Tom Hodges (aka Tom Bell) was a brilliant surgeon who served in the U. S. Army during the Mexican-American War. In 1855 he gave up his medical practice and headed out west to make his fortune in the gold fields. He soon found that the gold fields were a lot harder than he had thought.
So, Dr. Hodges started down the slippery slope by becoming a gambler in the central California saloons. Not being a good gambler, he took to robbing travelers. Dr. Hodges was caught and sent to prison for five years. Not wanting to soil his name, during this time, Dr. Hodges became Tom Bell. After a short time Tom Bell, as we now know him and some other men broke out of jail. Continuing down the slope, Tom organized a gang.
On August 12, 1856 Tom Bell’s gang attempted to rob a stage carrying $100,000 in gold. But the Bell gang didn’t count on the resistance put up by shotgun rider, Bill Dobson. Quite a firefight ensued. In the process the Bell gang shot three passengers, killing one, a woman. Dobson, in turn, shot two of the Bell gang.
Now, this was too much for the citizens. A half dozen different posses took after Tom Bell. One by one the Bell gang was caught, and each informed on the others.
Finally in October a posse lead by Judge Joseph Belt found Tom Bell. It didn’t set well with the Judge that Tom was entitled to a due process of the law. Tom was taken to a tree, and a rope put around his neck. They were compassionate though. They did allow him to write a letter to his mother before hanging him.