Monday, May 24, 2010

Transcription Tuesday: "The Train Robbery"

Here is another Sheriff Henry Lewis adventure. He only makes a minor appearance as one of the parties involved in figuring out the details of a train robbery; the article shows a certain fascination with detective work. It was published in The Dallas Morning News on 26 May 1889.

The Train Robbery

Committed Just Beyond the Fair Grounds

Some Further Particulars

Showing That the Robbers Returned to the City and Burned Express Wrappers and the Grip in the Furnace of a Locomotive


The daring robbery of the express car of the Texas and Pacific passenger train on the outskirts of the city last Friday night, a report of which was given in yesterday’s News, was, as might be expected, the engrossing topic of conversation on the streets yesterday. Everybody believed that the robbers were back in the city, mingling with the miscellaneous crowd of nondescripts who follow in the wake of prosperity to depredate. Further particulars were difficult to learn. Detectives drew around their clews that professional silence which is as mysterious, mystifying and painful as a doctor’s prescriptions to a jaywalker. Even with the sheriff and chief of police mum was the word: but it was apparent that all of them, including the city marshal of East Dallas, was holding tightly to a clew. It appears that at the deep cut a short distance beyond the fair grounds one of the robbers pulled the bell cord, and as the train was slacking up both robbers jumped off. The robbery only became known when the train was brought to a standstill, by which time the road agents were out of sight. Soon after the fact became known a posse of deputy sheriffs started for the scene, but owing to the darkness and the failure of parties telegraphing to properly locate the occurrence nothing could be done. Yesterday morning Sheriff Lewis and posse started out again to investigate the matter, and at the point where the robbers got off the express car they found tracks in the soft ground about twenty feet from the road and leading to the road on which they were traced, the traces showing that the toes of the travelers pointed to the city, where the road agents must have arrived within an hour after the commission of their daring deed. One set of tracks showed a narrow foot or ordinary length and the other set a broader and shorter foot. It is thought that the robbers on returning to the city must have rendezvoused somewhere near the union depot, from the following rather startling discovery: About 4 o’clock in the morning Engineer Jesse McCart, who had just fired up his engine at the union depot, left it for a few minutes while he went to converse with a friend. On returning he found his furnace door opened and saw a dark object burning on the inside. Thinking it was a negro baby, he instantly raked out the partly burned mass, which proved to be an express grip and contained a large number of partly burned money wrappers. The charred debris was turned over to the detectives, who were arming themselves with clews.

Respecting the extent of the robbery nothing definitely could be learned at the express or railroad offices, beyond that Col. Aiken of the Pacific express had learned that some of the money was in paper and that payment had been stopped on it. It was stated that as Friday was an off day it was not likely that a large amount of money was in the car; but, on the other hand, money might have been expressed on Thursday from El Paso or other distant points. The express messenger is expected to return this morning from Marshall with the way bills and then the amount of the loss can be reached.

It has been learned that as the tall robber was stooping over the iron chest his mask fell off enabling the messenger to get a view of him. The messenger describes him as a young man with a long mustache that was slightly drooping.

As reported in yesterday’s News both men were masked, and one of them appeared to be about six feet high, while the other was of medium size and more slightly built.

The prevailing opinion among the police is that the robbers boarded the train at the union depot, and as it stopped to whistle at the Santa Fe crossing that they then got off the passenger car and took possession of the express car. This, however, is not considered likely as they could better have waited at the Santa Fe crossing for the train to arrive there than have run the risk of identification by getting on and off the passenger coach.

One of the police stated yesterday that some parties without settled habitation had been conspicuously absent from the street since the robbery.

United States Marshal Knight was in his office with five of his deputies until 11 o’clock on the night of the robbery, but he knew nothing about the occurrence until he read of it in yesterday’s News. He thinks that if the train had been backed to the city after the robbery and the authorities apprised of it, the golden opportunity for the arrest of the bandits would have been seized.

Express Messenger Ray arrived in the city last night, and his recital of the robbery was in substance the same as was given in The News yesterday.

Mr. L. S. Garrison stated to a News reporter that the amount taken by the robbers would not exceed $3000.

Two parties, a tall man and a small man, were taken in charge on suspicion last evening near the downtown depot, but the messenger failed to identify them and they proved that they were not the men, whereupon they were released.

[Well, I meant to pre-post this to appear on Tuesday, but I forgot to change the posting time before I hit "Publish." I guess it can be considered an "Amanuensis Monday" post.]

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