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Old Joe

June 24, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

It's been said that a wagon rests in winter, a sleigh in summer. A horse never. Here's the story of Old Joe.

On a hot July day at the turn of the century, an old driver stood over the grave of his best friend and offered up a prayer. The inscription on the crude tombstone simply read "Old Joe. Died July 3, 1901." It stood all alone next to the well travelled road leaving to Foresthill California. People say it is still standing today.

In the early 1850's, both prospectors and stage drives travelled the well worn route from Auburn into the gold rush camp around Foresthill. Many pioneers and miners lost their lives in that area that yielded millions of dollars in gold. Old Joe was one of them.

Old Joe was a stagecoach horse who sacrificed his life in an attempt to carry through to safety passengers and supplies entrusted to him. He was fatally wounded by a gunshot when the stage driver refused to stop. Joe died with his harnesses on. His body was dragged to the side of the road he travelled day after day and buried.

The stage robbery was the last one on the line. A young man, a resident of Foresthill was arrested and charged with the crime sometime afterward. Years later the Wells Fargo box that was carried away from the scene of the robbery was found in the American River Canyon.

A large black oak, behind which the robber stood while waiting the approach of the stage, still stands as a sentinel over Old Joe's grave. When the bandit shot Old Joe, driver Henry Crockett, in spite of the shotgun leveled at him by the bandit didn't hesitate to express his rage, "You've killed the best horse in this country and you'll pay for it," he shouted.

Several years later, Crockett was struck by a fast passenger engine and died shortly thereafter. Unlike Joe, Crockett's burial site is not known. Old Joe's grave is located seven miles south of Auburn, California.



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