stopped here in March of 1904. Houses were previously moved to Montello from Kelton and Terrace, Utah in anticipation of the first train arrival. When Montello replaced Terrace, it caused the demise of that town. Montello was previously known as Bauvard. When the post office opened at Montello, it kept the name of Bauvard until 1912. Montello would establish itself as a real town. Complete with a hotel, businesses, schoolhouse and a Chinatown. The population eventually reached 800 residents. Montello not only served as a rail hub for the nearby mining ventures, but also for the major cattle operations in the area. By 1916, Montello built a new jail. It replaced the old jail that had been built out of railroad ties. A fire in October of 1925 burned many businesses. Montello was already in decline though. The fire destroyed the cafe, a store, the pool hall, post office and a residence. Likely the most notable event that occurred in Montello, was when future President Herbert Hoover gave a speech here in November of 1928. As paved roads and vehicle travel gained prominence in the 1950's and early 1960's, Montello lost its importance as a rail stop. Montello is still a living town, although the population is extremely small.

Post Office: February 27, 1912 to Present.

Last Trip/ Road Conditions: The last trip was in June of 2016. A friend of mine whose family ranches in Northwestern Utah met me here to deliver beef. His family's ranch is not too far from where the train robbers were captured. Montello is a very quiet and very rural town. It is located a long way from any other modern convenience. It did appear that the saloon was still open though.

Sources: Carson Daily Appeal (Newspaper); Eureka Daily Sentinel (Newspaper); White Pine News (Newspaper); The Silver State (Newspaper); Elko Independent (Newspaper); Pioche Weekly Record (Newspaper); Old Heart of Nevada- Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Elko County (By: Shawn Hall).