Rattlesnake Dick was born Richard Barter in Quebec, Canada. A contemporary report describes as a young man who was "nearly six feet in height, and weighed about 160 pounds, slight of build, but very muscular." His father was a British army officer. His parents died about 1850, so he, his brother, his sister and her husband, and a cousin moved to the U.S. They took a wagon train to Oregon and built a home at Sweet Home, Oregon, near Corvallis. While there, they kept hearing about the gold strikes in California, so Dick, his cousin, and his brother headed south. The best ore was being found on Rattlesnake Bar on the American River from which he gained his nickname. But all claims had been staked already so they had to go to work for others for awhile. A year later, the brother and cousin were ready to go home but not Dick. He was confident there would be a new find. He got his nickname when an old timer hearing of Dick's confidence said "good for you Rattlesnake Dick." But nobody ever found anything significant. Rattlesnake Dick's criminal career began in 1853 when he was arrested for stealing some clothes from a store. The following year he was convicted of grand larceny and sentenced to a year at San Quentin.
It was during his imprisonment that Dick met Tom Bell. Dick joined Bell's outlaw gang and participated in a string of horse thefts, robberies, and killings in California's mining country. Following Bell's death in 1856, Rattlesnake Dick took control of the gang. Under Dick's guidance, the group conducted several daring thefts, including the February 1857 burglary of a Wells Fargo safe in Fiddletown and robberies of three stagecoaches for a heist of more the $30,000. Huge rewards were issued for the arrest of the bandits, but the gang continued to evade the law enforcement.
Several times Rattlesnake Dick was captured and brought to justice, but he repeatedly managed to escape custody. In 1858, he was caught trying to break out of Auburn prison while there awaiting trial. Reluctant to return to San Quentin, Dick repeatedly filed for a continuance, delaying his court date. Before the trial could take place, Dick had successfully escaped! Once free, the outlaw sought to avenge his capture. He camped all night outside the house of lawman John Craig Boggs. The constable was absent and did not return until the following morning, at which time he found a threatening note from Rattlesnake Dick pinned to his front door. Time was short for the young bandit, however on July 11, 1859, a posse caught up with Dick and a companion on a stage road near Auburn. The outlaws shot their way out of the ambush, killing one pose member, but not before Dick had taken two bullets. Rather than be imprisoned once more, he finished the job with a self-inflicted shot to the head.
Inscription: RATTLESNAKE DICK 1833--1859 RICHARD H. BARTER, EARLY DAY RESIDENT OF RATTLESNAKE BAR, FAMED AS THE OUTLAW RATTLESNAKE DICK. FATALLY WOUNDED IN A GUN DUEL WITH THE LAW JULY 11, 1859 NEAR MARTIN PARK FIRE STATION IN AUBURN. ORIGINALLY BURIED IN THE OLD AUBURN CEMETERY ON EAST STREET, MOVED TO THIS SPOT IN 1893. -------------------- NO FURTHER SEEK HIS MERITS TO DISCLOSE NOR DRAW HIS FRAILTIES FROM THEIR DREAD ABODE. THERE THEY ALIKE IN TREMBLING HOPE REPOSE, THE BOSOM OF HIS FATHER AND HIS GOD