— TRACKING LAWBREAKERS —
A young gambler by the name of Fred Dodge sat behind the driver of the stagecoach that rolled into Tombstone on a sunny but nippy winter afternoon in early December 1879. His journey to Arizona Territory, however, involved much more than spending time at a card table.
Gambling provided Dodge the flexibility he needed to carry out his duties as an undercover agent for Wells Fargo & Co.
Wells Fargo authorities sent the 25-year-old to Tombstone to investigate a series of recent stagecoach holdups and also wanted him to determine whether any company employees were involved in the crimes.
Soon after arriving, he struck up a friendship with Wyatt Earp and his brothers, although they knew nothing about the shadowy life he led.
Fast with a gun and a man of superior tracking skills, Fred Dodge spent fifty years—most of his adult life—working undercover assignments for Wells Fargo.
Frederick J. Dodge, born August 29, 1854, in Spring Valley, California, once described himself as the “first White Child to be Born in the northern part of Butte County.”
His father befriended a tribe of Indians that taught his son how to use the bow and arrow and the sling shot. The younger Dodge also learned his tracking skills from the tribe.
Before traveling to Tombstone, he worked as an operative for Wells Fargo throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona.
In the spring of 1880, Dodge managed to convince Wells Fargo to hire Wyatt Earp as a stagecoach shotgun messenger. Earp became deputy sheriff of Pima County a few months later and passed the same job on to his brother, Morgan.
Dodge served as a constable in Tombstone at one point. He also supported the Earps in their simmering feud preceding the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
He and Wyatt remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Dodge spent much of his time traveling by rail and stagecoach for Wells Fargo and, according to one account, logged as many as 37,000 miles in one year.
Throughout this demanding lifestyle, Dodge kept meticulous notes in daily diaries about crime-fighting adventures.
He filled twenty-seven diaries, most of which he used to write, Undercover for Wells Fargo, (edited by Carolyn Lake) which detailed his sometimes dangerous days on the American frontier.
A master detective, Dodge earned an enviable reputation as a lawman who solved numerous stagecoach holdups and train robberies.
Working undercover brought him into contact with several infamous outlaws—including Curly Bill Brocius, who got into various scrapes with the Earps.
Dodge also teamed up with lawman Heck Thomas to track down lawbreakers in Kansas and Oklahoma, including train robbers Charles Bryant, J.B. Humphrey, and Ed Reeves.
His investigative skill also helped pave the way to the demise of the Bill Doolin gang, and the Dalton brothers.
Before retiring in 1917, Dodge purchased two-thousand acres of land in the Boerne, Texas, area, just outside San Antonio, and called it Dodge Ranch.
He lived there with his family until his death, December 16, 1938, at the age of 84.