Episode 2: Rattlesnake Dick

Listen to Placer Unsolved episode 2:  Rattlesnake Dick

If you grew up in Placer County, CA chances are you’ve heard the legend of Rattlesnake Dick.  He was the outlaw mastermind behind an $80K gold heist and half of the treasure he buried is still out there somewhere off Auburn-Folsom Road waiting to be found.  He was a dangerous bandit and fugitive hunted down by deputy Boggs and killed by an angry posse.  But did any of that really happen?  What if almost everything you’ve heard and read about Rattlesnake Dick isn’t true, or , at least, hasn’t been confirmed?  Was he really the mastermind of that mule train robbery?  Did he and his accomplices really steal $80K in gold?  Is half of it actually still buried out here in Placer County?  And if so, can we find it?  Is the sheriff’s posse truly responsible for Rattlesnake Dick’s death?  And is he even buried where his headstone sits in the Old Auburn Cemetery?  Tune in to episode 2 of Placer Unsolved Podcast to find out!

Listen to episode 2:  Rattlesnake Dick


George M. Martin’s obituary



Grand Jury indictment against Richard Barter for “assault with intent to commit murder” against Placer County Deputy John C. Boggs in 1858.


Not Deputy John C. Boggs as the caption states in this booklet about Placer County.  It’s actually another Placer County deputy.



History of Siskiyou County book that states all of Rattlesnake Dick’s treasure was recovered.  But was it?


This Placer County History book states Rattlesnake Dick was never recorded as a killer but is that true?



Cy Skinner’s statement that includes Bill Gristy’s name.







San Francisco Daily Morning Call, March 27 & 28, 1873 “Pirate of the Placers”









Unconfirmed Claims Regarding Rattlesnake Dick:

  • Born in 1833 in Quebec, Canada to British officer
  • Purported to be a reckless child
  • Came to California with two family members to find gold
  • Got his name “Rattlesnake Dick” from living in the Rattlesnake Bar area
  • Family members he arrived in town with eventually went back home while Barter decided to stay and continue prospecting
  • Began his life of crime after being falsely accused of theft numerous times after his arrival in Rattlesnake Bar area
  • Member of notorious Tom Bell gang
  • $12K of gold stolen during Trinity Mountain Express Robbery has never been found
  • Missing gold is still buried at the base of Trinity Mountains; or under the Raley’s parking lot in Auburn, CA where the old Junction House once stood; or off Auburn-Folsom Road near where the old Mountaineer House used to be; or in Nevada City somewhere
  • Trinity Mountain Express Robbery was really the Rhodes and Whitney Express robbery that occurred on March 12, 1856 (unconfirmed but most likely true)
  • All of the stolen gold has been recovered
  • “Pirate of the Placers” piece was sensationalized for entertainment purposes (unconfirmed but in my layman’s opinion it was)
  • Shot through the head by his companion that night


Unconfirmed (and most likely untrue) Claims Regarding Rattlesnake Dick:

  • Exonerated and released early from San Quentin prison after conviction for theft
  • Mastermind behind $80K gold bullion heist at the base of Trinity Mountains
  • Photo result from Google search is Barter (confirmed untrue)
  • Learned of stagecoach carrying $80K in gold on Trinity Mountain from drunk mining engineer
  • Arrested in Placer County with Cy Skinner for theft of horses and mules to be used as replacement horses in Trinity Mountain Express Robbery (confirmed untrue)
  • $80K stolen in the Trinity Mountain Express Robbery (confirmed untrue)
  • Jack Berkeley of Wells Fargo is responsible for the capture and killing of members of this gold heist gang (confirmed untrue)
  • Buried in the Old Auburn Cemetery under his headstone (confirmed untrue)


Confirmed Claims Regarding Rattlesnake Dick:

  • Tried and acquitted of stealing clothing from “a Jew” in Sacramento Co.
  • Tried and convicted of stealing a horse/mule from WA Pratt and sent to San Quentin prison for one year sentence
  • Tried and acquitted of stealing horse/mule from Remington in Sacramento Co.
  • Photo of Rattlesnake Dick during Google search is actually another outlaw:  Sam Bass
  • Arrested in Butte County under alias of George French for murder of “Chinaman”
  • Escaped many jail cells including Butte County’s
  • Later admitted to being the Butte County escapee and told jailers how he escaped
  • Arrested for highway robbery in Nevada County in 1856
  • Let go for murder of “Chinaman” for lack of evidence after being recaptured
  • Cy Skinner alone was arrested for theft of mules/horses in Placer County to be used as replacement horses in Trinity Mountain Express Robbery; Skinner claimed his only partner was William Golden, aka Bill Gristy
  • Bill Carter buried “half” the stolen gold at the base of the Trinity Mountains; that portion was found by law enforcement
  • Only $28K in gold stolen in Trinity Mountain Express Robbery
  • George Skinner (the outlaw who supposedly buried the missing portion of the gold) was killed in a shootout with law enforcement at the gang’s cabin near Folsom, CA
  • Never been placed at the scene of the Trinity Mountain Robbery or in the theft of the replacement mules/horses in Placer County
  • Legend regarding his involvement in the Trinity Mountain Express Robbery came from featured piece called “Rattlesnake Dick – The Pirate of the Placers” in SF newspaper in March 1873
  • “Pirate of the Placers” piece had much misinformation in it
  • Outlaws involved in the Trinity Mountain Robbery were captured by Sacramento Police Officer Robert Harrison, Marshall Isaac Anderson of Marysville, CA, and Marysville Police Captain AJ Barkley
  • Rattlesnake Dick indicted in 1858 for “assault with intent to commit murder” against Placer County Deputy John Boggs
  • Died on July 11, 1859
  • Found dead on pile of brush where the old Junction House once stood and where the Raley’s parking lot now sits in Auburn, CA
  • Found with paper in his pocket that said on one side, “If J. Boggs is dead I am satisfied” and on the other side, “Rattlesnake Dick dies, but never surrenders, as all true Britons do”
  • Although he was shot through his body by law enforcement, a gunshot wound to his head killed him
  • Letter from his sister found on his body
  • Rattlesnake Dick’s partner the night of his death has never been identified
  • Unmarked grave under the Veteran’s Memorial Hall parking lot in Auburn, CA


***Music in this episode provided by Blue Dot Sessions, Jason Shaw, and Secret Jane***

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