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Bob Goodwin
Roger Pocock's adventurous ride - A Response
Mon Mar 5, 2018 9:46pm

Roger Pocock’s 1899 3,600 mile trek from Ft. Macleod, Canada to Mexico City was a worthy accomplishment. He first wrote about the feat, not in 1903 but in 1900 in a series of articles published by Lloyd’s Weekly newspaper of London. These articles titled “Canada to Mexico: A Ride Across the Great American Desert” were published just months after his arrival in Mexico City and within a couple of weeks after his arrival back in London. The actual writing of the series happened while on board the steamer taking him back to England. The 1903 publication copied, with few alterations the text of the 1900 series.
Reviews of the 1903 book Following the Frontier (A Frontiersman) were mixed. Reviews ranged from glowing reports of Pocock’s many accomplishments to incredulity (The Canada to Mexico trip consisted of only three of eighteen chapters, and only one of the ten stories). Most reviews and reviewers were somewhere in the middle, admiring Pocock’s feats, while sometimes questioning his veracity. It must be remembered that Pocock’s targeted audience was initially the aristocratic and middle-class reading families of turn of the century England who fed upon the adventures of England’s Gentlemen Adventurers.
That Pocock actually rode the 3600 miles was never in doubt. His papers, maps, notes and itineraries all make it clear that he left Fort Macleod on June 28, 1899, just 26 days after the Wilcox train robbery, and ended up in Mexico City January 21, 1900; making the trip in about 200 days.
For Wild Bunch enthusiasts what makes Pocock’s tale interesting is his description of various outlaws and outlaw strongholds he passed along the way, Jackson Hole, Brown’s Park, and Robbers Roost. At each, he stops his narrative and describes the terrain, and the many colorful inhabitants of each. His travel through Jackson Hole, where he places may too much emphasis on its outlaw connections, and Brown’s Park, have never been questioned. Robbers Roost on the other hand has.
Robbers Roost and its inhabitants form the central focus of his tale. Pocock took great pains to dispel the descriptions and myths that had arisen concerning the roost. Mostly from Eastern newspapers, the Roost was described as an impregnable, series of caves with electricity, carpeted floors and grand pianos for the comfort of the outlaws and their consorts. All protected by well placed machine guns and dynamite to discourage any western lawmen from entering its confines.
While Pocock implied in his Lloyd’s Weekly articles, and admitted in his 1911 newspaper story, he never actually entered the Roost. He details his trouble and ultimate failure in obtaining a guide to the Roost while in Montecello, Utah, stating that when he asked the Mormon Bishop of Monticello how he could secure a guide to the Roost, the Bishop sent out word that Pocock was an outlaw and all in the community refused help. No, he never actually made it, though he did try.
Nevertheless, Pocock felt it was his duty to dispel the myths that had been built around the Roost. He detailed what information he had garnered from local cowboys, ruffians, and gentiles in the area concerning the real facts of the Roost and its inhabitants. In true 19th century English style prose, Pocock weaves in and out from truth to myth, and then back again to illustrate the fiction and facts surrounding the Roost. When citing facts, as he heard them from the locals, he is clear and unequivocal about the direction, condition and setting of the Roost. While he may have been a little fuzzy about some of the inhabitants (most of the locals were equally as fuzzy), he correctly mentions the number of outlaws usually around the place (about 10). He is also correct on the location and setting of the cabin, corrals, and pasturage. Lastly he curiously mentions the wives of the outlaws (who knew the some of the outlaws had wives), and the two girls transported to the Roost in 1896 for the comfort of the men. All of these facts were not generally known to the public at the time. Certainly such a description was not found residing in the encyclopedias.
Where did Pocock get his information? He never says. His itinerary mentions several men around Bluff and Monticello that may have provided information. In his 1900 and 1903 text he never reveals who he may have talked to, except in general terms. However in his 9 March 1911 “Buenos Aries Herald” article he revealed that upon arriving in Flagstaff he spent “five days making friends with a member of the central gang, who worked as a stable man to watch the country as a spy from headquarters.” Pocock named him “One-eyed Riley.” It is possible that One-eyed Riley was Pocock’s main source of information about the Roost.
