The Last Tennessee Stagecoach Robbery
After the war ex 2nd Corporal John (Riddle) Madison Rayburn, late soldier with the 25th Tennessee Infantry, and possibly the 16th Tennessee infantry, returned to his home in Putnam County and to his wife and family. Here he took up trying to make a living as a farmer with only one leg, this proved difficult.
Needing to provide for his family he became a stage-coach driver travelling between Cookeville, TN and Nashville, TN, the 1880 census has him listed as a 'Mail Carrier'.
Near midnight on the 15 October 1882 as he drove the stage-coach along the Old Walton Road he rounded a bend near Chestnut Mound when three heavily armed masked men stepped from behind a large birch tree and waved him to a halt. The rapid stop his woke his tired and dozing passengers, two of who were Ett Martin and his sister Zee Martin.
Under the threat of the leaders rifle John, with difficulty, climbed down from the drivers seat. the passengers were now ordered out and all stood with their hands above their heads.
After relieving the passengers of their cash and any valuables they now threw the mail pouch down from the top of the stage, slit it open and emptied the contents into another unmarked sack and made there getaway into the dark night.
The passengers quickly re-boarded the stage and as fast as possible made for
the nearest township. Hear it was found that the had missed the registered mail
pouch, containing a large amount of money, and had also missed an estimated
$2,000 carried by one of the passengers.
The robbers were identified as Henry Gustave 'Bug' Hunt, who was married to Mildred Winfrey, and 'the two Edward boys'. A posse was quickly organized and set off after the robbers. Hunt was eventually caught, but the Edward boys escaped and, to the best of what's known, were never captured.
The quick capture and subsequent trial of Hunt along with the stiff sentence that he recieved discouraged other would-be stage-coach robbers as this was Tennessee's last recorded stagecoach robbery. A historical marker commemorating the event is located on U.S. Highway 70 North, about 16 miles west of Cookeville. It reads:
'Here, about midnight Oct. 15, 1882, 'Bug Hunt' and 'the two Edwards
boys', held up the Cookeville-Nashville Stagecoach driven by John
Rayburn, robbed mail and passengers, but missed the registered pouch
and quantity of money on a passenger. Hunt was later caught and went to
prison; the others escaped.'