Pocock’s map and travel notes make it clear that he did not spend long in Monticello or Bluff. They also illustrate the fact that he did not get to Robbers Roost itself. His account of the Roost and its inhabitants sound like he was there, a mistake a casual reader may make, but a detailed reading makes it clear that he was not, and he never claims that he was.
Is Roger Pocock a reliable source? Roger Pocock gives the most accurate contemporary information concerning Robbers Roost found anywhere. Is some of it exaggerated? Possibly, Roger Pocock was an English Adventurer.

  • Roger Pocock's adventurous ride, cont'dDaniel Buck, Mon Mar 5 5:17am
    Between late June 1899 and late January 1900, British adventurer Roger Pocock rode horseback from Fort Macleod, Alberta, to Mexico City, some 3,600 miles across Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado,... more
    • Excellent Pat, Tue Mar 6 9:21am
      I enjoyed your version very much. If I may make an observation here and hope I say it right. You and I live in these western lands ,Utah and Wyoming , where people from the east may not understand... more
      • Re: Excellent Daniel Buck, Tue Mar 6 11:41am
        Pat, If you've read anything we (I &/or Anne Meadows) have written you would know that we discussed & weighed Percy Seibert's stories & exaggerations on a number of occasions, and as well those of... more
        • I do read. Pat, Tue Mar 6 12:42pm
          But I read more than just your little book that got so much wrong. I have emails and phone calls from Percy's granddaughter and great granddaughter which back up what I said. I do know she was very... more
          • PSPat, Tue Mar 6 12:48pm
            In the huge file on Rollo Glass (over 350 pages) that I gave to Mike is a lot of info you have left out. Percy went to La Paz and emptied out Rollo's office of all papers. That is where the... more
    • Roger Pocock's adventurous ride - A Response — Bob Goodwin, Mon Mar 5 9:46pm
      • Re: Roger Pocock's adventurous ride - A ResponseDaniel Buck, Tue Mar 6 3:30am
        Bob, All quite informative, but it elides the point of my post, that in spite of Roger Pocock's suggestions in his autobiography, A Frontiersman, and the assertions of his biographer, Geoffrey A.... more
        • re: Roger Pocock's adventurous ride - A ResponseBob Goodwin, Tue Mar 6 5:36am
          Dan, You obfuscate the true purpose of your initial post, that is: Since Roger Pocock did not actually get to Robbers Roost, as a casual reading of his works might suggest, then what he wrote,... more
          • re: Roger Pocock's adventurous ride - A ResponseDaniel Buck, Tue Mar 6 5:54am
            Bob, What I wrote was this: "It does appear that Pocock actually made the journey. In late November 1899, New Mexico newspapers reported him being found lost and starving near Deming. In late January ... more
            • re; Roger Pocock etc.Bob Goodwin, Wed Mar 7 12:40pm
              Dan, The bigger question is how much can Roger Pocock be trusted. Yes, he exaggerated, but he does not seem to invent his stories. They are based on core facts, not inventions. He also editorializes. ... more
              • Re: re; Roger Pocock etc.Daniel Buck, Wed Mar 7 2:30pm
                Bob, I'm not sure there is much disagreement between us -- especially because we are both skeptical & attentive (you even more than I on the latter score) readers. That said, three thoughts. His book ... more
              • PocokBob Goodwin, Wed Mar 7 12:44pm
                The bottom line is that I think he can be trusted, in general, you just have to know when he is trying to pull your Calavaras County leg.
    • Early day wows!jim lynch, Mon Mar 5 10:19am
      Not to diminish what that man did when even today that part of Colorado/Utah is still wild(just try to drive from Delta to Naturita in the winter), but how about a cattle drive from Arkansas to... more
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